One of the legacy media’s most potent forms of bias comes in the stories they do not report. At the top of this list is the persecution of Christians around the world. A 2019 report from the UK found that Christians are “the most persecuted group” of humanity’s myriad of religions, with some areas suffering “genocide.” Now, a new — and, unsurprisingly, ignored — report from Open Doors USA quantifies the worst perpetrators of anti-Christian repression.
It helps to first understand the scope of worldwide anti-Christian bigotry and violence. Globally, 360 million Christians faced high levels of persecution last year — 15 million more than the year before — according to the group’s “2022 World Watch List.” The number of Christians killed for their faith increased from 4,761 in its 2021 report to 5,898 in this year’s edition. The organization reports:
During the 2022 World Watch List reporting period (from October 2020 to September 2021):
- 5,110 Churches or Christian buildings were attacked
- 4,765 Christians were unjustly arrested, detained or imprisoned
- 3,829 Christians were abducted for faith-related reasons.
That means an average of 16 Christians are killed each day, 13 are arrested, and 10 are kidnapped because they profess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
In all, the group found 11 nations guilty of “extreme persecution” of Christians. The six nations that ranked eleventh through sixth are: Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India, and Saudi Arabia.
The five worst offenders are:
The few thousand people among Yemen’s 30 million citizens who profess to be Christians suffer constant pressure in every aspect of daily life. “Christians in Yemen continue to face physical and mental abuse, sexual harassment and rape, as well as forced marriages and expulsion for faith-related reasons,” Open Doors USA states.
The Christians’ suffering has worsened during the eight-year-long civil war between the Saudi-backed government and rebel Houthis. “According to the UN Group of Experts, harassment of Christians, mostly attributable to the Houthis, increased since the outbreak of the war,” reported the U.S. State Department. Much of the humanitarian aid is “distributed through local Muslim leaders and local mosques,” who discriminate “against anyone who is not considered to be a devout Muslim,” Open Doors says.
Libya’s 34,600 Christians suffer from the nation’s instability and incessant warfare, which often gives Islamists cover to violate their rights with impunity. Believers who look for work are likely to be sent “to criminal officials or human trafficking groups where they are forced into heavy labor or pushed into prostitution,” reports Open Doors USA.
The most significant catalyst of Christian persecution has been the destabilization of Libya by then-President Barack Obama. “Unfortunately, the situation in Libya remains the same this year as it has for many years, due in large part to the lack of a central governing authority to break the cycle of armed conflicts in the country,” the organization notes.
CNN reported the results of the nation’s instability: “The black flag of ISIS flies over government buildings. Police cars carry the group’s insignia. The local football stadium is used for public executions.”
This report shows that the chaos unleashed largely by President Obama’s 2011 intervention continues to victimize Libya’s Christians more than a decade later.
Although their numbers are estimated in the hundreds, “Christians are viewed as high‐value targets by Islamic radical groups,” the report notes. “Somalia is one of the few places in the world that has banned the celebration of Christmas.”
Here, too, a military campaign fuels Islamists’ anti-Christian jihad. The terrorist group al-Shabaab portrays “peacekeepers” from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) — who have remained in Somalia since embarking on a six-month mission in 2007 — as “Christian crusaders,” according to the U.S. State Department’s “2020 Report on International Religious Freedom” (the most recent year available). Humanitarian relief workers also suffer such persecution. By equating Christians with foreign armies, they transfer the hatred of a foreign enemy to domestic Christians, mutatis mutandis. No one is spared the brutality. “We are being hunted down like wild animals,” said the father of a seven-year-old boy whom Muslims hospitalized for being a Christian.
2. North Korea
The report lists an estimated 400,000 secret Christians in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). “[A]ny North Korean caught following Jesus is at immediate risk of imprisonment, brutal torture and death,” it says. “An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labor camps.” To make such suffering understandable, the human rights group Korea Future designed an interactive 3-D representation of the inside of one North Korean prison camp, the Onsong County MPS Detention Centre.
North Korea continues to impose “an almost complete denial by the government of the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion,” according to the State Department. The North Korean government considers religion the greatest threat against its organized form of militant atheism; the secularism that fuels socialism is a jealous, if a false, god. Socialism shuns any allegiance higher than the Messianic State. Despite the intense persecution, North Korean believers often escape into a network of Christian-run safehouses across the border in China — only to return to North Korea, “equipped to carry the gospel to small pockets of believers.”
North Korea, which ranked as the world’s most repressive anti-Christian regime for 20 years, actually intensified its persecution during the last year, but it fell to second place after the persecution unleashed in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
With President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from Kabul, Afghanistan became the world’s most repressive anti-Christian nation. The number of Christians is estimated in the hundreds, but persecution remains intense. “Some women are already being kidnapped, taken from their houses, and forced into marriage, although we don’t know the exact number. Of course, many women will have to buy burqas, especially in the big cities,” said Open Doors USA’s communications director for Asia.
This is not to say U.S. intervention in Afghanistan is a panacea for religious liberty in Afghanistan; Open Doors notes Afghanistan has steadily increased its anti-Christian oppression during the last two decades. “In many rural areas, it was like the Taliban never left during the last 20 years,” the organization states.
The organization asks people of goodwill to:
Please pray for secret believers in Afghanistan, that they will be protected from the violence of the Taliban.
Ask God to make Taliban leaders 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.
Although there seems to be little believers in the most powerful country can do, we have access to the strongest weapon: prayer. Trite as that may sound, the persecuted church testifies that the prayers of the Body of Christ bring them a mystical comfort that transcends earthly comprehension. “While I was in prison, I could not understand everything, but I felt the Christians in different countries praying for us who were imprisoned. It provided comfort, and it became a source of energy for us,” said a former North Korean prisoner named Hae-Woo. “Even if we cannot meet each other, let us communicate through the Spirit, in Jesus Christ.”
“I believe at God’s appointed time, all the prayers will be answered and there will be freedom of faith in North Korea,” she continued. “Let us endure in patience and wait until that day comes.”