Increased threats to Christians in Latin America are among the concerns noted in the Jan. 17 release of Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List.
Released annually since 1993, the list ranks the Top 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a follower of Christ. This year, Nicaragua entered the list at No. 50, becoming the fourth country in the Western Hemisphere where believers experience “very high” levels of persecution.
Areas of ‘high persecution’
Colombia (No. 22), Cuba (No. 27) and Mexico (No. 38) also rank in the Top 50. Open Doors ranks three additional countries in the region as areas of “high persecution” — Venezuela, Honduras and El Salvador.
Wybo Nicolai, founder of the World Watch List and former Open Doors global field director, said there is a direct link between authoritarian governments with a communist/socialist ideology and the persecution of Christians.
“The power base does not like to be challenged,” Nicolai told The Baptist Paper. “If Christians are speaking up for their rights, they are seen as voices of opposition.”
Gang activity and organized crime in Latin American countries pose other threats, he said.
“If you are a Christian and refuse to participate, the gangs that are in control of parts of the city or countryside turn against you,” Nicolai said. “That puts more pressure on active Christians.”