International (MNN) – There are more than 215 million persecuted Christians worldwide, according to the 2018 “World Watch List.” This is Open Doors USA’s annual ranking of the 50 worst countries for violence and persecution against Christians.
Analyzing the List
Analyzing the list, FMI’s Bruce Allen shares, “Last year there were seven countries with scores of 55 or lower. This year, no score was below 55. The lowest score was 56. We can see from year to year that when we look at the scores, things are progressively getting worse for our brothers and sisters around the world.”
Allen also compared the 2018 World Watch List scores and rankings to previous years. It’s important to note these two things are different. Rankings compare a country’s persecution level to another country. However, a score gives the level of persecution for the country.
FMI Partner Countries
For example, FMI works in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Bangladesh’s score changed from 63/100 in 2017 to 58/100 in 2018. It’s ranking also dropped from 26 in 2017 to 41 in 2018.
A rural church in Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy of FMI)
“So, there was just a change of a few points and yet it looks like it was just about to leave the list,” Allen shares. “But that’s truly not the case…a lower ranking than the previous year may simply mean that conditions in other countries have actually gotten worse as well. So, we can see that the conditions may remain the same, but the rankings have changed a bit.”
As for Indonesia, both the ranking and score reflected Christian persecution to be on the rise in the country. In 2017 Indonesia was ranked at 46 with a score of 55/100. The 2018 list ranks the country at 38 with a score of 59/100.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has shown a slight improvement. It was bumped down in ranking from 2017 at number 4 to 2018 at number 5. It’s score also changed by two points, falling from 88/100 in 2017 to 86/100 in 2018.
“Especially in Pakistan, I’ll take any improvement that we can get. But the scores have only negligible difference, the score of 86 versus 88 last year. In that case, again, it means that other countries have gotten worse, not that Pakistan has gotten a whole lot better,” Allen explains.
Christian Persecution Worsening
Just in the 2015 World Watch List Allen says half of the countries it listed had moderate persecution levels. Yet, the following year changed that. In 2016, none of the countries could be placed in moderate persecution level category because the persecution levels were just too severe. And in the 2016, 2017, and 2018 World Watch Lists, all 50 countries listed have high, very high, or extreme levels of Christian persecution.
“Cumulatively all the scores are inching higher,” Allen shares. “Last year the highest score, held by North Korea, was 92…But this year there are two countries with scores that are higher than 92… [they are] North Korea and Afghanistan.”
In the 2018 list, North Korea ranked number one again with a score of 94/100 and Afghanistan ranked number two with a score of 93/100. With that said, persecution is progressively getting worst for Christians around the world, particularly in Africa and Asia, but also the Americas, specifically Latin America.
A Driving Force
What’s causing the rise? The World Watch List also measures the driving force behind Christian persecution. And this year’s results may not be surprising.
”We can see very clearly that radical Islam is driving today’s persecution of Christians,” Allen says. “Nine out of the top 10 countries (or the worst countries) in the world show Islamic oppression as the source of persecution. The majority of incidents of persecution in two-thirds of the countries on the list are fueled by Islamic oppression.”
Muslim workers pause for a few minutes along an alleyway in the afternoon to offer their ritual prayers.
(Image, caption courtesy of FMI)
Many of these countries facing Islamic oppression are Muslim-majority countries. However, there have been exceptions like Kenya, Ethiopia, and others. In these outliers, the main religion is Christianity.
But, many of the minority Muslims have become increasingly vocal and/or brutal towards Christians. Allen says in these countries, the Muslim minorities are on the attack.
And if the first thought to come to mind at the term Islamic oppression or radical Islam are groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, Al Qaida and more, think again. A lot of the persecution and attacks are actually coming from Christians’ family members and neighbors who are trying to uphold the honor of Islam.
Attacks can range from forced marriages to rape to family members throwing their Christian sibling or child off the top of a building to try and kill them. It can mean being poisoned or even being stripped naked and watching as the family burns all their possessions, barring the person from leaving the home. Persecution can even be drawn into the courts as a legal battle, like what is currently happening with Ahmed, a highly influential and strategic co-laborer for the Gospel in Pakistan.
Pray and Act
So please, pray for Christians facing persecution to be encouraged and to have perseverance and the strength to not just endure but to thrive. Ask God to give these same Christians creativity, wisdom, and the resources needed to teach literacy and share the Gospel. Pray for God to move amongst the governments and municipal leaders to eliminate discrimination against Christians.
Also, pray for God’s protection over congregations when they meet and for people in these persecuted countries to come to know Christ.
Another way to help is by coming alongside these persecuted Christians and providing them with the funds for necessary resources. FMI helps provide tangible resources and supplemental support to pastors and church planters in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan.
Will you help support your brothers and sisters in Christ?
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To access the 2018 World Watch List, click here!