Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. – Matthew 5:10-12.
2014 was the most violent year for Christian persecution in decades according to a Christian advocacy group. Open Doors USA, a non-profit group that monitors and aids victims of Christian persecution all over the world, recently issued their new ‘World Watchlist’, which ranks nations that are the worst perpetrators of violence and oppression of Christians. Along with the report, the organization stated that the with he rise of radical Islam, violence against Christian has surged to unprecedented levels.
“This is largest jump in violence in persecution of Christians in the modern era.” (source).
Those were the words of David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA. The group, which tracks Christian persecution worldwide, has previously reported that roughly 100 million Christians worldwide are victims of oppression. And Open Doors made even more disturbing findings in 2014:
Perhaps most chilling is the fact that all the factors, all of the issues that made this a violent year for Christian persecution are still in place,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors, at the press conference.
“During the past reporting period we can confirm that 4,344 people were executed or murdered for their faith in Jesus Christ. Over twice that of the previous reporting period.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Curry explained that the common thread in both the state-sponsored and terrorist-based persecution documented was “ideology.”
“There are indications that there are some nationalistic movements like Eritrea where the government itself has adopted the ideology,” said Curry.
“But often it is not government-sponsored but it is allowed within certain regions in government by terrorist groups. So the common thread is the ideology.” (source).
To no surprise, the surge in Islamic extremism was a key factor in the historic wave of attacks on Christianity. The rise of ISIS and the promotion of its violent theology has sparked numerous coordinated and individual aggression against Christian churches and individuals.
The Middle East – The “Cleansing” of Christianity
If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. – John 15:18-20.
Beginning and End has already detailed the rampant violent persecution in Iraq and Syria by the terror group ISIS. Kidnappings, executions and beheadings of men, women and children have become the norm in the destabilized regions of these nations that are now under ISIS control. Our article “ISIS And The War On Christianity” chronicled some of the horrific attacks on Christians carried out by the extremist group.
But it is not just terror factions who are oppressing Christians in the Middle East. Governments are as well. Including valued, long-time allies like Saudi Arabia:
Ilamist police in Saudi Arabia have stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles, it has been reported…The 28 Christians were said to be worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji, when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since, raising concerns among human rights groups as to their whereabouts.
Nina Shea, director of the Washington-based Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, told FoxNews.com: ‘Saudi Arabia is continuing the religious cleansing that has always been its official policy. ‘It is the only nation state in the world with the official policy of banning all churches. (source).
Additionally, in 2014 the Saudi government was accused of kidnapping two Saudi expatriates living in New Zealand because they converted to Christianity and requested asylum as refugees (abandoning the Muslim faith is a crime in Saudi Arabia that is punishable by death). Public beheadings are commonplace. Women are forbidden to drive. Most recently a journalist was sentenced to “1,000 lashes” with a whip as punishment for criticizing the government. And a leaked memo from Obama’s former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Saudi Arabian donors are the top financial sponsors of Sunni Muslim terror in the world.
When calling for the ouster of former Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi, Obama said: “Like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need and to respect the rights of its people..It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities and face the cost of continued violations of human rights.” (source). Why has the President not made similar condemnation of Saudi Arabia? Instead, the President has lavished praise and broke his schedule recently to go and court their new King Salman bin Abdulaziz.
“If you do not return to Islam we will kill you”
These were the words an Afghan Christian heard from Muslim attackers who stormed his home. The Christian, Ali, who has received asylum in Norway, recounted being held down by his persecutors and having boiling water and acid poured on his body as he was interrogated.
Such is life for Christians in Afghanistan where there are no churches or Christian institutions available. A small group of underground churches serve as the places of worship for the entire nation. Professing Christian faith means being immediately ostracized from family, friends and your community. Christians are forced to live underground or flee the country.
In a dank basement on the outskirts of Kabul, Josef read his worn blue Bible by the light of a propane lantern, as he had done for weeks since he fled from his family in Pakistan.
His few worldly possessions sat nearby in the 10-by-10-foot room of stone and crumbling brown earth. He keeps a wooden cross with a passage from the Sermon on the Mount written on it, a carton of Esse cigarettes, and a thin plastic folder containing records of his conversion to Christianity.
The documents are the reason he is hiding for his life. On paper, Afghan law protects freedom of religion, but the reality here and in some other Muslim countries is that renouncing Islam is a capital offense. (source).
The New York Times reached out to Josef’s family and his brother offered the newspaper $20,000 to reveal the whereabouts of the Christian so he could hunt and kill both Josef and his son who the brother referred to as “a bastard.”
Many refugees have gone to neighboring India. After viewing a video about Christian refugees in 2010, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of the Afghan Parliament stated: “The Afghans who appeared in this video should be publicly executed. The House should order the attorney general and the N.D.S. [National Directorate of Security] to arrest these Afghans and execute them.” (source).
Despite having to give up family, occupation and be branded as a criminal and outcast, Christians in restricted nations like Afghanistan continue to risk life and limb to worship Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul, who suffered much persecution in his lifetime, highlighted that to endure such hostility can only be done through faith:
Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us.. – 2 Timothy 2:9-12.
Africa – World Leader In Persecution
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – Psalm 116:15.
No continent had more countries on the Open Doors Watchlist than Africa,. Most notably, Nigeria, which ranks 10th this year as the worst offender globally. Boko Haram (whose name means “People Committed to the Prophet’s [Muhammad] Teachings for Propagation and Jihad”), the main Muslim militant group in Nigeria, has launched scores of vicious attacks, burning down hundreds of churches, murdering thousands, sexually assaulting women and staging kidnappings.
The most notable kidnapping was the abduction of 200 schoolgirls in Chibook. The group claimed the girls were sold into sexual slavery. The movement’s self-styled “emir”, Abubakar Shekau, based the decision on his Islamic faith. “Allah instructed me to sell them: they are his properties,” he declared in a Youtube video released shortly after the girls were swept away. “I will sell them in the market by Allah.”
Most recently, Boko Haram slaughtered what is being estimated from hundreds to 2,000 people in the town of Baga, Nigeria (the Nigerian military places the death toll at 150). This was the worst attack launched by the group and has left Nigerian military reeling. Like ISIS in the Middle East, Boko Haram is now occupying 20,000 square miles of land in northeastern Nigeria in order to establish a “caliphate”.
Somalia, which is No. 2 in the rankings, is a nation where being a professing Christian is a death sentence. Al-Shabaab, a Muslim extremist group, has led the violent attacks on Christians that most recently included public beheadings:
Islamic extremists from the rebel Al Shabaab militia last week publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin in southeastern Somalia after discovering they were Christians, sources said.
In the port town of Barawa in the Lower Shebelle Region, the extremists on March 4 called residents to the town center to witness the executions of the 41-year-old mother, Sadia Ali Omar, and her 35-year-old cousin, Osman Mohamoud Moge, the sources said.
Before killing them, an Al Shabaab militant announced, “We know these two people are Christians who recently came back from Kenya – we want to wipe out any underground Christian living inside of mujahidin [jihadists’] area,” according to an area resident whose name is undisclosed for security reasons. (source).
Latin America – Persecution On The Rise
Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.– 1 John 3:13.
Although not traditionally thought of as restricted nations for religious freedom, some Latin American nations have also joined the list of the world’s worst oppressors of Christianity. Colombia stands at 35 on the World Watchlist as the Marxist regime continues to crack down on Christians among the indigenous Columbia community. The biggest targets are any Christians who attempt to evangelize:
One night at around 9:30 p.m., after the family of Pastor James and his wife had gone to bed, two men on a motorcycle stopped by the home. The men lured the pastor outside by asking him to help them fix their motorcycle. When the pastor went to take a look at the vehicle, he heard men behind him ask his wife her name. When she replied, they shot her twice at point-blank range.
Pastor James and his family were the only Christians in their village, and his wife was very active in sharing Christ with everyone she met. The pastor and his four daughters are now being cared for by a VOM contact in another city as they mourn the unexpected loss of their greatly missed wife and mother. (source).
In Chiapas, Mexico, 47 evangelical Christians were told that if they did not convert to the state-sponsored Catholic church (which blends Catholicism with local pagan rituals and holds to a number of apostate practices), they would be forced to leave their homes and never return. In an earlier incident evangelical were warned that if they did not leave their towns, they would be “crucified.”
Pray For Persecuted Christians
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are always delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-11.
“Who is scared after 1,400 years?… Even with the pressures around us, it is normal,” he said. “The Islamists are afraid. They are afraid with what has happened with the Gospel. Many are coming to Christ, even whole families.” – Leader of an underground church in the Middle East. (source).
The Lord Jesus Christ prophesied that as the end times approached, Christian persecution would increase. The world has grown more and more hostile to the Christian faith as it turns its back on God and the Bible. Pray for the many persecuted Christian brothers and sisters all over the world who are risking freedom, family and their lives just to worship Jesus Christ and share the Gospel with others. And if you are not living in a restricted nation, praise God that you still enjoy the freedom to worship Jesus Christ openly and boldly proclaim His name in public without fear of imprisonment or death. But what do you do with that freedom?
To Christians who are free to share and live out their faith, are you a witness for Jesus Christ? Do you share the Gospel with your friends, family or coworkers? Is it “dangerous” to give a Gospel tract to a stranger or invite a neighbor to church? Is there too much “risk” in saying your grace at work meals or not laughing at blasphemous jokes or comments made by others at school? If you experience these situations, take a moment to consider what your sisters and brothers are enduring for Christ in other countries and pray for greater faith to share God’s Word.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified…Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. – 1 Peter 4:12-14, 16.