As America celebrates her 241st birthday this year, it’s worth pondering how blessed we are as Christians to reside between her gracious shores. Although our religious freedom is something we often take for granted, Christians in other countries do not enjoy near the freedoms we feel are just part of our everyday existence.
In fact, many of them live in constant fear for their lives simply because they chose to give their lives to Christ. To remind ourselves how truly blessed we are to call America home, let’s explore five other countries where living every day as a Christian isn’t near as easy – as ranked by the 2017 World Watch List, released by Open Door.
Ranked as the fifth-most dangerous country for Christians on the World Watch List, Sudan was responsible for at least five deaths due to Christian persecution. An additional 12 Sudanese Christians were imprisoned as a result of their faith in 2016. Even talking about faith is enough to get a person in serious trouble, due to the fact that speaking about faith is considered an “act that encourages apostasy” according to Sudan’s government. The country’s legal system is based a foundation of Islamic law, making leaving the faith an act punishable by death.
In the fourth-most dangerous country for Christians, abductions are a big issue. In fact, around 700 Christian girls and women are abducted yearly in Pakistan. They are usually raped, forced to marry Muslim men, and made to convert to Islam after their kidnapping. The culture in Pakistan is becoming more Islamic, and militants within the borders such as the Islamic State and the Taliban routinely target Christians. A horrific Taliban attack that occurred on Easter was specifically aimed at Christians, and left 69 people dead.
In this tribal society that comes in at three on the list, it is actually illegal to practice any religion other than Islam. If a person leaves the Islamic faith, they are sent to a mental hospital as the society believes no sane person would leave the Muslim faith. Several Christians were killed throughout the year due to their faith, and the Taliban specifically targeted individuals who left Islam.
Coming in at number two on the list of the most dangerous countries for Christians is Somalia. In this tribal society, a person doesn’t even have to be a known Christian to be killed for his or her faith. Even if someone is suspected of being a Christ follower, they can be murdered on the spot, no questions asked. Last year, at least 12 Christians lost their lives due to their faith. Within Somalia, the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab says it “wants Somalia free of all Christians”, and is following through on that desire. Due to the country’s lawlessness, Christians are persecuted with impunity.
1.) North Korea:
As a Christian, North Korea is the number one country you most want to avoid. Within its borders, tens of thousands of Christians are incarcerated in horrific camps, others are tortured, killed, raped and enslaved. According to a report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide entitled the “Total Denial: Violations of Freedom of Religions or Belief in North Korea,” the freedom to practice Christianity is “largely non-existent.” The report goes on to say, “Religious beliefs are seen as a threat to the loyalty demanded by the Supreme Leader, so anyone holding these beliefs are severely persecuted. Christians suffer significantly because of the anti-revolutionary and imperialist labels attached to them by the country’s leadership.”
The Kim family which rules North Korea are worshiped like gods. Therefore, a Christian’s desire to worship and obey a higher authority presents a problem. Some of the documented incidents that occurred against Christians included, “humans being hung on a cross over a fire, crushed under a steamroller, herded off bridges and trampled underfoot.” Even family members of suspected Christians can be and are persecuted.
As a result of the intense persecution North Korean Christians face, they often keep their faith a secret, even from their family. Christian leaders within the land believe there are more than 13,000 believers in the country, though. Some believe this number to be too low, and estimate believers to number closer to 200,000 or even 300,000. Amazingly, even with the threat present, there are 121 religious facilities within North Korea and an estimated 500 house churches.
As believers, we must always pray for our brothers and sisters all over the world who are persecuted daily for their faith. We also should appreciate that we have the freedom to worship Christ without fear for our lives, unlike the believers who reside in the five countries listed above.
~ 1776 Christian