Afghanistan has supplanted North Korea as the most dangerous country to be a Christian, according to a new annual report Christian watchdog group Open Doors released Wednesday.
This marks "the first time in two decades that North Korea has not been at the top of the list," Religion News Service reported.
According to the Open Doors World Watch List, "the situation has become even more dangerous for believers" in the aftermath of last year's Taliban takeover.
"For Christians," the report continues, "there were basically no freedoms to lose: Afghanistan had been No. 2 on the Open Doors World Watch List for several years, and Christian persecution remains extreme in all spheres of public and private life. The risk of discovery has increased, since the Taliban controls every aspect of government."
Per RNS, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal watchdog group created in 1988, has also raised concerns about religious persecution in Afghanistan. In April, USCIR recommended Afghanistan be added to the State Department's "special watch list." The State Department declined.
A 2009 State Department report estimated there were 500 to 8,000 Christians practicing their faith secretly in Afghanistan.
Before the Taliban took control of the country, Afghanistan's only Christian church was a Roman Catholic chapel in the Italian Embassy that served only expatriates. It was abandoned during the U.S. military withdrawal.
According to NBC News, Afghanistan's other religious minorities — including Hindus, Sikhs, and Shiite Muslims — are also likely to face persecution under the new Taliban government.