The persecution of Christians for their faith around the world is getting worse during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Open Doors USA, places around the world most vulnerable to the coronavirus also align with places where Christians are treated more harshly for their beliefs.

New forms of persecution

When a 22-year-old man from Ethiopia accepted Christ, he knew his Muslim family would see his change of heart as a betrayal and he would be shunned.

In addition, the man's community expelled him, because the Tigray region where he lives is a part of the country where Christians are ostracized from society and cut off from accessing community resources.

The man says other believers have helped him, but COVID-19 restrictions have made it even harder to live as a Christian in Ethiopia. He struggles to find enough food to eat with no work and no other resources.

Open Doors USA says hundreds of thousands of believers in sub-Saharan Africa are dealing with worse persecution than ever before because they are left exposed and vulnerable from their decision to follow Jesus during the coronavirus pandemic.

Areas such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Sudan, and Cameroon are places where the virus has been the most deadly. They are also places where life is most difficult for Christ-followers.

ct of COVID-19. The lack of water, sanitation, and hygiene make these camps a worry for the spreading coronavirus.

Director for Open Doors’ work in West Africa, Suleiman, says IDP camps have been relying on the organization.

"It’s a challenge at this time, but we trust the Lord as we stand together, that He will help find solutions to these issues. We thank you for your continued prayers and support for the persecuted church here in West Africa," Suleiman says.

In areas where Shariah law is prevalent, Christians are experiencing outright government discrimination. Christ-followers living in towns in northern Nigeria, in the Kaduna State, say they receive about six times fewer rations from the state than Muslim families.

Violence continues

Extremist attacks have not stopped as a result of the global pandemic. Open Doors says Christians living in areas such as Nigeria's Middle Belt are living in a survival culture.

In the Kaduna and Plateau States, during the first few weeks of April, 31 people have been killed in extremist attacks. Homes have also been destroyed.

According to one pastor in the area: "We lie down at night, not knowing if we'll wake."