Getting used to a "new normal" was a very different experience for Christians in parts of the world where "restrictions" meant they would be refused access to food, medical care, and crucial aid.
Open Doors is releasing their 2021 World Watch List (WWL), showing the levels of worldwide discrimination against Christians over the past year.
The list reveals how COVID-19 led to increased systemic discrimination against minority Christians.
Open Doors says the pandemic meant Christians from India to Yemen saw an increase in violence and discrimination, lacked basic necessities, and were put under increased surveillance because of their faith.
The list, produced by Open Doors International annually, highlights the exacerbation of systemic discrimination and persecution more than 304 million Christians around the world experienced in 2020 due to the coronavirus.
According to the findings in the WWL, COVID-19 was a reason behind the worsening of persecution already experienced by believers across the globe.
The pandemic encouraged the repression of minority Christians in countries like Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. Some were denied aid, the report shows. Others were told they could not have food because "your Church or your God should feed you."
A violent Islamist group in Somalia, Al Shabaab, blamed Christians for the existence of COVID-19, stating the virus was "spread why crusader forces who have invaded the country and the disbelieving countries that support them."
COVID-19 gave authorities in some countries the authority to investigate the homes of Christians and church members.
Open Doors says their WWL is the "only instrument actively measuring the persecution of Christians, world-wide, annually."
For the first time, all 50 countries on the WWL scored levels of persecution considered to be "very high." The top 12 countries were labelled with "extreme" levels of persecution.
In 2020, 34 countries scored at the level of "very high" persecution.
In total, 74 countries showed "extreme," "very high," or "high" levels of persecution. This is one higher than in the previous year.
Open Doors estimates at least 1 in 8 of all Christians worldwide were affected.
The top countries ranked as having an "extreme" level of persecution include North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, and Yemen.
The list will be released during an online event today on Facebook and YouTube at 6 p.m. local time. Christians gathering for the release of the WWL will engage in a time of learning, worship, and prayer for persecuted Christians around the world.
"As we grapple with restrictions here, we can learn a great deal from our brothers and sisters living in countries where their faith costs them dearly, every year. They know they are not alone, because we have not forgotten them," says Gary Stagg, executive director of Open Doors Canada.
"The World Watch List helps us advocate for them intelligently, and pray for them intentionally that they would be able to stay, as lights in dark places."