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The Persecuted Church

Millions around the world need our intercessory prayers.

Persecution of Jews and Christians has been a blight throughout recorded history. And it continues in the present day. It occurs in almost all countries – including the United States of America. Even more disturbing is that persecution is increasing, rather than being reduced or even just contained.

Open Doors, an international organization devoted to supporting the Persecuted Church, has been tracking worldwide persecution for 30 years. Their 2022 report (Note 1) indicates important trends and calls out the worst offenders, country by country. According to David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, “This year’s findings indicate seismic changes in the persecution landscape.” Here are some of the highlights from the 2022 report:

  • The number of Christians living in countries with very high or extreme levels of persecution increased to 360 million (1 in 7 Christians worldwide), compared to 309 million in the previous year’s report. It is an amazing number, and the fact it is increasing indicates the resilience of the Persecuted Church. Believers are standing their ground and more people are coming to Christ.
  • COVID-19 restrictions, a trend that began in 2020, have become an easy catalyst for religious persecution through discrimination (including mosques open but not churches), forced conversion, and justification for increased surveillance and censorship.
  • Extreme persecution continues to spread viciously throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, primarily attributed to a rapidly growing Islamic presence. Nigeria, its most populous country, ranks first in categories of Christians killed, abducted, sexually harassed, or physically or mentally abused. Nigeria also has more home and business attacks for faith-based reasons.
  • The report ranks 50 countries from the worst to the less worse. Persecution is not acceptable at any level, however, looking at the “top 10” countries is eye-opening:
    1. Afghanistan – Elevated to #1 as a result of the Taliban taking over in August, 2021.
    2. North Korea – Down from #1 last year, only because of Afghanistan’s ascension. Persecution actually increased in North Korea compared with 2021.
    3. Somalia
    4. Libya
    5. Yemen
    6. Eritrea
    7. Nigeria
    8. Pakistan
    9. Iran
    10. India
  • Further down on the list we find China (#17), Colombia (#30), Cuba (#37), and Mexico (#43). China holds the dubious #1 position on a list of countries where churches are attacked or closed the most (3,000 vs. 470 in #2 Nigeria).

The Bible exhorts Christians to “Remember the prisoners, as though you were in prison with them, and the mistreated, as though you yourselves were suffering bodily.” Hebrews 13:3 HSCB

Here’s a simple prayer intercession that you can pray today for the Persecuted Church:
Almighty God, You have warned us through Your son Jesus Christ that those who follow Him may be oppressed and abused because of their faith. We ask that You comfort and give courage to all of Your children who fall victim to unjust imprisonment, physical harm and intimidation at the hands of their oppressors. And we ask that You especially protect those who are active in sharing the Gospel of our Lord.
For those who have given their lives in the fight for freedom to openly share and live out their faith, may they be welcomed into Your warm embrace.
For those who persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ, may their spirits be touched by the incredible faith of those they attack. And may they turn away from sin and open their hearts to Your love.
We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Note 1: From “The 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Follow Jesus in 2022”, Christianity Today 1/19/2022. Research covers the period from October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021.

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