Here’s where Christians continued to face persecution in 2023 — By: Catholic News Agency

A screen grab from a video shared with ACI Africa that shows the parish house at St. Raphael Fadan Kamantan Catholic Church of the Diocese of Kafanchan in flames Sept. 7, 2023. / Credit: ACI Africa

CNA Newsroom, Dec 30, 2023 / 09:55 am (CNA).

Christians have been persecuted by adversarial groups since the time of the apostles, and in varied parts of the world Christians continue to face existential threats from governments and other entities.

On the Dec. 26 feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr who died around A.D. 34, Pope Francis said in his Angelus that “2,000 years later, unfortunately, we see that the persecution continues.”

“There are still those, and there are many of them, who suffer and die to bear witness to Jesus, just as there are those who are penalized at various levels for the fact of acting in a way consistent with the Gospel, and those who strive every day to be faithful, without ado, to their good duties, while the world jeers and preaches otherwise,” the pontiff said. 

Persecution worsening 

Religious freedom is shrinking globally, according to multiple reports. A report from the watchdog group Open Doors found that the persecution of Christians is at the highest point in three decades. It found that some of the worst locations for Christians were North Korea, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, Sudan and India. 

A June report from Aid to the Church in Need found that more than half of the world’s population live in a country with serious religious persecution, from either government or other entities. The worst offenders included some of the same countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea, among others. 

In 23 of the 28 countries that were listed in the “red” category, which is the worst categorization for religious persecution, the situation worsened from the previous report. 

Below are four prime examples of countries where Christians faced vicious persecution in 2023:


Ethnic and religious conflicts in Nigeria have made the country one of the most dangerous areas for Christians in the world. Over the Christmas weekend, nearly 200 Christians were killed in a terrorist attack in the Nigerian state of Plateau.

“We have not less than 17 communities that were completely touched and brought down by these Bandits and Criminals,” Plateau Gov. Caleb Mutfwang said in a statement following the attacks. 

“It has been a very terrifying Christmas for us on the Plateau,” Mutfwang added. “This particular set of attacks was well-coordinated with heavy weapons.” 

This image made from an AFPTV video taken in the Nigerian village of Maiyanga on Dec. 27, 2023, shows families burying in a mass grave their relatives killed in deadly attacks conducted by armed groups in central Plateau State. The death toll from a series of attacks on villages in central Nigeria has climbed to almost 200, local authorities said. Credit: Kim Masara/AFPTV/AFP via Getty Images

Just three months prior, in September, terrorists kidnapped a protestant pastor and more than 80 other Christians in attacks on two separate churches. One of the churches is located in northwest Nigeria and the other is in north-central Nigeria. 

More than 5,000 Christians were killed in attacks in Nigeria throughout 2021 and the first three months of 2022, but complete numbers for those killed in 2023 are not yet available.


Preaching Christianity in Libya, particularly encouraging Muslims to convert to Christianity, can still land Christians in jail in Libya and many other Muslim-majority countries. In April, six Libyans, two Americans and one Pakistani were arrested in Libya for preaching Christianity.

“Attacking our true religion is no different from acts of extremism and terrorism, and through monitoring and investigation, the agency monitored the rise in activities hostile to true Islam, targeting our youth of both sexes, many of whom left the country,” a statement from the Internal Security Agency read. 


Reports from Mozambique found that Islamic State Fighters have been enslaving Christian women as sex slaves and forcing them to convert to Islam. Terrorists are also killing some who refuse to convert to Islam. 


The dictatorship of President Daniel Ortega has systematically persecuted the Catholic Church by shutting down Catholic schools and Catholic media outlets. The regime has also arrested members of the clergy. 

In December, just after Christmas, the government arrested four Catholic priests. Altogether, the dictatorship has arrested more than a dozen priests, including Bishop Rolando José Álvarez who is still imprisoned. 

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