Worldwide Christian persecution is increasing, but believers are staying strong in their faith according to Open Doors, the organisation that’s been helping suffering believers since 1955.
Open Doors says one in nine Christians throughout the world are suffering for professing faith in Jesus Christ; increasing from one in 12 in 2018.
In releasing its 2019 Watch List of the 50 countries where persecution is at its highest, Open Doors said the figures in effect showed where the Gospel was being advanced.
Unsurprisingly, and for the 18th straight year, North Korea is the most difficult place to be a believer. And Nigeria is the place believers are most likely to be killed for their faith.
The full list is available at the Open Doors website and shows that 4,136 Christians in the top 50 countries were killed for their faith in 2018.
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Pray for the Suffering, Because Prayers are Answered
Open Doors Australia’s Church Engagement Officer James Kozina told 96five that compiling the list helped the organisation better serve the persecuted church.
“We know there’s around 300,000 Christians in North Korea which in itself is a good-news story,” Mr Kozina said. “Despite their suffering, so many are staying close to Jesus, but we know about 50,000 of them are in labour camps.”
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Open Doors’ founder, Brother Andrew, believes that prayer for specific people is vital, and that every prayer gets answered. One of his most famous statements about prayer is this: “If we understand the potential power of our prayers, we would be on our knees 100 times a day asking Him for things that would turn the world upside down.”
Mr Kozina agreed and said that focused, individual prayer was far more effective than vague, ‘ethereal’ prayers for an entire nation.
The Open Doors website has many articles about people who are suffering and for whom the church could be praying.
Mr Kozina said those suffering were real people. “They are our family, our brothers and sisters.”
“Persecution – It’s Part of the Christian Life”
One young Indian woman told Open Doors: “Don’t be afraid when persecution comes to you. It’s part of the Christian life. It’s a privilege to be persecuted.”
When that woman and her mother came to faith, their community became aggressive. Along with other Christians who refused to deny Jesus, they were violently thrown out of their village.
But she has decided to go to Bible school to strengthen her faith and then return to her village to share the gospel.
2019 Watch List Trends
Open Doors believes the Watch List is more than just an academic exercise.
A team of six people interviews the many Open Doors field workers in more than 70 countries, to discover how Christians are suffering on the ground – and how they can be helped.
This year they have found that North Korea remains #1 on the List. It has ranked #1 since 2002.
Russia has entered the List at #41 due to increasing violence from Islamic extremists.
China moved up the list from #43 to #27. Persecution is the worst it’s been in over a decade.
In Nigeria over 3,700 Christians were killed for their faith in Jesus over the past 12 months. That’s almost double the number of a year ago (estimated 2,000).
Make a Difference
To help, visit the Open Doors website, opendoors.org.au for resources such as the prayer guide, or to support the work of the ministry.
About the author: Warren Nunn has been a journalist for more than 40 years. For 27 years until 2013, he worked at Queensland’s main daily newspaper The Courier-Mail.