By Brian Chilton| Every year an organization known as Open Doors posts its annual list of nations in which it is most dangerous to reside as a Christian citizen. The list is evaluated by an outside organization to check for accuracy.
The team examines how much persecution is endured by the common Christian in that particular nation according to the persecution suffered in the believer’s private life, by the believer’s community, nation, and even by one’s family.
The churchwide persecution and threats of violence are taken into account, as well. Each nation is gauged by a scale of 1 to 100 (with 100 being the most dangerous). The top 50 most dangerous nations are then listed according to the rank given as they are gauged by the persecution scale.
This article will note the top 10 most dangerous nations in 2017 according to OpenDoorsUSA.org. Most surprising in this list is the nation that is ranked as the most dangerous nation. Hint: the nation is not Islamic. As you read this list, I would ask that you would pray for the citizens of each nation and pray that the leaders of each nation would be changed by the power of God’s grace.
10. Eritrea (Scored 82/100)
Eritrea is not a nation that is commonly known. It sits at the northeastern corner of Africa and borders Sudan to the north, South Sudan to the southwest, Ethiopia to the south, Djibouti in the southeast, and the Red Sea to east. Eritrea’s President is Isaias Afewerk. The two major religions are Christianity and Islam. Of the 5,482,000 citizens of Eritrea, 2,741,000 are Christians (50%).
The nation is ruled by one-party and is totalitarian in its regime. The government does not permit any dissent of any kind. The Eritrean Orthodox Church is governmentally controlled, thereby persecuting and imprisoning anyone who becomes Evangelical or Pentecostal. Open Doors USA has reported that some Christians have been locked in containers and died.
Because of the level of persecution suffered by Eritrean Christians, Eritrea ranks 10th among the most dangerous nations for Christians in 2017.
9. Yemen (Scored 85/100)
The Republic of Yemen is located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen borders Saudia Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea to the southern ends of the nation, and Oman to the northeast. Yemen was an area known to be the home of the biblical Sabaeans, or Sheba.
The nation is an Islamic land known for producing occasional terrorists, perhaps due to the fact that Yemen is among the poorest of Middle-Eastern countries. Of the 28,120,000 citizens, only a few thousand are Christian.
The major force behind Christian persecution in Yemen is Islamic oppression and ethnic antagonism according to Open Doors USA. Before casting a stone towards the nation, one must note that the citizens have born several political upheavals. According to Open Doors USA, 80% of Yemenis have some form of humanitarian need.
There is good news to report, however. Reports indicate that Yemeni Muslims are turning to Christ in unprecedented numbers. Pray that God would continue to move in Yemen. Pray for both the spiritual and physical needs in Yemen.
8. Iran (Scored 85/100)
Iran, formerly known as Persia, borders Armenia in the northwest, the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea due north, Turkmenistan in the northeast, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman to the south, and Iraq and Turkey to the west.
Iran is an Islamic republic which considers Christianity the byproduct of Western influence. Since the Western world is viewed as evil and Christianity is related to the Western world, then Christianity is held to be an evil force. Converts to Christianity comprise the largest number of Christians in the area which only number 800,000 of the 80,946,000 citizens (roughly 0.009%).
In Iran, churches are often closed; citizens are arrested for being Christian; and ministers and evangelists are often met with violence. Pray for the Christians of Iran and that the mindset of the leaders would come to the realization that Christianity is not a Western byproduct, but actually comes from their region: the Middle East.
7. Iraq (Scored 86/100)
War-torn Iraq finds itself as the 7th most dangerous land for Christians. Iraq hosts several ethnic groups such as the Assyrians, Turks, Shabakis, Yazidis, Armenians, Mandeans, Circassians, and Kawliya. Iraq borders Turkey to the north, Iran to the east, Kuwait to the southeast, Saudi Arabia to the north, Jordan to the southwest, and Syria to the west.
Iraq has a parliamentary democracy. However, only 230,000 of 38,654,000 are Christian (roughly 0.006%). Despite having lived in Iraq for nearly 2,000 years, Christians are on the verge of extinction in Iraq due to the militant campaigns of ISIL. Numerous Christians have been martyred for Christ.
For those allowed to live, they are dehumanized and treated as second-class citizens, some even sold into slavery. Pray for the dire conditions of Christians presently living in Iraq. Pray the Christ would intervene and change the hearts of their oppressors.
6. Syria (Scored 86/100)
Syria is a land steeped in Christian history. It was from this area that followers of Christ were renamed “followers of the Way” to the term “Christian” (something meant to be derogatory at the time). The apostle Paul was from this area.
It is traditionally held that the apostle Matthew penned the First Gospel from Antioch of Syria, also. Unfortunately, like their brethren in Iraq, Syrian Christians are facing dire times due to the multi-faceted persecution coming from the likes of ISIL and from the constant ongoing civil war. Both Christians and Muslims face heavy persecution in this area.
Syrian opposition is becoming increasingly militant, causing massive persecution to Syrian Christians. The stories coming from this area are too difficult for me to even report as they include beheadings, crucifixions, and exquisite forms of torture to both adults and young children alike.
It is an understatement to say that we need to pray for Syria, particularly Syrian Christians. May God intervene and change hearts while bringing an end to this chaotic Syria civil war.
5. Sudan (Scored 87/100)
Sudan is located in northeast Africa. The nation borders Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea (ranked 10), and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest. Sudan is the third largest nation in Africa. The country holds a portion of the Nile River, as well.
Sudan is an Islamic republic, headed by President Oman al-Bashir. Of the 42,166,000 people in Sudan, 1,996,000 are Christian (roughly 5%). Open Doors USA attributes Christian persecution to Islamic oppression coupled with dictatorial paranoia (that is, fear that others are out to take over the government). Persecution is extreme in Sudan.
Sudan has found itself on the watch list since 1993 and has ranked in the top 20 of the nations that most persecute Christians for years. Al-Bashir rules with an iron fist leaving no room for the freedom of expression. According to Open Doors USA,
“the ethnic-cultural landscape is complicated and divisive: Arab versus Ethnic Africans, Muslims versus Christians.” The Sudanese government seeks to create a strictly implemented one-nation-religion, as well as implementing the use of only one language and culture.
Pray for Sudanese Christians as well as the governmental agencies. Pray that God would open their hearts to the grace of God found in and through Jesus Christ.
4. Pakistan (Scored 88/100)
Pakistan ranks 4th on the 2017 world watch list with a whopping 88 points. Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic found in South Asia. Pakistan holds an enormous population of near 200 million people.
It hosts a 650-mile coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman to the south. The nation is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. Pakistan is separated from neighboring Tajikistan by the Wakhan Corridor to the north and shares a small coastal border with Oman.
Of the 196,744,000 citizens of Pakistan, 3,938,000 are Christian (roughly 2%). Unlike some of the nations mentioned, Christians are allowed to worship and historical communities openly exist. However, Christian communities suffer from severe rules and consistent monitoring.
Converts to Christianity suffer greatly from both radical groups as well as from their families and neighbors. Recently, Christians have been targeted at parks where terrorists planted bombs in local playgrounds where Christians congregate. It is important to note that not only Christians died in this attack, but many Muslims died, also.
Not only are Christians targeted for bombings, women are abducted, raped, forced into marriages, and families can and have been evicted for their home and country. Because of stringent blasphemy laws, Christians often suffer from unverified and false accusations which may lead to a barrage of punishments, including death.
Pray for Pakistani Christians. Many of these individuals are good, wholesome, believers who desire to glorify God in all that they do and say. Pray that the hearts of their oppressors would change and be transformed by the love and grace of God.
3. Afghanistan (Scored 89/100)
Afghanistan has been in the news for quite some time due to the violence and unrest in the land. Thus, it is of no surprise that Afghanistan would rank third as the most dangerous lands in 2017 for Christians. Afghanistan is a landlocked nation in South and Central Asia bordered by Pakistan to the southeast, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast. The government is a republic led by President Ashraf Ghani.
Of the 34,169,000 citizens, only a few thousand are Christian (roughly .03%). Due to a weak government brought forth by constant unrest, the view that Islam unites the nation, as well as highly organized criminal organizations, Christians, other non-Muslim citizens, and unpopular Muslim sects are targeted.
Christian converts are often murdered by their extended family. In other cases, converts are taken to mental institutions. Nearly always, converts automatically lose rights to personal property and their possessions. False accusations of conversion have been made towards less popular individuals of certain communities instilling fear in those even considering placing their faith in Christ.
Pray for the Afghani Christians. Open Doors USA did not have a precise number of Christians in the area, so there may be more or less than what is presented in this article. Pray for Afghanistan’s stability and for those who oppress the believers in this nation. Pray that their hearts and minds would be transformed by the grace of God.
2. Somalia (Scored 91/100)
Somalia, unsurprisingly, makes the second most dangerous nation for Christians in 2017 as it has produced terrorists for some time. Somalia is located at the so-called Horn of Africa at the far east side of the continent.
The nation borders Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia hosts the longest coastline on the mainland of Africa and holds many plateaus, plains, and highlands. Hot weather persists nearly year-round.
Somalia scores a horrid score of 91 out of 100 points on the persecution index, one shy of the leading nation of persecution. The nation is steeply Muslim in nature hosting a federal republic governmental infrastructure led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Somalia has been on the watch list since 1993 as the nation holds a tribal system that is resistant to democracy and Christianity.
Like other nations, Christianity is viewed as a byproduct of the Western world. Since democracy is non-existent, Christians have no voice. According to Open Doors USA, “Since the downfall of Ziad Barre in 1991, Somalia has become a safe haven for Islamic militants.”
Christian converts face intense pressure from adversaries of the faith. Martyrdom is extremely common. Even the suspicion that one has accepted Christ may lead to a hasty death.
Pray for the Somali Christians. Pray that God would intervene and transform the hearts of their oppressors.
We have listed the top nine most dangerous nations. While most of the nations on the list have not surprised me due to the reported level of persecution taking place, the top nation greatly surprised me. In fact, the top nation persecuting Christians is not a Muslim nation, but something quite different.
1. North Korea (Scored 92/100)
Surprisingly, the top nation guilty of persecuting Christians is not a Muslim nation. Rather, it is the atheistic, communist, secularized nation of North Korea. Yes, North Korea!
Perhaps North Korean persecution is more surprising to us because of the fact that there is little that is known about the inner workings of North Korea. North Korea is greatly secretive and privatized. Despite the clandestineness of the nation, North Korea tops the Open Doors USA list.
North Korea is in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. North Korea borders South Korea to the south, China and Russia along the Amno (or Yalu) and Tumen rivers to the north and northwest, the Korean Bay to the southwest, and the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea) to the east.
The nation is a communist dictatorship ruled by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea is largely atheistic while some traditional beliefs are held by a few. The government rules all aspects of daily life, coupled with an extreme level of paranoia, which leads to intense oppressive conditions for the citizens of the land.
It is estimated that of the 25,405,000 North Koreans, 300,000 are Christian (roughly 1.1%). North Korean Christians (NKC) bear excruciating conditions. NKC cannot express openly express their faith to any degree as they are constantly surveyed by governmental agencies, neighbors, and even their immediate family.
Since worship of the Kim family is mandated, any worship to Jesus is punishable by law which disallows any public gathering of worship. NKC must pray with their eyes open and are disallowed from owning a copy of the Bible or any religious material. NKC are often arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred.
Christian families and communities have been kidnapped and executed. Individuals may often find that neighbors completely vanish in the night without any recollection as to their whereabouts.
Individuals, including NKC, who unsuccessfully flee to the more Christianized and tolerant South Korea directly or through China risk severe beatings, starvation, torture, and death. NKC cannot win either way. They suffer if they stay and they suffer if they attempt to leave.
Pray for the NKC. God can do the miraculous. Pray that God would transform Kim Jong Un and the North Korean authorities. You say, “That’s impossible.” Understand, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
We have examined 10 nations leading in persecution causing great danger to its Christian citizens. Understand that these articles are not meant to disparage any form of religion and are not intended to condemn any nation. These articles should, however, encourage us to pray for persecuted Christians across the globe.
As a Christian myself, I understand that the Christians in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Eritrea, and across the world are not distant people. They are family! We as the body of Christ are family as we will unite in our worship of the risen King Jesus one day. It is a certainty that one day this united, global, Christian family will join together praising and worshipping God!
John saw a day when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10).
Also, we should be encouraged to know that at some point “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, ESV). To God alone be the glory!
To see the complete list, go to https://www.opendoorusa.org/ and look for the Christian persecution watchlist.