Christianity · World

Persecution – World Watch Map

Every year in January, the organisation ‘Open Doors’ publishes a world watch map on which it ranks several countries on this earth with regard to persecution of Christians. The latest map was published in January.

It may not come unexpected that North Korea is the number 1 country if it comes to persecution of Christians. It is followed by Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Pakistan.

China still places 27th. However, we hear that the persecution in China is intensifying and over time the government is clamping down more and more on all those who disagree with its communist ideology. It may be expected that in next years China will rise to a higher spot on this list.

With the exception of North Korea and three or four other countries (like India on 10), the other countries which come before China are all Islam dominated countries. However, the population of China probably equals or at least comes close to that of all the 26 other countries together. And if we add up the entire population of all the countries in the top 50, that will probably be about half the entire world population. Half of the world population live in areas where Christians are actively persecuted because of their faith.

Looking at the map, we notice that the countries that are not in the top 50 are mainly in the Americas (with the exception of Mexico and Colombia), in Europe (except Russia), the southern part of Africa and in Oceania. In Asia there are only a handful countries that are not on the list: Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Cambodia, Thailand, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan and PNG.

From this map we can conclude that in almost entire Asia and North Africa Christians are being persecuted. However, in many other countries, mainly Western countries, we know that even though Christians are not being persecuted, indirectly they are under attack because those who treasure Christian values and abide by Christian morals are less and less tolerated. If this continues, we may soon find ourselves in a situation like China, where the government tries to get a tight control on the thoughts of the people. It may not happen by direct persecution of Christians, but it will be more through persecution of those who disagree with certain opinions being pushed by certain groups in society with a lot of influence in the governments.

The clamping down on Christian religion, like the Chinese and other governments are doing now, is an indication of their despair. They feel threatened and try to remove the threat, but are failing. And therefore they try even harder. We know, however, that it will work the opposite of what governments try to achieve. Acts 8:1-4 is a beautiful example of that, and this is confirmed also throughout the history of the Church. In the Roman Empire, from time to time the Christians were severely persecuted, but every time again it resulted in the growth of Christianity. It is because of that that Tertullian wrote that ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’. We see Christianity growing in China. Estimates differ and it is hard to get precise figures, but that there is growth is certain.

We also here stories from Christians in Islamic countries that atrocious behaviour of Muslims towards ‘infidels’ causes people to turn away from Islam towards Christianity. On the other hand, in countries where Christianity until recently enjoyed a lot of freedom, we see that this mostly indirect persecution brings about a cleansing for the Church. People who are only Christian in name, turn away from the churches, because they are not willing to sacrifice for something they don’t really believe in. Here we see that God is purifying the Church, like silver is being refined by fire (Psalm 66).

Instead of living in fear for possible persecution, we must put our trust in God. We know that nothing happens without the knowledge of God, our Father in heaven, and that everything is being used by Him to work out His eternal plan. Persecution has a place in that as well. The apostles rejoiced when they were persecuted, because they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ (Acts 5:41).

Let us not stop praying for those who are being persecuted, while at the same time rejoicing if we are being deemed worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Christ.