The number of Christians killed for their faith in 2020 was up 60% over 2019, according to advocacy group Open Doors USA.
Of the 4,761 Christians known to be martyred around the globe in 2020, a little less than half — somewhere around 2,200 — died in Nigeria at the hands of Islamic extremists. Open Doors USA also reports that in some places, COVID-19 policies were used in a discriminatory manner to oppress Christians.
"This past year 2020 has been a year of uncertainty and fear," Open Doors CEO and President David Curry said at a recent conference. "We've been all fighting a virus that we cannot see with the naked eye. Less known but equally as viral has been the discrimination, isolation and violence against Christians by using COVID-19 as a leverage and as justification."
Curry also said that radicals "are emboldened by government weakened by COVID-19 restrictions, knowing that they can steal food and medical supplies from already embattled Christian communities around the world."
In some places, Christians who lost jobs due to COVID-19 received no support from the government and employers refused to rehire them. In Nigeria, Curry noted, believers reported receiving 15% of the emergency rations provided to others.
He added that the killing of Christians in Nigeria has reached the level of genocide.
China and India are major locations for Christian persecution that is officially supported by the government.