Open Doors USA, is an organization that tracks global religious maltreatment and it publishes the World Watch List of the countries where it is hardest to be a Christian around the world.
It is evident that the top 10 countries experiencing religious persecution have extremist groups, which are either running the government or are influencing the government and culture in these countries in such a way that it is not safe to practice your faith.
The compilation of the World Watch List is an interesting process which you may read about here.
Afghanistan has supplanted North Korea as the number 1 country in the world where it is most difficult to be a Christian, according to this World Watch List. The shocking development is undoubtedly the “biggest seismic shift” in decades, as North Korea, the reclusive and oppressive East Asian country, was bumped from the top spot it had occupied for 20 years.
It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s takeover increased the persecution of Christians, and many were forced to flee. Control and supervision are stricter in rural areas than in most cities. To many, leaving Islam is considered a sign of insanity, and a Christian who has converted from Islam may be forcibly sectioned in a psychiatric hospital.
Women in Afghanistan have little social or financial autonomy and are highly vulnerable to all forms of physical abuse. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, contrary to assurances made before the takeover, the position of women has become even more dangerous, and any progress that had been made in women’s freedoms was swiftly undone. There is little chance of legal justice for women. Christian women are especially vulnerable and are seen as ideological enemies.
Open Doors USA CEO David Curry said that the situation deteriorated further when the U.S. undertook a chaotic withdrawal last August, with serious consequences. Taliban militants are purportedly arresting and possibly seeking to kill believers.
The events in Afghanistan have emboldened Islamic extremists in other parts of the world, so we may be seeing a ripple effect across the globe.
North Korea still occupies the second spot on the World Watch List, and there’s no sign the chaos and targeted hatred perpetuated by leader Kim Jong-un and his restrictive government will dissipate.
“For 20 years, North Korea was number one. They have a post-communist system that has been generational,” Curry said. “They have now lifted Kim Jung Un as the dictator. People are forced to worship him.”
He continued, “It’s clear that they don’t want any other faith except the worship of their leader and the communist system. They control all the means of life. Government control persists over necessities like food and medical care. This systematic control has led to mass starvation for the general populace.
“Christians are often the last people to get food and are sometimes put in labour camps or relegated to remote areas because of their faith in Jesus.” Curry said the 2022 World Watch List shows, from a large scale, the “strength of extremism around the world.”
Even though China ranks no. 17 on the World Watch List, it is a major player and the government’s actions should be deeply concerning. “Their system and their technology is the greatest threat right now overall in the future of religious expression,” Curry said, likening the methodical restrictions to a “high tech noose around the neck of expression of faith.”
As reported in these articles previously, the Chinese government has hampered the efforts of almost every church, forcing houses of worship to break into groups and to shut down. Christians are at risk of losing jobs, having travel restricted, and “even worse.” China has the technological ability to monitor all online presence.
Looking at the diverse forms of persecution that exist, Curry noted that there is a “two-front war” against Christianity that can be observed on the World Watch List. On one side, there are the tribal-led government forces like the Taliban and on the other are centralized and tech-savvy governments like what is seen in China.
Pray for the persecuted
Please pray for secret believers in Afghanistan, North Korea and China, that they will be protected from the violence of the regimes and be able to stand strong, encouraging each other in the faith and drawing others to Jesus.
Ask God to cause the leaders in these regimes to uphold and preserve human life, and that God would turn their hearts from hate to love.
Pray for Open Doors partners supporting Afghan refugees to be filled with grace and love. Pray also that the world might become aware of the hardships and suffering that Christians under these regimes experience every day.
To conclude this article, I thought I would share this beautiful hymn sung by Ukrainians in Kyiv “Precious Lord, Take my Hand”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3BPXYFFQfw Let us not forget the struggles in the Ukraine at the moment.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html