Recently we saw the publishing of the World Watch List- a list compiled by our friends over at Open Doors. It was presented at the Houses of Parliament where Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt spoke about religious persecution. The report looks at Christian persecution globally to discover what the global trends are and which countries see the most persecution.
North Korea has held the top spot for the last 18 years. It is estimated that 50,000 – 70,000 Christians are in prison in North Korea. Christianity is completely forbidden and anyone found with a Bible or Christian teachings are sent to terrible labour camps where they are worked like slaves and sometimes tortured with no hope of escape. The World Watch List has seen an increase in persecution from authoritarian countries like North Korea, which want to replace God with their own human leaders.
In second and third place respectively are Afghanistan and Somalia, which have both struggled with Islamic extremism for decades. There are only a few thousand Christians in Afghanistan and only in the hundreds in Somalia. Those who do believe hide their faith for fear of death. Islam is so ingrained in the national identity for both countries and turning away from it means being ostracised by your family and community. While in Western countries we enjoy independence from our families, in places like Afghanistan and Somalia, not having a family means you are unable to find work, a place to live or someone to marry. You are seen as an outsider who does not belong.
A new country on the list this year is Russia. Russia has seen a growth of persecution mainly in the Caucasus where the indigenous people are generally Muslims. Christianity in this region is seen as the religion of the occupiers that has caused tensions between the two groups. Although 82% of Russia are Orthodox Christians, Christians from different denominations are seen as spies from the West and are persecuted by people and the government.
Persecution of Christians is increasing in the world. More people are having to hide their faith to stay safe and governments are cracking down on any information about Christianity and Jesus. Our projects like Got IT! and Arabian Dawn are distributed all over the Middle East, giving people the chance from all backgrounds to hear the truth of the Gospel. It is vital that projects like these continue to encourage and equip believers in these turbulent times.
Every country on the World Watch List has desperate situations which need our prayer. Please join us in praying that:
All Christians who are persecuted due to their faith would find safety and comfort in Christ.
MEM’s projects, such as Got IT!, will continue to be used across the region to help Christians to find truth and hope in God.
Governments and regimes that persecute Christians would embrace religious freedom within their countries and enable religions to flourish.
Countries within the top 10 list such as North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia, would be filled with Gods light, hope and justice.
Those who are in prison or camps would know that God is with them at all times. Let them know His presence and let that give them hope.
Those who are persecuting Christians, who act in anger and hatred, would let the Lord change their hearts.