Friday, May 27, 2011

The Top Five Countries on the World Watch List

Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! May His name be praised always!

Today I wanted to share with you a little bit about the top five countries that made the World Watch List. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the World Watch List, it's a fairly simple list. The countries who persecute Christians the worst get to be named on this list. That isn't a list I would like to see my country on. 

The organization, Open Doors, is the group that puts this list together on a yearly basis. Here is what they say about the list:

     The World Watch List (WWL) is a ranking of 50 countries where persecution of Christians for religious reasons is worst. First of all, the list cover persecution of Christians of all denominations in the entire country. The focus is on persecution of their faith, not persecution for political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.

So, as you can see, it's not a list precariously put together.

Today I am going to focus on the top five countries and why they made it to the top. I want you, dear follower of Christ to be informed so you will know how to pray for your brothers and sisters in these countries. I will also provide a link for you to go to Open Doors and become a prayer partner with them. So without further ado, let's begin with the number one on the WWL 2011.

1. North Korea

The situation in North Korea during this reporting period remains horrific. There is no change in the total number of points but that doesn’t mean it’s stabilized. On the contrary, during the last year general changes in the country adversely affected the entire population, including Christians. Due to currency reforms, two out of every ten people seem to have lost their homes. Next to the economic crisis, North Korea has been hit by natural disasters. Dozens of North Korean people died in floods and landslides which were caused by a typhoon. The situation for the Christians was even more terrible. The whole country is under the spell of the Juche ideology and the worship of the “Great Leader.” As a result Christians do not have even the right to exist, according to the government. Despite this persecution, Christianity is growing slowly. There are many risks for Christians, most of them deadly. In 2010 hundreds of Christians were arrested for various reasons. Some were killed and others sentenced to political camps. For example, a Christian house church in Pyungsung province was discovered by authorities in May 2010 and three Christians were immediately sentenced to death because of the meeting. The other 20 Christians were sent to a labor camp. Politically, things are changing as well. In September Kim Jong-Eun, the third son of Kim Jong Il, was officially appointed to general and elevated to second in command of the Central Military Commission. It confirms the intention of the present regime to make Kim Jong Eun the hereditary successor. Will the situation change for Christians when Kim Jong Eun becomes the new leader? Many people inside the country do not believe so but only God knows the total picture.

2. Iran

The total number of points has increased somewhat for Iran. During the reporting period, Christians continued to be arrested in waves, especially during December 2009 and first three months of 2010. Many church services are being monitored by the secret police. Believers that are active in churches or the cell group movement are being pressured. They are questioned, arrested and put in jail and beaten. Individual believers are being oppressed by society, under pressure of the authorities. During the reporting period, there were frequent demonstrations against the Iranian government. It is assumed that the Iranian government is in crisis with so many of its citizens continuing to openly protest against it. In an effort to distract attention away from these problems, the regime is lashing out against Christians. In total, a few hundred Christians were arrested. Many of the arrested Christians have been released on bail. However, they are often still monitored by the authorities and may face further court hearings. Also there is the risk of repercussions by Islamic extremists, especially when Christians are involved in sharing the gospel with Muslims. The violence can come from a source as close as one’s own family. A convert from Islam died as a result of injuries sustained when he was seriously beaten by a family member during the third quarter of 2010. In the meantime, the indigenous church continues to grow, numbering at least 450,000 Christians (indigenous and Assyrian/Armenian). There are indications pointing to a huge need for Bibles. Sadly during the first half of 2010, hundreds of Bibles were seized by security forces and burned. It has been quite a long time since such a harsh measure was taken to thwart the distribution of Bibles. Islam is the official religion in Iran, and all laws and regulations must be consistent with the official interpretation of sharia law. Although ethnic (Armenian and Assyrian) Christians are a recognized religious minority guaranteed religious freedom, they have reported imprisonment, physical abuse, harassment and discrimination because of their faith. Armenian and Assyrian churches are allowed to teach fellow countrymen in their own language, but it is forbidden to minister to people with a Muslim background (speaking Farsi). Under judicial interpretations of sharia law, any Muslim who leaves Islam to embrace another religion faces the death penalty.

3. Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated during the last reporting period. The government intensified persecution of Muslim background believers. Afghanistan has a population of more than 28 million people. Among them are very few Christians. Afghan believers are not accepted by the predominantly Muslim society, and legislation is not clear about the religious rights of Christians. During 2010, there were many examples of intimidation and threats against Christians. In May and June 2010, the Afghan television network Noorin repeatedly showed footage of Muslim background believers who were being baptized. Christian aid organizations were also accused of evangelism. In response to the broadcast, the secretary of the Lower House during a session of parliament called for the execution of these Christian converts from Islam. The broadcast and response of the government caused protests on the streets of Kabul and in other Afghan cities. Hundreds of protesters shouted death threats against Christian converts and demanded the expulsion of Christian organizations because of their assumed Christian influence. Pressure on Afghan Christians intensified and dozens searched for safety in other neighborhoods or cities or fled the country. Several arrests and court cases of Christians have taken place in 2010. In August, Christian aid workers were killed by the Taliban. Afghan Christians continue to suffer persecution and even violence from their families and others. In a unique situation in the history of the country, there is now a public debate over allowing Afghans to be Christians and have rights.

4. Saudi Arabia

Despite the fact that the total number of points for Saudi Arabia increased slightly, the country descends from position 3 to 4. The reason for this minor shift is the considerable rise of Afghanistan. The increase in points for Saudi Arabia is explained by reports we received of several Christians being physically harmed for their faith during the past reporting period, which was not the case during the previous period. Presumably the total number of Christians facing this kind of persecution will be much higher, but it is hard to receive sufficient information on this from a closed country like the Wahhabist Kingdom. Also, 12 Filipino Christians and one priest were arrested while attending a religious service in a private home on October 1. They were charged with proselytizing and temporarily released (one of them on bail). In addition, a number of Christians fled the country because of oppression for faith-related reasons. In some cases their lives were at stake. Most Christians in Saudi Arabia are expatriates who live and work temporarily in the country. The majority of them are from the Philippines. These foreign workers, besides being exploited and poorly paid, are regularly exposed to verbal and physical violence because of their Christian faith. There are a number of converts from Islam who live their faith in deepest secret. Religious freedom does not exist in this heartland of Islam where citizens are only allowed to adhere to one religion. No protection, legal or otherwise, is provided for non-Muslim residents. The legal system is based on Islamic law (sharia). Apostasy (conversion to another religion) is punishable by death if the accused does not recant. Although the government recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private, the religious police “the Muttawa’’ often does not respect this right. It was also this Muttawa which arrested the above mentioned 13 Christians in October. The public practice of non-Muslim worship is prohibited as well in Saudi Arabia. Worshippers who engage in such activities risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation, and sometimes torture. Believers from a Muslim background also run the risk of honor killing if their family or others in their social environment discover their new faith.
5. Somalia

The situation for Christians in Somalia worsened during this reporting period. A negative image of Christians was painted in the media, eight Christians were martyred and a quarter of the number of Christians fled the country. The republic of Somalia essentially has been in civil war since 1991, and can be divided into self-declared independent Somaliland (North-West), autonomous Puntland (North-East) and Southern Somalia with the capital Mogadishu. While Somaliland and Puntland are rather stable, Southern Somalia is not because of the Islamic militia’s al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam are fighting the Transitional Government of the Republic, its ally Ahlu Sunnah Jama’a and backed by 6,000 African Union soldiers. Islamist al-Sahbaab controls 90% of Southern Somalia while the Transitional Government is locked up in a small part of the capital. Authoritarian Al-Shabaab is enforcing a harsh interpretation of sharia in the territories it controls. This militia is extremely radical because of external influence by al-Qaeda during this reporting period. Hence its support among the local population is waning. At the same time, al-Shabaab is effectively working to wipe out Christianity from the country.

Now remember, beloved of Christ, this is just the top five countries on this list. There are forty-five more. If you would like to know more about the other countries and be a prayer partner with Open Doors and countless other brothers and sisters praying, then click here.

In the United States, we don't really know what persecution is, yet. But our brothers and sisters in these other countries do. They need our support. They need to know they are remembered. They covet the prayers of the saints. So join me, and let us "remember the prisoners as if chained with them - those who are mistreated - since you yourselves are in the body also." (Hebrews 13:3 - NKJV)

Because He Lives!

No comments:

Post a Comment