Once again, for the 16th year in a row, North Korea has topped this list of shame, as the World Worst Persecutor of Christians, but it now has a close rival.
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews).
WITNEY, OXFORDSHIRE, UK (ANS – Jan. 11, 2017) — More than 200 million Christians around the world are persecuted because of their faith.
They are beaten, killed, forcibly detained, denied education or job opportunities, their churches and homes bombed and burned, their children abducted.
The World Watch List from Open Doors is an annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. It’s a unique, in-depth record of the places where faith in Jesus costs the most.
Although Kim Jung-un’s country hasn’t moved from the number 1 spot on the list for 16 years in a row, it is now being rivaled by Afghanistan, which ranked No. 2 by less than a point.
“With more than 50,000 in prison or labor camps [in North Korea], such a ranking is little surprise for the totalitarian regime that controls every aspect of life in the country and forces worship of the Kim family,” Open Doors reported.
Open Doors USA president and CEO David Curry stated, “Never before have the top two countries been so close in incidents. Both countries are extreme in intolerance and outright persecution of Christians in every area Open Doors monitors.”
The rising persecution in Afghanistan “is a tragedy considering the efforts being made by the international community to help rebuild Afghanistan are failing to ensure freedom of religion,” stated Curry. “Reports of violence and human rights atrocities from North Korea are pervasive, while the situation faced by Christians in Afghanistan may be underestimated. It is hard for Westerners to imagine a second country could nearly meet the levels of persecution seen in North Korea, but Afghanistan has reached that level this year.”
For more than 60 years, Open Doors has been on the ground with persecuted Christians.
In more than 50 countries around the world, OD’s underground networks are equipping them with Bibles and training, providing them with practical and spiritual support, and sharing their lives. It is this first-hand knowledge and experience that makes the World Watch List such a unique window into the world of persecuted Christians.
Open Doors says extreme persecution is increasing – and so are the needs of our brothers and sisters.
As you read about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world, we pray that you will be not only informed, but inspired to see how your support can make a real difference to Christians facing extreme persecution.
Explore detailed, country-specific information on the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian. These are the places where followers of Christ must keep their beliefs hidden and where living the gospel means facing beatings, imprisonment, discrimination and abuse. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/countries/
A range of World Watch List resources to inspire prayer and action on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world is also available from Open Doors. Order your free copy of the 2018 Open Doors World Watch List Guide and find out about other World Watch List resources for churches and individuals. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/resources/
What does the 2018 World Watch List reveal about the trends in global persecution? Open Doors experts look at what factors are shaping Christian persecution at the moment and how, despite the darkness, persecuted Christians are continuing to share the light and life of Jesus. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/trends/
The Open Doors World Watch List is the only index of its kind in the world. But how is it put together? How do you measure persecution? And what’s the difference between ‘smash’ and squeeze’? https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/about-wwl/
When persecution strikes, how do Christians respond? For persecuted Christians around the world there are four main options: dive and survive, register and submit, flee and live, or stay and die. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/4-responses-persecution/
The World Watch List is about the big picture – the facts and figures, the global trends. But the big picture is made up of millions of individual faces. Here are six representatives of persecuted Christians from around the world who really need your prayers and support. https://www.opendoorsuk.org/persecution/faces-behind-figures/
“We are not afraid but strong and hopeful. We know He will come again. That is why there is so much pain and suffering. That is why there is persecution. He is coming back and those who do not know Him need Him in their lives. For now, we – His followers – need to live with thankful, prayerful hearts,” said an Afghan believer.
“We can’t describe with words the importance of what you have done for us. We only pray that God will reward you for this great work. Thank you so much,” said a persecuted Christian from northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram operates almost indiscriminately.
Background to Open Doors and the World Watch List
In 1955, a young Dutch missionary went to a ‘Socialist’ youth congress in Poland, at that time a part of the Soviet bloc. He was going, not because he was a communist, but be-cause he was a Christian. His suitcase contained his Bible, a change of clothes and hundreds of tracts entitled The Way of Salvation, which he intended to give away.
The trip was to change his life. Behind the Iron Curtain, he discovered churches desperately in need of Bibles, support and prayer. Above all, he found a group of Christians who felt isolated and alone and who thought the rest of the world had forgotten them.
One evening during that first visit, he went to a Baptist church in Warsaw where he was invited to speak. He tells the story in God’s Smuggler: “At the end of my little talk the pastor said the most interesting thing of all, ‘We want to thank you,’ he said, ‘for being here. Even if you had not said a word, just seeing you would have meant so much. We feel at times as if we are all alone in our struggle.’”
Strengthen that which remains
At the end of the trip, as the many thousands of delegates to the Youth Congress marched in a parade, he found himself looking on praying about what God wanted him to do. He opened his Bible and found the passage which he came to see as a mission: “Wake Up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die,” Revelation 3:2
In subsequent years he was to travel many times behind the Iron Curtain. In God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew’s autobiography chronicling those early years, he details dangerous border crossings in his blue VW Beetle – which became known as ‘the miracle car,’ for its ability to miraculously keep going.
He was joined by others and began a work of smuggling Bibles to believers in Communist countries. And today, Brother Andrew’s small Dutch mission has become an international ministry with offices in 27 countries, working in more than 60 nations to strengthen the Persecuted Church.
More than Bibles
It started with a suitcase and some tracts. Open Doors still distributes Bibles and Christian literature. But Open Doors work is a great deal more.
“When I first discovered a Persecuted Church behind the Iron Curtain the need was for Bibles,” says Brother Andrew in the new sixtieth anniversary edition of God’s Smuggler.
“But as our ministry expanded, other needs emerged. For example, in some countries pastors have little or no seminary training. We provide them with training so they can be more effective leaders of their congregations. In other regions Christians are dis-criminated against, denied education and quality job opportunities. So we may strengthen the Church by providing small loans to help Christians start businesses. The needs and thus the strategies vary from country to country.”
Open Doors Today
Today, of course, Europe has changed. The main threat to Christians today comes not from Communism, but from radical Islam. Brother Andrew has travelled extensively in the Islamic world, talking to the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. He is among the few Western leaders to regularly travel to the Middle East as an ambassador for Christ to these groups. He has also broken Christian religious barriers by preaching in Catholic and Coptic Orthodox churches.
Today, Brother Andrew and his wife, Corrie, live in Holland and have five children and eight grandchildren. He has received many honors and awards, but perhaps the recognition that pleases him most is the copies of the KGB reports, which he obtained after the fall of the Iron Curtain. There were more than 150 pages about him, detailing his work in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They knew a lot about ‘Brother Andrew,’ and yet they were still not able to stop his work.
He often has said, “Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that any door is open, anytime and anywhere. I literally believe that. Every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ, as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.”
The Step of Yes
In 1955, Brother Andrew risked it all. Today, will you commit to pray, give and speak out to support your persecuted family?
Open Doors help you on your journey by sending you regular prayer resources. They will also send you a free copy of God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew’s best-selling book, to inspire you as you say ‘Yes’ to God.
“The gifts you sent… are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” – Philippians 4:18.
Open Doors is an international ministry serving persecuted Christians and churches worldwide. OD supplies Bibles, leadership training, literacy programs, livelihood support and advocacy services. OD also seeks to mobilize the church in the UK & Ireland to serve Christians living under religious persecution.
Open Doors UK
PO Box 6, Witney, Oxon, OX29 6WG
+44 (0)1993 460015
Open Doors Scotland and Ireland Hub
PO Box 873, Belfast, BT15 1WZ
+44 (0)28 9075 1080
Photo captions: 1) An execution in North Korea. 2) Brother Andrew in 1955. 3) Two warriors together: OM Founder George Verwer (left) with OD Founder, Brother Andrew. 4) Brother Andrew’s VW Beetle circa 1958. 5) Brother Andrew (seated) flanked by Michael Ireland and Dan Wooding of ASSIST News at an NRB Convention. 6) Michael Ireland of ASSIST News Service.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MichaelIrelandMediaMissionary, and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
*** ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net) founded in 1989 by author, broadcaster and journalist Dan Wooding, exists to “give a voice to the voiceless” – our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have a voice to tell the world of their suffering for Naming the Name of Christ at Work, at Home, or in the Marketplace. Would you consider a one-time or more frequent gift to help sponsor our unique News Service dedicated to providing news and feature stories about the Persecuted Church Around the World? Please help as you can, by going to www.assistnews.net and then scroll down to where it says DONATE TO ASSIST NEWS and then put in the figure you would like to donate towards our service. If you prefer a check, just make it out to ASSIST and mail it to PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA, with a note in the memo section saying: ‘Where Needed Most.’ Thank you so much on behalf of the Persecuted Church.
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