By: Warren Nunn
Worldwide Christian persecution is increasing, but that is actually good news according to Open Doors, the organisation that has 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.
North Korea again tops list
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.
Despite their suffering, so many are staying close to Jesus…
Open Doors Australia’s Church Engagement Officer James Kozina told 96five’s Alex Milne 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.”
Pray specifically for persecuted believers
Open Doors’ founder, Brother Andrew, believed that prayer for specific people was vital, and he firmly believes 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 prayer was far more effective than ‘ethereal’ prayers for a 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.”
A privilege to be persecuted
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.”
Don’t be afraid when persecution comes to you.
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 with the Gospel.
How the Watch List is compiled
Open Doors believes the Watch List is more than just an academic exercise.
A team of six people interviews Open Doors field workers in more than 70 countries to discover how Christians are suffering and how they can be helped.
2019 World Watch List trends
- 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. That’s almost double the number of a year ago (estimated 2,000).
What you can do to help
Visit the Open Doors website: opendoors.org.au for resources such as the prayer guide.
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.