According to a new report by religious freedom charity Release International, persecution is expected to increase in parts of Africa, North Korea, Afghanistan and India in 2022.

The report, titled Persecution Trends 2022, highlights several persecution hotspots in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa included Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

In north Burkina Faso, jihadists attacked Christians, forcing churches to close and Christians to meet in secret. The attacks ranged from bombings, killings, kidnappings and school burnings to assaults on religious leaders and places of worship.

French troops are withdrawing from the area, which could lead to further persecution.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Nigeria, Christians faced ongoing persecution by Boko Haram terrorists, IS fighters and Fulani militia in 2021.

One charity partner noted that Fulani militants “destroyed more than 50 villages and displaced nearly 5,000 Christians,” adding that “the attacks by the Fulani now include kidnappings for ransom. Churches, church leaders and Christian communities remain the primary targets.”

The report cautions even more attacks in 2022, as political campaigning takes place ahead of the 2023 general election. Increased attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani extremists have occurred during prior election periods.

Christians in Afghanistan also had a tumultuous year in 2021 following the Taliban takeover. One Release International partner received reports of “homes being searched and some individuals receiving threats.”

“Christians are afraid of being reported by family members or neighbours, and fear violent treatment by the Taliban,” the partner explained.

Meanwhile, Release International CEO Paul Robinson warned of “a very real threat of higher levels of violent persecution in Afghanistan” in 2022.

“Our partners tell us that Christians who are unable to follow the outward forms of Islam, such as praying at the mosque and saying the shahada, the Islamic profession of faith, will stand out more clearly,” he added. “This increases their vulnerability to persecution and the pressure on them to conform.”

Along with persecution, food shortages are expected to increase in Afghanistan in 2022 because of poor harvesting and a shattered economy. The same can be said for North Korea as observers warn of imminent famine. This could result in increased persecution against Christians.

According to Open Doors USA, North Korea tops the list of countries where Christian persecution is most prominent.

Christian identity and activities are completely restricted in North Korea. If Christians are discovered, they could face severe penalties, including imprisonment in labor camps comparable to concentration camps or execution.

Nevertheless, the church in North Korea continues to grow. According to Release International partner Dr. Eric Foley, there were increased requests for Bibles from North Korean Christians during the COVID-19 pandemic because there were house-to-house searches from authorities to avoid infection.

“Let’s pray that not only the gospel continues to spread, but that the church beyond is encouraged and strengthened by the witness of North Korea’s underground Christians,” Dr. Foley said.

The last country featured on the report is India, where right-wing Hindu nationalists are attempting to crack down on Christians by passing anti-conversion laws. In other words, Hindu militants are stressing that conversion from Hinduism to Christianity should be rendered illegal. Such laws have been passed in several states across India.

Hindu militants have previously attacked Christian houses and churches to impose acts of Hindu worship during Christian gatherings.

During Christmas, police warned church leaders in Karnataka State not to hold Christmas services because they could not guarantee their protection from Hindu militants.