Editor’s Note: When we think about church planting, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the urgent “to do” lists in front of us. However, we must never forget that we are on mission because we worship and serve a missionary God, and He has purposes for planting churches all around the world. This eye-opening piece from Open Doors reminds us of the intense persecution of Christians and serious difficulties many of our brothers and sisters in Christ face globally.
The persecution of Christians is increasing year over year.
Across the globe, more than 215 million believers face persecution, including intimidation, prison—even death—for their faith in Jesus Christ. That’s one in twelve Christians worldwide.
While religious persecution of Christians is spread over many countries, there are some areas where the hostility is particularly intense. These pockets of concentrated persecution are due to the focused efforts of either one person or a larger belief system bent on smashing or squeezing out Christians in the region.
The list below highlights some of the greatest human rights offenders toward Christians. The list is not comprehensive or in particular order, and there are many more who could be added.
We share this list not to stir up anger—although righteous anger is expected—but to move us all toward prayer and action. Jesus commanded us, directly, to pray for our enemies. So please use this list as a powerful prayer tool.
As Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors says, no door is closed to the power of prayer. Through prayer, we have the ability to move beyond borders and into the very presence of our enemies…
Pray that God would stop their actions, change their hearts and shine the brilliant light of the gospel onto their path—much like He did with the apostle Paul, one of the most aggressive persecutors in the time of the early church.
For nearly 2,000 years, Christianity has had a presence in countries like Iraq; however, the brutal and targeted attacks from ISIS have driven many Christians to flee these areas. Ten years ago, there were nearly 1 million Christians living in Iraq, with a large majority of the population living in Mosul. Today, there are a just few dozen in that city. ISIS is also destroying Christian churches and monuments that have existed for over a millennia. They are, in effect, trying to wipe out evidence that Christians were ever there. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is the current leader of ISIS in western Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.
While ISIS has been in the news lately, Al-Qaeda has continued to fight in countries throughout the Middle East, often marking Christian communities as specific targets. In countries like Yemen, Christian converts from Islam are particularly vulnerable as they are already treated as outcasts by their own communities. As Al-Qaeda takes advantage of distracted governments, Christians in their path experience intense persecution. Ayman al-Zawahiri, is the current leader of Al-Qaeda.
North Korea has for years been one of the worst persecutors of the Christian church. Kim Jong-un has only increased this terrible legacy, continuing the nation’s policy of outlawing any practice of the Christian faith. Prayer, church meetings and owning a Bible are all against the law, with violators being sent to prison camps, or even facing the death penalty.It’s because of this that North Korea is the #1 worst persecutor of Christians in the world according to the 2017 World Watch List.
The far-right Hindu nationalist movement in India seeks to wipe out any religious expression, including Christianity, that falls outside of the Hindu religion. The movement’s mission is to make India a complete Hindu nation by 2021. The predominant Hindu nationalist association is referred to as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This movement has created a culture war and made it very dangerous and difficult for many Christians living in the region who are often forced out of villages, beaten and arrested for their Christian faith.
The radical Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab is in many ways the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda (a group they once had an uneasy union with). Al-Shabaab has terrorized the country of Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya. In 2015, a Kenya college campus faced an attack where Christian students were specifically targeted, killing 148 in total. Any place al-Shabaab controls operates under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian.
Boko Haram made global news when it kidnapped over 200 girls from a local school (when the world took notice and responded with #BringBackOurGirls); however this was nothing new for the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group who have kidnapped thousands of people, many who are children.
The word “haram” means forbidden, and Boko Haram’s belief is that any sort of Western influence is heresy, especially Christianity. To this end, Boko Haram has conducted raids, bombings and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools. They have taken out contracts on influential Christian leaders and are also at war with the Nigerian government.
In Colombia and Mexico, drug cartels are prevalent in certain parts of the country. On top of the danger that these groups bring to ordinary citizens, Christians are specifically targeted.
“A soul won for Jesus is a soul lost for them,” shared one pastor from Colombia. “They know that too.”
For this reason, Christian evangelists are particularly targeted. Drug cartel leaders know that they are the greatest threat to their way of life.
It’s easy to read this list and feel hopeless in the face of so much evil. However, in Ephesians 6 we’re told our war isn’t a physical war, it’s a spiritual one. Behind all of the atrocities listed above is Satan, who prowls this world as a roaring lion.
But we are also told that God’s kingdom is forcefully advancing, and that in the end, Satan is overthrown and all things are made new.
So as we pray against the evil mentioned in this article, we can also pray hopefully that God’s kingdom would come, and His will would be done. Here on earth now, and then in completion for eternity.
JOIN THE FIGHT
Open Doors is on the front lines and provides on-the-ground access to our brothers and sisters in Christ who face severe persecution in these regions. Stand with them.