In a stark revelation, Open Doors, an international Christian persecution watchdog group, has issued its annual report highlighting a distressing surge in violence against Christians globally. The report, released on Wednesday, details the World Watch List 2024, ranking the 50 worst countries for Christian persecution and documenting alarming trends.
According to the report, nearly 5,000 Christians lost their lives for their faith during the reporting period that ended on Sept. 30, 2023. This equates to an average of 13 Christians killed per day. In addition to the loss of lives, 14,766 churches and Christian properties faced attacks, marking a sevenfold increase in assaults on places of worship, Christian-run schools, hospitals, and cemeteries.
Open Doors warns that over 365 million Christians, approximately 1 in 7, are experiencing high levels of persecution for their faith. North Korea retained its position as the most challenging country for Christians, where practicing Christianity is deemed “effectively a death sentence.”
The 2024 World Watch List is here! Download it and the WWL map: https://t.co/zjsFQLMv0P
Today, more than 365 million Christians around the world face persecution and discrimination for their faith. Pray with us and learn more about what you can do in the fight. pic.twitter.com/G6durtnQBe
— Open Doors US (@OpenDoorsUS) January 17, 2024
Ryan Brown, CEO of Open Doors U.S., suggests in an interview with the Christian Post that the surge in violence may be attributed to a sense of impunity among perpetrators. He urged governments to use existing laws to protect Christians in these regions.
“It’s ironic, but we actually see the fingerprints of Christ all over this,” Brown says. “What the enemy would intend for evil actually has the opposite effect. In many cases, it both emboldens and strengthens the church in those contexts.
“We see our brothers and sisters around the globe in the face of mounting violence, counting the cost and recognizing that the kingdom of God is there. Their pursuit and relationship with Christ is worth more than the violence that they endure, the persecution that they suffer.”
Biblical Perspective on Persecution
The report’s findings resonate with biblical teachings that warn Christians about facing hatred and abuse for their faith. Jesus repeatedly cautioned His followers about the challenges they would encounter, yet encouraged them to stand firm. The Bible echoes this sentiment: “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
This hatred is seeing thousands of Christians each year murdered in Nigeria, arrested in Canada and house churches torn down in China. And as the Bible reveals to those who read it, this hatred and persecution will only become more intense the deeper into the end times we get.
Responding to Persecution
The Bible emphasizes that Christians should respond to persecution with faith, resilience and a commitment to their relationship with Christ. Brown highlights the unwavering pursuit of Christ by persecuted believers, underscoring that their faith is worth more than the violence and suffering they endure. The apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:35-37 capture this spirit: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”
In the face of a global pandemic, rising persecution and a fractured church, Paul’s words encourage the bride of Christ to remain strong in the face of a world that seeks to drive a wedge between believers and their Savior.
Increasing Persecution in the End Times
The report highlights the escalating violence against Christians, and people are taking notice of its correlation with biblical prophecies about the end times. While the Bible predicts increasing persecution for believers, it also calls for steadfastness and reliance on God’s strength during challenging times. In Matthew 24:9-10 Jesus foretells, “Then they will hand you over to be persecuted and will kill you. And you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. Then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another.”
For those paying attention, there has become a large rift between Christians, especially in America. The election of Donald Trump in 2016 showcased this growing schism, but it is the difference in teachings and what is being accepted in the church that is the driving factor for the split.
Global Hotspots and Proposed Solutions
The report showcases hotspots such as Sub-Saharan Africa and China, where Christians face significant threats. In China, 10,000 churches were closed or attacked, with house churches returning to smaller, less visible gatherings due to increased restrictions.
Brown suggests that the U.S. government could play a role in protecting persecuted Christians by incentivizing countries to expand religious freedom protections. He emphasized the importance of prayer, urging churches worldwide to uplift their persecuted brethren.
“China has become a financial powerhouse, but religious liberties are not accompanying that,” he says. “I certainly think that policies that would couple those things together—that would allow those who desire to be trade partners and things along those lines—that they would guarantee those basic human rights.”
As the world grapples with the escalating persecution of Christians, the call to action includes not only political measures but also a united front in prayer and support for those enduring hardships for their faith.
James Lasher is staff writer for Charisma Media.
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