Persecution & The Worst Countries for Christians

Christian persecution is on the rise worldwide. Some 245 million Christians around the world experiencing a high level of persecution. As this disturbing number settles into your mind, it gets worse; certain countries rise to the “top” with regards to persecution for Christians.  

North Korea, Syria, Nigeria and Iraq are listed as the some of the worst places for Christians according to the International Christian Concern (ICC) and their published “2016 Hall of Shame Report” which identifies 12 countries detrimental to Christians. 

Most of us are familiar with the chilling stories from North Korea; unusually tight state control over any freedom of religion at all; horrific torture methods including former prisoners who have reported having to watch other prisoners being forced to stone each other to death.  Any loyalty and devotion is to go to Kim Jong-un, not God or any other religious deity or beliefs. 

Nigeria’s Christians are being continually pummeled and their numbers dwindling.  You may have seen Rebecca Sharibu, a Nigerian mother whose 14 year old daughter, Leah, was kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, on Fox News.  She brought her story to the US earlier this year pleading with US government to put pressure on the Nigerian government to locate and release her daughter and others like her being held by militants. 

Groups like Save the Persecuted Christians, who claim over 6,000 Christians were killed in Nigeria in the first half of 2018 alone, are speaking out on behalf of the persecuted in many other countries as well. According to the  Washington Times report of July 10, 2019, STPC is also pressuring businesses like international law firm, Squire Patton Boggs, whose clients include influentials within Nigeria and countries like China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon and the Palestinian Authority.  They are pressuring SPB to drop these clients who routinely and systematically persecute Christians.  

Syria’s Civil War, which began in 2011, has left hundreds of thousands of casualties in its wake; militant radical Islamic groups like ISIS continue to isolate Christians and seek their deaths. 

ISIS, previous to 2010 was a relatively obscure militant group and not heavily engaged in Syria. In 2016, this former lesser Islamic terrorist group emerged into Syria through the guidance and support of high power international leaders.  The results on Christian and even Shia Muslims has been devastating. 

Many, Christians and Muslims alike have lost their businesses and homes. For those who have been able to escape, many have (and continue to) fled to the relative safety of Kurdistan in Northern Iraq.  Some before 2014 and many afterwards.  Imagine having fled for safety in 2012 or 2013 to Mosul after persecution in Syria only to have ISIS militants storm Christian homes in 2014 – your home – killing your neighbors and possibly family members.  

Iraq is also on the list of worst countries for Christians. In a country of just over 39 million, there are only approximately 225,000 Christians left.  According to a BBC News article of May 23, 2019, the Christian population in Iraq was 1,500,000 in 2003 prior to the US-led invasion which took down the Saddam Hussein government. Many Christians have fled, and now live abroad.  Many others were killed.  Those who are left feel very much abandoned. 

After 1,400 years of persecution, many believe the Christians in Iraq are on the verge of extinction.  ISIS and other militant Islamic groups have recently claimed that the killings of Christians and Yazidis in Mosul actually helped spread Islam.  

The UNHCR (United Nations High Council for Refugees) states that currently there are 4.1 million internally displaced peoples in Iraq who have “significant needs.”   This, in a country with a population of 39 million.  That’s over 10 percent of the population!  In comparison, that would be as if 33 million Americans were displaced and in significant need of food, homes, clothing and medical care; many jobless.  We would be incensed!  But the world seemingly watches quietly as Iraqi Christians stumble through this unparalleled crisis.  

The Rt. Reverend Bashar Warda, the Archbishop of the Chaldean Catholic Church in Erbil, Iraq recently spoke in London.  (refer to the BBC News May 23, 2019 article):

“ ‘Christianity in Iraq,’he said, ‘one of the oldest Churches, if not the oldest Church in the world, is perilously close to extinction. Those of us who remain must be ready to face martyrdom.’

He referred to the current, pressing threat from Islamic State (IS) jihadists as a ‘final, existential struggle’, following the group’s initial assault in 2014 that displaced more than 125,000 Christians from their historic homelands.

‘Our tormentors confiscated our present,’he said, ‘while seeking to wipe out our history and destroy our future. In Iraq there is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes and businesses. Tens of thousands of Christians have nothing to show for their life’s work, for generations of work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.’ 

He concluded his talk with these chilling words, ‘Friends, we may be facing our end in the land of our ancestors. We acknowledge this. In our end, the entire world faces a moment of truth.

Will a peaceful and innocent people be allowed to be persecuted and eliminated because of their faith? And, for the sake of not wanting to speak the truth to the persecutors, will the world be complicit in our elimination?’ ”

Our Indigenous Ministries’ teams in Iraq work tirelessly as do others in Christian ministry in persecuted countries.  We spend hours weekly on the phone with them, sharing information, pictures and feverishly working to accurately take information about the refugee children who are entered into our Refugee Child Sponsorship Program – our attempt to work within this 4.1 million IDPs and help meet their physical needs as well as share Christ with them.  

It does, at times, feel fruitless and unbelievably overwhelming at times but oddly no one on our teams either in the US or in Iraq voices this.  Instead, we feel privileged to be used of the Lord to minister in this small way to the Church in Iraq, to the Believers, and to those seeking, both nominal Christians and Muslims alike.  

While this article regrettably only touches the tip of the iceberg on this topic of Christian persecution, we pray that it stirs within you the desire to pray and to engage in doing something for our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

One way you can do something is to change the future of a young boy or girl.  Sponsor one or five refugee children through our program today.  We promote this program because its working.  The children and families receive practical aid, care and spiritual food.  God has given us today; and to look away during the worst time in history of Christian persecution is unthinkable.  

Rebecca Sharibu, the grieving from Nigeria, said, “I have brought my cry here…” Her hope is in the Lord and in the Christians in the US.  While we see our own country as post-Christian, billions view our  country as non-Muslim, therefore, Christian. We’re a super-power.  It’s God’s blessing that brought us to where we are.  As a nation with a currency claiming, “In God we Trust,” we appear to do so.  Therefore, in the eyes of the world, are we not under some moral obligation to engage?  True, as a whole, we are not a God-fearing nation; but for those who name the name of Jesus, how can our response be indifferent silence to the slaughter of our brothers and sisters. 

More Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last 5 years than in the last 15 years, and more Muslims have come to faith in Christ in the last 15 years than in the last 1,400 years.  

Iraqi Christians are saying, “This is our time and our opportunity to stand in the gap and reach these people for Christ as never before in our lifetime.”  This is why we must stand with them to help them reach their people for Christ.  

For the discerning Believer, guilt has long ago been seen as a useless tool on left the side of life’s path. Instead, crystal clear motives, intentional living and the Holy Spirit’s prompting should define which burdens we gladly bear and act upon.  These life and death decisions we make may one day be that of defending our own American brothers and sisters as persecution creeps closer and closer to our shores.  It’s not too late for us to act, and the evil one trembles in fear at this knowledge and possibility.    

To receive a free PDF listing actionable items you or your church can engage in to help persecuted Christians, click here. 

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