Every year for the past 25 years, Open Doors ministry puts out a “World Watch List” that rates 50 nations according to the level of Christian persecution. The list also includes a map. If you view the list online, the map is interactive.
I knew that today was the day that the 2017 edition of the list was going to be released by Open Doors, so after I brewed my morning coffee I went to my den, turned on the computer and went to the Open Doors website.
I’m on the East Coast of the U.S. and I get up fairly early, and somehow I always forget that the West Coast, where Open Doors is located, is 3 hours behind. Drats! The list isn’t up yet.
I have a pretty busy day ahead; I really didn’t want to wait until this afternoon. So, I cheated, kind of.
Europe is ahead of Eastern Standard Time. I checked out Open Door’s U.K. website and struck gold.
Under the link “25 years of World Watch List” two things struck me as interesting:
- Only three countries have ever topped the list: Saudi Arabia (1993- 1995, 1998-2001), Somalia (1996-1997), and North Korea (2002 on wards). In other ways the List reflects seven significant changes.
- THE ALL-TIME TOP TENThe World Watch List works by allocating points for various aspects of persecution. If we were to add up the total number of points gathered over the whole period, the ‘top ten’ 1993-2017 is:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia (#14)
- Maldives (#13)
- Vietnam (#17)
- China (#39)
Six of these countries are still in the WWL 2017 top ten, [in Red above added for emphasis].
The Good & The Bad
There is plenty of good news from this year’s World Watch List for Christians.
- “From 1993 to 2008 China was regularly in the top 10, but since 2008 it has fallen into the 30s. Despite recent crackdowns, it is unlikely China will return to the top 20 in the foreseeable future.”
- “Christians are hoping to return to their historic homes in northern Iraq. When Islamic militants overran the Nineveh plains in 2014, over 80,000 Christians fled their homes. Now some of their towns and villages have been liberated, they are determined to return. ‘We will go back with a greater determination to keep freedom defended,’ said a church leader in Iraq.”
- Believers from Muslim Backgrounds (BMBs) in Indonesia have no fear in their new faith. Many BMBs have to keep their faith secret. But in Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest population of Muslims, a great many new BMBs are emerging – and they are independent, strong and fearless. As a long-time observer said: ‘These new BMBs live a lifestyle that is not fearful, nor do they think they have to be like the Christians that told them about the gospel – they will form a new strand of the church, that will be more biblical and vibrant, and they will bless the world.'”
- “The ‘exodus’ of Christians in the Middle East is significantly slowing… for now. The number of Christians leaving the Middle East has slowed, not least because, in the words of a refugee worker in Jordan, ‘If you were a Christian and you had resources, you’ve already gone.’ Yet a great many Christians remain in the region. Their continued presence is by no means secure, but they remain committed to staying. Meanwhile, many of those who became refugees in Europe are bringing new life to Western churches. In the words of a pastor from Germany: ‘They are reminding us what real faith looks like.'”
- This one is NOT on the list, but I find it comforting and a validation of my thoughts about ICC’s annual report that the U.S. did not make Open Doors’ list.
The Bad . . .
- “Christians are being killed for their faith in more countries than before.”
- Political and religious nationalism is rising in Asia, which means that religious minorities such as Christians should expect to see more discrimination and persecution. Buddhists and Hindus who advocate for nationalism are persecuting Christians and other religious minorities in Sri Lanka and India.
- “Islamic extremism fuels persecution in 14 out of the top 20 countries, and 35 of the top 50.”
For 25 years, Open Doors has educated us about what is happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ through the World Watch List. The World Watch List is an excellent tool to use during private and corporate prayer time. I encourage every pastor and church leader to share this valuable resource with your congregations as a way to unify and build up the entire body of Christ. I believe that the Western Church has much to learn from Christians in other nations about what it means to remain strong in their faith through immense storms.
Thank you Open Doors for providing this resource to us, but my prayer is that you won’t have to do this for much longer!