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. 

Muslim terrorist moves from death and destruction to Life and healing

Report: Bibles for Mideast

Radical Hindus destroy historic Babri Mosque: AFP (1992)

Radical Hindus destroy historic Babri Mosque: AFP (1992)

Ameen* decided as a teenager, back in 1992, to join the forces of Islamic terror. Radical Hindu nationalists had just destroyed the historic Babri Mosque in northern India (they believed the 16th-century mosque stood where one of their most revered Hindu deities had been born).**

After completing his training, Ameen became commander of a terrorist group with the main objective of destroying both Hindu temples and Christian churches—along with their priests, ministers and worshipers. 

Once while attempting to attack a major Hindu temple, a surprise counter-attack by Hindu militants forced them to flee. Ameen suffered serious gun-shot wounds and needed to be carried away by his fellow terrorists. They administered first-aid but he subsequently fell into a coma. Thinking they’d failed in their efforts to save him, they left his body alone in a field.

A few hours later, a passerby noticed him lying there. Thinking him dead, they approached the body and on checking more carefully, discovered a pulse. They immediately called police, who rushed him to hospital. There, doctors managed to revive and save him.

Police suspected he might be a terrorist and questioned him, but could not get him to reveal his true identity, let alone betray his friends. So he remained under police surveillance in the hospital.

Pastor Paul and a gospel team of Bibles for Mideast ‘just happened’ to be in the same hospital a few days later. They secured permission from the police to visit Ameen, and found him slowly recovering from his injuries.

The missionaries told the wounded terrorist about Jesus, how He is the author of life and death. They then shared their own dramatic testimonies, and explained how Jesus was crucified on the cross of Calvary, died and rose from the dead. The visitors assured him that anyone who believes in Jesus will gain eternal life. Ameen listened to their words, but didn’t respond. So the gospel team prayed for him before leaving the hospital.  

According to the anti-terrorist act then in place in India, Ameen was sentenced to prison without bail. He remained there for years without legal assistance. Two years ago, 24 years after being imprisoned, he was finally set free.

Another ‘God-incidence’

Prisoners with their new bibles

Prisoners with their new bibles

But before Ameen’s release, Pastor Paul ‘just happened’ to meet him while there on prison ministry. Ameen was friendly to him, attended the gospel meeting held inside the jail, listened attentively to the message presented, and received a Bible when they were handed out to prisoners. He even asked for Pastor Paul’s mobile phone number.

Then, just last month, Ameen called Pastor Paul in extreme anxiety. He and his family members all wanted to meet with him for prayer.

“When I call on the name of Jesus, I feel relief whenever I’m desperate,” Ameen explained over the phone. “But I do not know what to do more. If possible, kindly come to me, give me needed guidance and pray for me and my family."

Pastor Paul prayed about the request, and asked the church and several others to pray for the Lord's guidance. 

Days later, all spent in fervent prayer, he traveled 18 hours to meet Ameen and his family. Two other ALG (Assembly of Loving God) church pastors joined him on the mission trip.

They finally arrived at Ameen’s house to find a most unwell 46-year-old. He could barely walk, needing the help of his brother’s children to get around. With no wife or children, his younger brother, their elderly mother and his brother’s family—all firm believers in Islam—took care of him.

Ameen happily greeted the pastors when they arrived. The visitors shared the gospel with him and the family. But his younger brother took offence at their presence and their message, and began shouting angrily at them. He wanted them out of his house, NOW! Ameen pleaded with him, explaining the men were there because he had asked them to come.

Neighbours, hearing the commotion, came over to investigate. Soon community leaders and the Imam of the local mosque got wind of the Christian visitors and arrived to voice disapproval and argue with them.

“I politely explained to them about Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross,” Pastor Paul relates. “But with great anger, the Imam slapped me on the cheek.” 

Seeing the Imam slap the kindly pastor, Ameen felt wretched and cried out in grief.

Pastor Paul reached out to hold Ameen’s hands, then wiped away his tears and tried to console him. He and his fellow pastors then knelt down before the Lord in front of the family, and prayed for further guidance.

Ameen's brother never imagined the Imam would slap Pastor Paul. He also of course couldn’t help but be moved by Ameen's sorrowful outburst and the Christians’ kneeling prayers. So he turned against the Imam and the community leaders. The brothers’ elderly mother also shouted at the Imam and other leaders, ordering them out of the house.

When they’d all gone and quiet returned, Ameen's brother with the rest of the family apologized to Pastor Paul, asking his forgiveness.

“We consoled all of them and shared the sufferings of our Lord,” the Bibles for Mideast director explains.

“After that, they all sat before us and listened to the Word of God. Some neighboring people also participated. That same day everyone of that house accepted Lord Jesus Christ as their personal savior and Lord.”

And that very night, Ameen dreamt that Jesus touched and healed him. When he awoke—and without anyone's help—he got up, walked, and then ran around the house. His brother also had a dream of the glory of Jesus.

Please praY FOR aMEEN, HIS FAMILY, AND THE NEW UNDERGROUND CHURCH

Please praY FOR aMEEN, HIS FAMILY, AND THE NEW UNDERGROUND CHURCH

The pastors stayed four days and nights in the family’s tiny, impoverished home. With only one room plus a kitchen and a veranda attached to the front of the house, the family had no furniture: no tables or chairs, not even cots to sleep on.

“We all were happy to spend more time for prayers and sharing the Word of God,” says Pastor Paul. “We pastors slept in the room with Ameen on floor mats. The other men slept in the veranda, and the women slept in the kitchen.”

The second day of their visit, more people joined in their times of prayer. On the third day, a number of villagers attended and accepted the Lord Jesus as their savior.

By the fourth day, a new church was born! They held a worship service, and Pastor Mujib, who had been working in another area, is now in charge of the newborn ministry..

Please pray for him, the new believers, and the ongoing work in this area.

We also ask that you remember the dire situation in Indonesia after the devastating earthquake and tsunami. With millions affected and the death toll at 1,400 and rising, relief efforts have been slow to come. Bibles for Mideast has pastors and evangelists working in Indonesia, and a number of underground churches with between 12 and 20 members each. By God’s grace all are safe but needs—both practical and for prayer—are huge.

____________________________
Name changed for security reasons
** The religious site where the Babri Mosque was destroyed in 1992 in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya has been a flashpoint between Hindus and Muslims for years and has sparked recurring episodes of violence.

Indian state laws make converting to Christianity increasingly dangerous

Last week, two Bibles for Mideast pastors were attacked by Hindu radicals in north India. The pastors, both converts from Hinduism, led a house church in the region. A group of people entered the church, demanding they discontinue all meetings and services.  The pastors refused, so two days later were brutally attacked. Pastor Stephen of Bibles for Mideast reports that the local government and police apparently fully supported the attackers.

India’s governing party, the BJP, continues to push forward in its stated Hindutva ideology, or the 'Hinduisation' of India. With power at both national and state levels, their philosophy basically holds that the nation can be cohesive and workable only by maintaining the beliefs, tenets and culture of one religion—Hinduism.

The Indian state of Jharkhand just last week joined five other states (Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) in passing an anti-conversion law.

While dubbed the ‘Religious Freedom Bill 2017’, it is anything but. The new law bans people from attempting to convert others "by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means," with punishments including fines of up to 100,000 rupees (US$1,600) and four years in prison. It also states that a person converting willingly must give Jharkhand’s Deputy Commissioner details of the time, place and name of the person administering the conversion.

"This is very unfortunate for the people of Jharkhand," said the Rev. Dr. Man Maish Ekka, a member of the Jharkhand Sadbhavana Munch, a local religious freedom forum. "This is not just an attack on Christians, but is an attack on the religious freedom that the constitution gives to the very citizens of this country.”

The Indian government’s pro-Hindu stance has left it unwilling to tackle Hindu extremism     [Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images]

The Indian government’s pro-Hindu stance has left it unwilling to tackle Hindu extremism   [Photograph: Str/AFP/Getty Images]

William Stark of International Christian Concern pointed out that Hindu radicals have taken advantage of similar laws in other states to harass and intimidate the country's minority Christian population.

"These laws are widely abused by Hindu radicals due to the legal ambiguity within the laws themselves. Often, these laws provide an easy excuse for radicals to attack Christian leaders with impunity. One simply needs to claim the pastor was forcefully converting an individual following an assault,” Stark explained.

"As a result, instead of the pastor's assailants being arrested, it's the assailed pastor who is arrested by police following an attack.”

As this ministry and many others have experienced and reported, harassment and threats on Christians in India in the first six months of 2017 have been the highest since the country’s independence (report on increasing persecution of Christians in India from Open Doors USA here). Extremists have tortured and killed believers and vandalized and demolished churches, some from Bibles for Mideast.

The anti-conversion laws of course make it extremely difficult and dangerous to talk about and share the Christian faith.

“It's based on the idea that conversion by force should be made illegal,” pointed out Andrew Boyd of Release International.  “I think everyone would agree that conversion by force would be useless."

"But actually, if you preach about heaven, then it's considered to be bribery. If you speak about hell, it's considered to be a threat. If you offer any kind of Christian charity, then it's regarded also as bribery.”

In many of the places Bibles for Mideast missionaries live and work, severe persecution from both Muslims and Hindus remains an increasingly harsh reality.

Please pray for all of our pastors, missionaries, churches and believers. As regular visitors to this site would know, Pastor Paul, director of Bibles for Mideast, has himself been the victim of threats and assaults by both Hindu and Muslim extremists. He is still recovering from a stoning attack which happened several months ago in a country neighboring India (URGENT call to fast and pray for Pastor Paul, director of Bibles for Mideast). He continues to improve and hopes to be back working in several weeks.