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.

______________________
*
Name changed for security reasons

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.

Malaysian High Court: A Muslim has the right to embrace Christianity

Kuching, Malaysia: The Kuching High Court in Malaysia ruled Wednesday (Mar. 23) that a Muslim man who was converted to Islam by his parents at the age of 10 can legally renounce Islam and embrace Christianity. Justice Yew Jen Kie said that 41-year-old Rooney Rebit, formerly known as Azmi Mohamad Azam Shah may be identified as a Christian.

In making his decision, Yew cited Article 11 of the Malaysian Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion. "It is within his constitutional rights to exercise freedom of religion," the judge said in the ruling.

The ruling comes after Rebit applied for a judicial review to allow him to obtain legal recognition as a Christian, not a Muslim. Yew issued multiple injunctions in the matter.

Rising Christian anger in mainly Muslim Malaysia over the government's handling of a case involving seized bibles could complicate Prime Minister Najib Razak's bid to win back the support of minorities ahead of an early general election.

The judge ordered the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and the Sarawak Islamic Council to issue a letter signifying Rebit's release from Islam.

Bible in Malay

Bible in Malay

Additionally, she ordered the state government to ensure that Rebit's identification card and government records at the nation's registry show that he is a Christian and for his name to be legally changed to Rooney Anak Rebit.

Rebit, who is a part of the Bidayuh ethnicity, was forced to convert to Islam as a child after his parents converted from Christianity.

Since it was never Rebit's choice to embrace Islam, Yew stated that Rebit can't be considered a person who officially professed Islam. Additionally, the judge pointed out that Rebit was baptised as a Christian in 1999, when he was able to make a mature decision about his faith.

The state government had earlier refused to change his religious preference on his identification and government records without an order obtained from an Islamic court, even though the Sarawak Islamic Religious Department and the Sarawak Islamic Council agreed to issue a letter of ‘no objection’ to his conversion.

While Rebit was granted his request to be recognized as a Christian, Lina Joy was not as fortunate in 2007 when her appeal to a Malaysian federal court to have her official religion changed on her identification card was struck down. As apostasy laws in Malaysia are handled by state governments, each state has the freedom to apply the law as they see fit when residents renounce the Muslim faith.

Last May, the State Assembly of Kelantan considered a bill that would have allowed the death penalty to be given to anyone charged with abandoning Islam.