How much would you sacrifice? Can you say – beyond a shadow
of doubt – that you have an enduring faith in Jesus Christ as savior?
I can almost guess that most reading this, who identify as being Christian are likely saying to themselves, “Yes! Of course I have faith in Jesus Christ as savior! I’m a Christian!”
If you’re reading this in America, then you have absolute freedom to worship, give open praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. You have every opportunity to grow in your faith and know you can do so, with no fear.
Nobody from the government is pounding on your door in the
dead of night, raiding your home to see if you possess a Bible.
Your community is not charging you or your family as heretics.
We are blessed in America with religious freedom, but for too many in the world, that’s not the case, at all.
Open Doors is a non-profit 501c3 that tracks Christian
persecution around the world. They offer support through letter writing campaigns, and work to get resources (such as Bibles) into some of the most dangerous regions for Christians in the world.
Here’s what’s not going on in these regions outside of the
United States: Believers are not boycotting coffee houses because of “Happy Holidays” on disposable coffee cups.
Believers are not clamoring to have the right to campaign for politicians from the pulpit.
In lands like Syria, Somalia, Iran, and Kenya, Christians are more concerned with not being hauled away in the night and imprisoned because of their beliefs.
They’re in fear of neighbors and the community turning on them, attacking them, or reporting them to authorities, so they often meet in secret to worship.
They fear extremists tearing through their villages and executing them, or kidnapping them for evil purposes.
Open Doors keeps an updated watch list of the top 50 most
oppressive and dangerous nations in the world for Christian believers.
They rate those nations from “high persecution,” to “very high persecution,” to “extreme persecution.” They base the ranking on underlying impulses, such as tribal (Islamic extremism, religious militancy), secular (Communist oppression, aggressive secularism), and exploitive (totalitarian paranoia, organized corruption).
Also, they split the drivers of persecution into two groups:
government and society.
Of the top 50 oppressive nations in the world, the number one most dangerous and oppressive nation for Christian believers is North Korea. Communist oppression and the paranoia of the ruling Kim family makes life for the roughly 300,000 Christians in the isolated dictatorship immensely
Atheism and worship of “Dear Leader” is the only acceptable belief system.
The rest of the top 10 is as follows: Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Eritrea.
Even Mexico, which is a majority Christian nation, is listed in the top 50 (at #41), due to the organized crime that runs so rampant in the nation. The secularism of the cartels is threatened by the outreach of Christians in the communities, so Christians are targeted, especially if they try to move towards change in the communities, based on faith.
Who isn’t on the list?
The United States.
We are blessed, because we have all the freedom in the world
to worship, pray, openly give praise and thanks to God, but we squander that freedom by stressing over Christmas greetings and work to drag down our faith to be equal to politics, rather than insist our politics be elevated to meet our faith.
How often do you read your Bible? Do you sit through 2 hours
of church and worry that you’re not going to get out in time to make the buffet at the local eatery, or maybe you’re going to miss a ball game on TV?
The stories and interviews from Open Doors really are
humbling, when you hear what other Christians are enduring for the sake of Christ.
I bring you this now as a reminder to pray for the persecuted church. Also, as an encouragement to examine our own walk, and to consider what we are willing to endure for Christ.
Romans 8:35-37 NLT – “35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
*EDIT* I didn't know it, but after writing and submitting this piece, Open Doors USA actually came out with their new Top 50 watch list for those nations that have the worst persecution of Christians. Some things have changed (and some have not).
According to the new list, the top 10 worst nations are now:
1: North Korea (That hasn't changed.)
Also what hasn't changed is that the United States still isn't listed anywhere as a place where religious persecution is a problem.