Christian Persecution

Christian Persecution

More than 3,000 Christians were killed worldwide last year for their faith, twice as many as the previous year, a report by the charity Open Doors has found.

Of the 11 worst countries for Christians to live in, all are now classed as places of extreme persecution – more than ever before in 26 years of the World Watch List, which is published annually by the charity. Open doors compiles data on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life – to reach a list of 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most extreme.

North Korea remains number one for Christian persecution in their 2018 report, followed closely by Afghanistan and Somalia, where Christians are routinely targeted by violent Islamic mililtants.

Their latest report highlights in particular unprecedented levels of persecution in Egypt, where last year more than 200 Christians were driven out of their homes and 128 were killed for their faith. Egypt is home to the largest Christian community in the Middle East, the majority of whom are Orthodox. On Christmas Day, Christians attended services across the country accompanied by soldiers amid rising threat levels. Last Easter two church bombings killed 49 people.

According to the report’s authors, the overspill of Islamic terrorists driven out of Iraq and Syria has contributed to rising levels of violence in surrounding countries.

Open Doors UK and Ireland CEO Lisa Pearce said: “Christians in Egypt face a barrage of discrimination and intimidation, yet they refuse to give up their faith. It is hard for us here in the UK and Ireland to imagine.”

Discrimination included being overlooked for jobs, being refused planning permits and being targeted when you go to church, she said.

The Watch List also highlighted Turkey which, over the last three years has steadily risen up the ranking to 31 this year.

Other areas of concern for the Christian watchdog is Hindu extremism in India and Nepal, as well as the emerging trend of persecution in South East Asia, fuelled by Islamic extremism in Malaysia.

Persecution continues to rise across Africa, the report finds, with Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Libya all making it into the top ten worst countries for Christians.

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I chose this article for several reasons this week.  Christian persecution is something that has been on my heart and in my prayers more this week.  The stories are truly heart breaking and I don’t want to turn a blind eye.  Yet as I read over the statistics and hear the stories from ladies like Rebecca – who’s village was attacked and she was kidnapped by Boka Haram and forced to marry one of their fighters because she was a woman and a Christian.  7 months later she escaped, now pregnant, and returned home where she was shunned by her people and both she and her daughter were only called ‘Boka’.  Or Aisha, who lives in Mali and still has to see the face of the man around town who attacked her. The Fulani attacked her village and saw a Bible in her home through the window.  So, they drug off her husband (assuming he was the minister) and 2 men attacked and violated her… because she was a Christian woman.

We can hear the stories and our heart can break.  Mine sure can.  However, I also realize that as much as I think I know… I am largely insulated to the prevalence and scale of this persecution around the world.  Unlike them, we sleep comfortably in our houses.  We worry about 1st world problems like “This restaurant always takes an hour to get me my food” and “When will I find time to get my yard work done?”  Aisha says things like “We are so scared to the extent that women cannot sleep comfortably in their houses.”

What can we do about that?  Pray, raise awareness, partner with groups for sure!   Can we allow their example to grow our faith and resolve?  Can we stand with those that suffer?  Is there more we can do together?  I hope you will spend some time in prayer and thought… and not let this thought go.

On a side note, I hope you are planning on going to the Emmaus House Gala on April 6 at the Side Porch.  Jillian works with this group that is fighting evil in another form – poverty and helplessness – working to bring Haitian orphans out of that darkness that leads a staggering number of kids into slavery and prostitution.  Emmaus House is working to bring the light of God’s love and a future of hope and possibility to them. Whatever you choose… I hope you do not allow yourself to ignore the need.   We are, after all, God’s family.

Striving alongside you for the prize,