Global persecution of Christians increasing at alarming rates

Report: Bibles for Mideast

Every single day, an increasing number of Christians die for their faith while countless more suffer growing persecution worldwide.  

A report commissioned by the British government released in May concluded that global Christian persecution is now so severe it is close to reaching the international definition of genocide. Islamic oppression, increasing religious nationalism and communism have proven to be the three major drivers behind the current unprecedented levels of worldwide persecution.

Clearly, radical extremists believing the complete opposite of what Jesus taught, are being ever more deceived into thinking that the One Who in fact loves them most, and those believing in eternal salvation through Him alone, are their greatest enemies.

The mission organization Open Doors, in their annual  World Watch List, rank the top 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. According to their last report, one out of ten Christians live where Christianity is either illegal or forbidden.

Photo Credit: Stephen Perry

Photo Credit: Stephen Perry

“Worldwide, our data reveals that 13.9 percent more Christians are experiencing higher levels of persecution than last year,” says Open Doors official Henrietta Blyth. “That’s 30 million more people.”

Bibles for Mideast works in many of the top-listed countries, engaging in largely clandestine evangelical activities and establishing underground Assembly of Loving God (ALG) house churches.  Pastors and believers face constant persecution and often death threats, but the Lord Jesus miraculously protects them even while saving countless souls. Almost all the posts on our website attest to that.

North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan remain in the top five worst places, while the rise in attacks by Hindu extremists in India and tough new laws in China have seen believers in the world’s two most populous countries face ‘extreme’ and ‘very high’ levels of persecution respectively.

“This year, we noticed how Christian women are especially targeted around the world,” reports David Curry, CEO of Open Doors. “Often, they are culturally discriminated against because they are women—and when it’s discovered they follow Jesus, the suffering can be even worse.”

North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, India and Syria currently top the list of worst offenders—North Korea retaining its first place position for the past 16 years.

Although the communist North Korean government claims to provide freedom of religion in its constitution, no one can be openly Christian in the atheist state without facing arrest, re-education in a labor camp, or, in some cases, execution. Even so, underground churches have grown tremendously in the last two decades and close to 300,000 Christians live as covert believers under the oppressive regime.

For eight of the top eleven countries on the World Watch List, Islamic extremism proves to be the primary cause of Christian persecution.  Citizens in the 99-percent Muslim country of Afghanistan, second on the list, are banned from becoming Christian. Taliban radicalism continues to grow and new Christian believers have at times been killed by their own family members.

Many Christians have been martyred by Islamic militants in Somalia, third on the list of offenders. With about 99 percent of Somalis being Muslim, the tiny Christian community faces constant threats. In many rural areas, Islamic militant groups like al-Shabab, Al-Qaeda’s Somali-based branch, are de facto rulers. They regard Christians with a Muslim background as high-value targets, and when discovered, often kill them on the spot.

In Pakistan, the sixth largest country in the world and fifth on the persecution list, Christians are considered second-class citizens. Islamists there specifically vilify Christians. In 2016, a suicide bomber targeted members of Lahore's minority Christian community while they gathered at a funfair to celebrate Easter Sunday. Dozens of children were among the dead.

Lahore, Pakistan: Dozens of children among the dead in attack on Christians Easter Sunday 2016

Lahore, Pakistan: Dozens of children among the dead in attack on Christians Easter Sunday 2016

Persecution by means of a notorious blasphemy law, too often falsely leveled, can carry a death sentence. The most well-known example of this has been case of Asia Bibi. After sitting on death row for more than ten years, the Christian wife and mother has been finally acquitted of blasphemy charges yet her life remains in grave danger from radical Islamists. 

Coptic priests among the ruins of their church in Tanta, Egypt

Coptic priests among the ruins of their church in Tanta, Egypt

In fact, 71 of the world's 195 countries have blasphemy laws, with penalties ranging from fines to imprisonment and death.

The 29 countries listed with very high Christian persecution are Nigeria, Iraq, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Central African Republic, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Mali, Mauritania, Turkey, China, Ethiopia, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Jordan, Nepal, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Brunei, Tunisia, Qatar, Mexico and Kenya. 

In China, the most populated country in the world, some church leaders are even saying persecution is the worst it’s been since the Cultural Revolution ended in 1976. Chinese authorities have implemented laws prohibiting teachers and students from discussing religion or promoting their faith. Hundreds of churches have been demolished and Bibles are now banned across the country. In October of last year, Chinese police arrested more than 20 Christians for praying in the park.

Beijing has also banned public displays of the cross, and has torn down Jesus posters across the country and replaced them with photos of China's President Xi Jinping.

Christians meeting in a public park in China earlier this year after their services were shut down and their leaders taken away.   look closely :  many have packed bags next to them as they worship. They brought their clothes and personal items to the open-air meeting in case they were arrested and taken to prison.

Christians meeting in a public park in China earlier this year after their services were shut down and their leaders taken away. look closely: many have packed bags next to them as they worship. They brought their clothes and personal items to the open-air meeting in case they were arrested and taken to prison.

High persecution countries include the Russian Federation, Malaysia, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Bangladesh, the Palestinian Territories and Azerbaijan.

Hindu nationalism continues to grow in India and Nepal, as does Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Persecution of Christians in central Asian nations, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan, has intensified under nationalist, pro-Islamic governments.

Please keep our persecuted Christian ‘family members’, fellow citizens of the Kingdom of Jesus who live in increasing danger around the world, in your prayers. Please also be praying for those who, in spite of the increasing perils, refuse to stop sharing the Gospel of Love and Salvation.

We especially appreciate your prayers for the underground ministry of Bibles for Mideast, its leaders and believers. They suffer incredible hardships, yet continue to work and stand in faith boldly for the Kingdom of God. 

Aggressive Islamic militants now serving God and bringing multitudes to Christ

Shah* once lived the life of an aggressive Islamic militant in a Muslim-dominated south Asian country. While the state officially recognized Christianity as a minority religion, it also considered blasphemy against Allah and the Prophet Mohamed great crimes. So with no justification, many would persecute Christians by falsely accusing them of such a ‘crime’.

One day, Shah saw a young Christian man associated with Bibles for Mideast holding a Bible and explaining salvation and the second coming of Jesus to a young Muslim fellow. Shah approached to set him straight. outlining the Islamic belief about ‘Prophet Jesus (Isa)’. He proclaimed forcefully the Islamic belief about Prophet Jesus (Isa): he did NOT die on a cross, but was elevated by Allah and will come back again as ‘Mahdi Imam’, a Messiah who will rule the rule the entire world for 40 years under Islamic (Shari'a) law.  

The Christian minister calmly and politely shared with him how Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary and living a sinless life, really did die on the cross of Calvary.  He then rose from the dead as a ransom to save all humanity from sin and death. Those who believe and follow Him are washed by His shed blood on the Cross. They are His bride and He is coming back in the clouds to receive them. That, he said, is what the Bible teaches.

"Your bible is annulled and false!" Shah screamed. He slapped the evangelist and grabbing the bible from his hands, threw it to the ground. He then set it on fire. The other man joined Shah in the assault, and the two decided to tie the minister up with a rope.

By this time a mob had gathered. They brutally beat the Christian and afterwards handed him over to the police, accusing him of blasphemy against the prophet Mohamed. The court then sent him to prison and within days, he was dead.

Shah and the young Muslim, Asif* rejoiced when they heard of the evangelist’s death in prison. They became fast friends in their crusade against Christianity, and made a sport of persecuting Christians by falsely denouncing them.

One day, the young men worked up a plan of attack on a group of Christians they’d heard were having an extended meeting for fasting and prayer. As they walked to the meeting place, a man joined up with them. He talked with them about the Son of God.

Protests in Pakistan over the killing of a young Christian couple falsely accused of blasphemy.  While Pakistan has a mandatory death sentence for those indicted for blasphemy, 12 other countries can punish with death people who leave or change their religion: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Protests in Pakistan over the killing of a young Christian couple falsely accused of blasphemy.
While Pakistan has a mandatory death sentence for those indicted for blasphemy, 12 other countries can punish with death people who leave or change their religion: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

"God sent His Son, born of a virgin woman, not to condemn the world, but so that the world could be saved through him. That man is Jesus, the Son of God." 

Shah and Asif naturally became infuriated, and wanted to beat him up. Instead, they suddenly stepped back in fear. A heavenly host of warrior angels had appeared behind him! And now, he held a burning bible in his hands—looking just like the bible they’d thrown on the ground and burned when they attacked the Bibles for Mideast worker.

The man grew brighter and brighter, His body now shining like many suns. They noticed nail marks in his hands.

In a powerful voice, He proclaimed: "I am Jesus, the Son of God, who was crucified, died and then rose from the dead. I have come to save you. Don’t let Satan misguide you! He is a liar and a thief. The thief does not come except to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly, now and in eternity. Those who gave their lives for me aren’t lost, but are with me in eternal glory. I am totally revealed in this book,” He said. “Follow me and be my witnesses."

"Lord Jesus!” the men cried, closing their eyes and kneeling before Him. “You are our Saviour and Lord! We believe in You!" When they opened their eyes, Jesus and the angels had vanished.

They practically ran to where the Christians were meeting for prayer. The believers reacted in fear when they saw the men rush in. But their alarm turned to wonder as the two shared their experiences with Jesus and boldly declared their new-found faith.

The men spent several days with the prayer group members, learning more about Christianity. But their turning made them enemies of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists, who set out to kill them. They fled to another area and began seriously studying God’s word, and eventually were anointed pastors. As persecution persisted and grew, the men headed for the mountains and joined in ministry with Bibles for Mideast. It wasn’t long before a new ALG Church was born in one of the mountain villages.

In our first story on Asif and Shah back in November, we reported on their work and a horrific attack they’d suffered, asking for the prayers of God’s people (Urgent prayer request: Pastors attacked and church demolished by terrorists).

God miraculously answered those prayers, so that a mere two weeks later, we had an exciting update: the entire Muslim village is now Christian (Exciting update: entire Muslim village now Christian)!

Please continue to pray for these men and the work they do in so many dangerous areas, as well as for the many new Christians.

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*
Name changed for security reasons

The dangers of happy children?

As persecution persists and grows in the many regions Bibles for Mideast serves, we delight in telling you stories of how the Lord’s work persists and spreads as well … often with surprising results.  

How about this dire government warning issued in a Muslim-dominated region of Africa where house church growth has been remarkable?

“If you see your child suddenly forgiving, jolly, happy, listening to you, not arguing, talking about not hating, these are the signs that they might be going to an underground church.  This is a threat to your family.”

Reported by Christian satellite TV network SAT-7’s ‘people on the ground’ in that country, the organization’s recent newsletter  goes on to detail some of the more honestly threatening conditions believers live under.  

“Church growth has been strong in my country,” an Algerian believer told them, “but recently churches have been subject to a government crackdown, with several being closed.  Every three months, our church holds a baptism, sometimes for more than 100 people.  Then the government closed our own church, along with four others.  But the more problems the church faces, the stronger they grow.”

smiling cuties3 lo.jpg

“We cannot worship regularly in any one place,” another believer explained.  “It would be too dangerous and attract attention.  We are always being watched.  We rotate where we meet and arrive at random times and through different routes.  Everyone is always vigilant.

“When the authorities find an underground church, they enter the room, take all our cell phones, all our computers- anything they can use to extract information to find others like us.  They look for links, for networks of believers, especially house church leaders. They want to know who is influencing us.  And they accuse us of working with ‘foreign enemies’ saying that we are undermining the nation.

“They demand, ‘Who is your teacher?  Where are your Bibles?  Who is your pastor?  You are illegal, propagating false and illegal teachings.  Show us your license to meet!  You are not registered!’  They use threats and intimidation. Without cause, our teachers and pastors are taken away.  They disappear for days, weeks, or are never seen again.”

Will you help us spread the Gospel and establish new churches across these countries and regions so desperate for God’s love?  Only together can we fulfill the Great Commission.

Yes, I would like to support the work of BIBLES FOR MIDEAST

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* SAT-7 broadcasts in Arabic, Persian and Turkish across 25 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, along with about 50 countries in Europe.

Exciting update: entire Muslim village now Christian!

The health of Pastors Shah* and Asif*, attacked in the remote mountain village where they live and serve in Central Asia, continues to improve [original story here: Urgent prayer request: Pastors attacked and church demolished by terrorists]. We praise God for all 45 families of the village who stand with the ministers, encouraging and helping them in their recovery. The other injured individuals have almost fully recovered as well. We thank everyone who has been praying for them.

As reported two weeks ago, several local youngsters, influenced by outside extremists, had demolished the church, health clinic, sewing school and education center, all which had been set up by the pastors. Both ministers as well as a number of believers, including children, had suffered serious injuries. The young attackers’ parents and other elders in the village severely reprimanded them, and advised them to ask the pastors’ forgiveness.

The village’s medical student, home on vacation, paid the young men a visit and full of the love of Christ (with plans to become a missionary doctor), counselled them similarly. They finally agreed.

All the villagers, including the young men, then joined forces and chased the militants from their town. The former ‘temporary terrorists’ then approached the pastors and asked forgiveness for what they had done. The ministers embraced them with brotherly love and prayed for them.

The villagers have since been working hard to rebuild the tin sheet church and the health clinic, all under the leadership of the young people.

Before the attack, 27 of the village’s families counted themselves believers. The other 18 families remained Muslim, but had no complaints against either the church or their fellow villagers who became Christian. The boys who had joined with the terrorists and persecuted the church had come from those families.

To dedicate the newly-constructed church, the pastors held three days prayer and fasting in the building, from Thursday through Saturday.  Even though still weak, Pastors Shah and Asif led the services, with all the villages’ 45 families taking part! 

By the end of the three days, every single one of the those Muslims accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. So the whole village, in an otherwise entirely Muslim-dominated region, has become Christian!

Thank you for your prayers for the Assembly of Loving God Church and Bibles for Mideast. Please pray now as we prepare for baptismal services for the new believers, as well as for all future activities of the church.

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* Names changed for security reasons

1,268 baptisms and many miracles in three days!

By God’s grace, underground house churches of Bibles for Mideast conducted 127 baptismal services across Asia, Africa and the Middle East over the past three days, with 1,268 former Muslims going through the cleansing waters. In Saudi Arabia alone, 613 people in 72 different areas went through the sacred rite. While threats and attacks accompanied the services, so did the miraculous!

“Because of police patrolling and the threats of attack from Islamic militants and terrorists, we avoid sea shores for the baptisms and held the services inside of our churches.” Pastor Paul, Director of Bibles for Mideast explains. Most churches arranged to have fiber or polythene water tanks erected inside of their prayer halls.

Many did experience attacks or threats.

Baptism in makeshift pool

Baptism in makeshift pool

“A mob of Islamic militants attacked the people of our church on their way to the service,” Pastor Hilal of one church reported. “Nobody knows how it happened, but the people of the mob ended up having a serious argument about something and they divided into two groups.  Finally they fought each other and police came and arrested them all.”

Al Muthalib reported what happened when some radicals attempted to attack the people gathered at his church.

“Some militants smell about the baptism service of our church, and they gathered outside of the church wall with weapons and tried to enter the church compound by jumping over the gate. While jumping, one of them was seriously injured by an iron bar fixed to the top of the gate. The sharp point of the bar went through his body. Others took him to the hospital at once.”

“Police came to search in our church,” Evangelist Davood reported from his area. “But the pastor got information they were coming, so the service ended quickly before they arrived. The people turned the water tank upside down in a corner of the compound and put hollow bricks around and on the tank to hide it.   When police came, they couldn’t find any evidence of a religious service, so they left.”

Salmath shared the wonders witnessed by all at her church.

Water 'boiling' in the tank!

Water 'boiling' in the tank!

“During the baptismal service, a star light descended from above the water tank and water started boiling with steam, but without getting hot.  Till the end of the baptism, the water boiled continuously. All the people who were baptized in that water tank were immediately anointed by the Holy Spirit!”

So many wonderful accounts have come in we are not even able to report them all.

Please keep these new believers in your prayers, and continue to pray for the evangelization of the entire Muslim world.

“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.”
— Psalm 34:4-8