As we enter this new year there are Christians around the world facing increasing pressure to abandon their faith, and harsher consequences when they hold to it and attempt to practice their beliefs.
Open Doors, a mission-based organisation supporting persecuted Christians, released their 30th annual World Watch List this week detailing the most dangerous places to be a Christian and how conditions have changed with new government regimes in place.
“The first World Watch List was released in 1993 and, back then, Christians faced high to extreme levels of persecution in 40 countries – 30 years on and this number has nearly doubled to 76 countries,” Open Doors’ Jordan Scott told Hope 103.2.
Being persecuted looks different throughout those countries but shares in socially isolating Christians and potentially bringing them physical or political harm.
“[Christians] might be rejected by family, they might be abused or imprisoned or even killed simply because of their decision to follow Jesus,” Jordan said.
“Open Doors aims to come alongside those believers who pay a high price for their faith and help them to follow Jesus not matter the cost.
“This often looks like discipleship, emotional support and practical aid.”
“Open Doors aims to come alongside those believers who pay a high price for their faith and help them to follow Jesus not matter the cost,” – Jordan Scott, Open Doors
At the top of the list this year is North Korea, who have returned to the position after an increase of violence in response to their “anti-reactionary thought law”.
Last year was the first time North Korea hadn’t been in the top spot, slipping behind Afghanistan due to the Taliban regaining power after international troops were removed from the region.
“This year, [North Korea] sees its highest ever persecution score, reflecting an increase in arrests of Christians and more underground house churches that have been discovered and closed,” Jordan said.
“When you are arrested, it could mean execution or life in one of the nation’s horrifically inhumane camps for political prisoners.
“The anti-reactionary thought law is a reason for this huge rise that we’re seeing, and it’s basically criminalised any published materials of foreign origin in North Korea.”
The implications of this are extreme, varying from “the execution of teenage boys who are just watching South Korean shows such as Squid Games” to “tracking down Bibles and other Christian materials – printed or electronic”, Jordan said.
The implications of this are extreme, varying from “the execution of teenage boys who are just watching South Korean shows such as Squid Games” to “tracking down Bibles and other Christian materials – printed or electronic”, Open Doors’ Jordan Scott said.
Another cause for concern in this year’s report is the growing campaign China is leading to redefine human rights away from universally accepted traditional notions that allow religious freedoms to more subjective ones like subsistence, development and security.
The intention to change the rights was raised by China’s foreign minister Wang Yi in 2021 to the UN Human Rights Council and countries like Russia, India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and others have agreed to follow suit.
“In his speech, [Wang] said that the people-centered philosophy means that the people should be the real masters of the country and they should take part in national governance and political consultation,” Jordan said.
“If you read between the lines what we’re seeing is really a façade to avoid global accountability for the unjust treatment of the Chinese people, and Christians are at the forefront of that pressure and persecution in that country.”
The report paints a bleak picture for many Christians globally, but Jordan still finds hope in seeing the way they hold to faith under pressure.
“Persecution often has the opposite effect than what we think,” – Jordan Scott, Open Doors
“Persecution often has the opposite effect than what we think,” he said.
“It ends up growing and establishing the church and creating passionate and emboldened followers of Jesus.
“We’d love to see the Australian church coming alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters in prayer, helping them to continue to stand in the face of persecution and sharing Jesus and loving their communities boldly.”
You can read the full Open Doors World Watch List and support their work financially via their website.
Listen to the full interview with Jordan Scott in the player.
Article provided with thanks to Hope 103.2