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Please pray for Christians facing persecution around the world. Below are some of the hotspots where Christians are facing very challenging circumstances due to their faith in Jesus Christ.
Pastor John Cao
We the People reports that Pastor John Cao, a U.S. resident from North Carolina, has been imprisoned in China for over a year.
While working to build schools for impoverished children in Myanmar, John was detained at the Chinese border on March 5, 2017. Twenty days later, he was charged with organizing illegal border crossing, despite the fact that he had used the same route between China and Myanmar for this humanitarian work for years. In three years, John helped build 16 schools that serve more than 2,000 children. He was unfairly sentenced to seven years in a Chinese prison.
Please remember Pastor Cao in prayer and if you feel led, sign the petition requesting his release. Go to click here to sign the online petition.
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani
Pray for Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was brutally beaten by Iranian authorities in plain clothes while at home before his family. It has been reported that he was sentenced to ten years at the Evin prison, referred to as a “torture factory.” Christians and those opposing the Iranian government are kept there. The pastor was sentenced to two years of “internal exile” as well for “promoting Zionist Christianity.”
Pastor Andrew Brunson
Turkey continues to hold Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest. He was brought up on false charges of “terrorism” simply because he provided some with “humanitarian aid, education, and training.” This is most likely part of the purge begun by Turkish president Erdogan. military, police, judiciary, politicians, educators, media and the like have been suspended, lost credentials to work and the like.
Asia Bibi & Pakistan’s Supreme Court
Continue praying for Asia Bibi Pakistani Christian and mother of five Asia Bibi as she remains imprisoned for her faith.
She finds herself in this state, according to Voice of the Martyrs, due to “an intense discussion among the women about their faith. The Muslim women told Asia about Islam. Asia responded by telling them about her faith in Christ. Asia told the Muslim women Christ had died on the cross for sins, then asked them what Mohammad had done for them. She told them Jesus is alive, but Mohammad is dead. “Our Christ is the true prophet of God,” she reportedly told them, ‘and yours is not true.'” She was later brought up on blasphemy charges in Pakistan.
The details below have been obtained by The Voice of the Martyrs ministry which seeks to aid and support persecuted Christians around the world. For those interested in supporting this important ministry you may go to the Donate page on the VOM web site by clicking here. If you are interested in learning more about the needs below, you may download a free copy of the VOM Prayer Map by clicking here.
Islam 99.8%, Christianity 0.1%
Afghan Christians must hide their faith and cannot worship openly. Many have left the country, becoming refugees, in order to practice their faith. Believers gather in homes or other small group venues. Proselytizing is strictly forbidden by the Quran and Sharia law. Kidnapping, torture and beatings are routinely employed to force Christians to renounce their faith.
Islam 83.8%, Christianity 8.2%
Though the constitution names Islam as the state religion, the government officially recognizes several Christian denominations. However, imprisonment awaits those who produce and distribute anything criticizing Islam. Muslims are forbidden to change their religion, and those who become Christians face imprisonment or beatings by family members.
Islam 98.7%, Christianity 0.8%
Iran remains one of the most difficult nations in the world in which to be a Christian. Since President Hassan Rouhani took office in August 2013, the number of individuals in prison because of their beliefs has increased, and Christians are especially targeted. Over the past year, Iranian authorities have raided church services, threatened church members and arrested and imprisoned worshipers and church leaders, particularly Christian converts from Islam. Currently, there are approximately 90 Christians either in prison or awaiting trial.
Islam 95.4%, Christianity 1.4%
Christians, especially those in traditional Christian communities, have been leaving Iraq since 2003, but the 2014 IS invasion of Iraq dropped the population to nearly zero. As the Sunni rebels entered the Nineveh Plains, Christians fled in droves to the semi-autonomous state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Their homes and goods were destroyed and seized by the militants. Today, after two years of displacement, the future looks bleak, and their main concern is to give their children a better future. However, during this time of suffering, many traditional Christians have discovered a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. Converts and evangelicals throughout Iraq experience persecution from family members and society.
ISRAEL (INCLUDING GAZA STRIP AND WEST BANK)
Judaism 77.0%, Islam 17.3%, Christianity 1.5%
Tension exists between differing religious and ethnic groups, though most persecution against Christians comes from radical Muslims. Societal attitudes toward missionary activity (especially aimed at Jews) is mainly negative, and Jewish activists have been known to spray anti-Christian slogans and graffiti on churches. Government policy supports the free practice of religion, but legal discrimination occurs against religious minorities. Christians in Gaza are often coerced to convert to Islam. Christian converts from Islam in the West Bank and Gaza are threatened by government authorities and extremist groups, while those in Israel often face persecution from family members.
Islam 96.5%, Christianity 2.1%
Life for Christians: Islam is the official state religion. Religious freedom is a right for all citizens, but the constitution prohibits any religious practice that conflicts with Islamic law. Christians face abuse and discrimination by the Muslim majority and can be prosecuted for proselytizing Muslims. Muslims are prohibited from converting to other faiths. Those who do can lose their civil status rights and are often severely persecuted by family members or others in the community.
Islam 86.2%, Christianity 8.1%
Though freedom of belief is a constitutional right, other laws restrict religious freedom and are enforced by Kuwait’s government. While the government financially supports Sunni Muslims who proselytize foreign residents, non-Muslims are forbidden from sharing their faith. Laws also prohibit apostasy and blasphemy. While the majority of Christians are foreigners, there are believed to be a few hundred Kuwaiti believers.
Islam 57.2%, Christianity 32.3%
Many Christian converts from elsewhere in the region seek sanctuary in Lebanon, where religious freedom is legally protected. The constitution ensures that government positions be equally divided between Maronite Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims. Christian converts from Islam are persecuted by family and community members, and Christian leaders have been targeted by Islamic extremists influenced by Hezbollah or Syrian extremist groups.
Islam 89.4%, Christianity 2.8%
Islam is the state religion. The vast majority of Christians in Oman are foreigners. Though religious tolerance is promoted, there are many restrictions on religious freedom. Christians may not meet in private homes for corporate worship or prayer, and they are allowed to worship only in government-approved locations on land provided by the sultan.
Islam 98.9%, Christianity 0.7%
Christians in Pakistan are often marginalized. They have few educational opportunities, and many live in poverty. They are beaten, raped, abducted and murdered, but the government rarely investigates or brings their attackers to justice. Suicide bombers have targeted several churches, killing and wounding hundreds. The country’s blasphemy laws are used to target Christians, and many have been killed as a result of accusations.
Islam 87.4%, Christianity 6.3%
Though conversion from Islam is a capital offense, no one has been punished for apostasy. However, Christian converts and Christian migrant workers face constant pressure. The government allowed the construction of “Church City,” where thousands of foreign Christians worship. No Christian symbols are allowed in advertising or other areas visible to the public.
Islam 92.7%, Christianity 4.3%
Churches are forbidden in the officially Islamic state, and the government prosecutes those charged with apostasy or blasphemy. According to a 2014 law, blasphemy and advocating atheism are acts of terrorism. Known believers are often killed by family members. Internet access is bringing the gospel into the kingdom.
Major Religions: Islam 90.1%, Christianity 5.9%
Syria was once religiously diverse and protective of Christians’ rights. But today both Orthodox and evangelical Christians are targets of the Islamists. Christian villages have been overrun, churches destroyed and believers abused or driven out.
Islam 96.5%, Christianity 0.3%
Turkey remains one of the least evangelized countries in the world. More than a century of missionary work has yielded little fruit. Active Christians face hardships ranging from job loss to physical violence and even death. All religious communities are subject to state controls, which limit the right to own places of worship, train clergy and offer religious instruction.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Islam 87.4%, Christianity 6.3%
Religious choice is tolerated, but conversion from Islam is discouraged. Converts are often persuaded or coerced to return to Islam, or they leave the country. Proselytizing is illegal.
Major Religions: Islam 99.6%, Christianity 0.2%
Persecution for Christian converts is intense, coming from family, community and the government. Several known converts were killed last year. It is illegal to proselytize Muslims, and non-Muslims are deeply discriminated against. There are believed to be a few thousand secret believers in the indigenous church.
Muslim 95.1%, Christian 1.5%
Algerian Christians face persecution from family, neighbors, employers, Muslim extremists and the government. The constitution names Islam as the official state religion and prohibits practices considered contrary to it. Several new mosques have been built in the past few years as fundamentalists go from village to village spreading Islam. Because of open harassment of Christians entering and leaving church buildings, many believers meet in house churches.
Islam 98.5%, Christianity 1%
Though the constitution guarantees equal rights for all citizens, certain laws and policies restrict the freedom of religions other than Islam. Christians cannot proselytize and usually suffer societal discrimination and pressure to conform to Islam. This intimidation keeps many people away from church, and the very few Christians who openly practice their faith do so in association with established groups such as the Catholic Church.
Islam 86.3%, Christianity 13%
Despite its outlawed status, the Muslim Brotherhood continues to target Christians through periodic violence and harassment, particularly in Upper Egypt. The government has failed to protect Christians, most of whom are Coptic Orthodox Christians. Repressive laws and discriminatory policies restrict Copts from freely practicing their faith.
Islam 47.4%, Christian 48.8%
The government instituted a registration requirement for religious groups, but no registrations have been granted. The government arrests those involved in unregistered groups. Those arrested are never formally charged, and they are denied legal counsel and family visits. Religious prisoners are sent to the harshest prisons and receive the cruelest treatment. Christians are pressured to recant.
Christianity 76.7%, Islam 12.1%
The coast and northwestern part of the country have traditionally been Muslim, and Muslims are attempting to establish Shariah law. Christian converts from Islam are subject to harassment, violent attacks and other forms of persecution. Somali Islamic militants are committing acts of violence within Kenya’s borders at an increasing rate. Terrorists have attacked several churches and killed pastors and other Christians, including children.
Ethnic Religions 45.3%, Christianity 36.8%, Islam 16.7%
Life for Christians: The church in Liberia is often characterized as being scripturally ignorant and materialistic. Islam is spreading, not only through the Mandingo tribe but also more broadly. Ethnoreligious violence occasionally flares up between Muslim Mandingos and other groups. VOM contacts report that Christian converts are mistreated by Liberians from the Mandingo, Fula, Soso, Gbandi and Vai tribes, all of whom are fundamentalist Muslims.
Islam 96.1%, Christianity 3.2%
An interim constitution protects religious freedom, but the government continues to prohibit proselytizing Muslims. Attacks on Christians and their property are not investigated. There are no churches in Libya, but believers are allowed to worship in their homes. Extremist groups have carried out numerous attacks against Christian minorities.
Islam 87.6%, Christianity 2.7%
The country has a strong tradition of tolerance and openness toward all religions. Members of different religious groups often attend each other’s weddings, baptisms and funerals. However, in strict Muslim communities, conversion to Christianity is unacceptable, and several new believers have had to flee for their lives.
Islam 99.5%, Christianity 0.3%
Islam is the official religion, and those who leave Islam can lose their citizenship and face criminal charges for apostasy. There are churches, and Christians may possess Bibles. Printing or distributing Bibles or other Christian literature is prohibited. Christian converts from Islam are expelled from their families, lose their jobs and frequently are beaten.
Islam 99.6%, Christianity 0.2%
Though all citizens are considered Muslim, Christian leaders estimate that there are 4,000 citizens, perhaps more, who regularly attend secret house churches. Conversion is not illegal, but converts can be prosecuted for “shaking the beliefs” of a Muslim and sentenced to prison for up to three years. Those found guilty of proselytism or converting others also face criminal punishment or expulsion from the country.
Christianity 50.4%, Islam 43.3%
Religious and ethnic tensions in Nigeria have led to the country’s division into a predominantly Christian south and Muslim north. Islamic extremist groups have targeted Christians in both the Middle Belt and states in the north. Boko Haram members are particularly violent. They are believed to have abducted hundreds of young women, seriously wounded numerous men and women, and killed at least 15,000 people since 2009.
Islam 99.6%, Christianity 0.3%
A small, low-profile Christian community of less than 200 exists, but non-Muslims who openly practice their faith suffer harassment. There are no public places of worship for non-Muslims, and believers meet in homes. Conversion from Islam is socially unacceptable. Al-Shabab executes known converts or those found with Christian literature.
Islam 90.1%, Christianity 5.0%
Conversion from Islam is punishable by death. The government prosecutes those accused of apostasy, applies a strict interpretation of Islamic law and harasses the country’s Christian community. Recently, the government has confiscated church property and supported attacks on churches. In the Nuba Mountains, the government carries out an ongoing bombing campaign against the Christian population.
Christianity 45.6%, Islam 37.3%, Ethnic Religions 15.4%
Religious tensions between Christians and Muslims have been growing, as Islamicextremism moves in from northern Africa. In Muslim-majority Zanzibar, Christians have long faced harassment and societal pressure, and converts face death threats. Similar problems have recently arisen on the mainland as well, leading to riots and church burnings.
Islam 99.2%, Christianity 0.3%
It is not illegal to convert from Islam to another religion, but converts to Christianity face pressure from their family and community. Some Tunisian Christians have received violent threats from family members. Islamic religious education is mandatory in public schools, and the government continues to imprison people for speech deemed blasphemous or offensive.
Islam 66.1%, Christianity 11.8%
Shariah law dominates the legal system, and Christians are not allowed to share their faith. Islam is the only religion allowed to be taught to children of Muslims. Muslim parents are prohibited from letting non-Muslims care for their children. Muslims who convert to Christianity can lose custody of their children. The Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches are the only churches legally registered in Brunei.
Non-religious 44.8%, Christianity 7.8%
Only the five officially recognized religions are guaranteed religious freedom by the constitution. Christians in both registered and unregistered churches face harassment, arbitrary arrests, fines, denials of justice, lengthy prison sentences, and the closing or destruction of their churches. Many pastors are arrested in the name of “social order” and accused of being cult leaders. Printers in China risk imprisonment to meet the huge demand for Bibles.
Muslim 80%, Christian 12.9%
Though it has a reputation for tolerance, discrimination against religious minorities has increased. Local authorities close churches based on the retroactive enforcement of a law that requires the approval of 60 nearby residents before a church can be established. Though the rule is supposed to apply to new construction, it has been used repeatedly against long-established churches. Religious freedom is legally protected, but Christians often face discrimination from the Muslim majority. New converts face community harassment and family pressure.
Buddhism 57.2%, Christian 3.2%
Although the constitution protects religious freedom, a decree requires Christians to register all activities. The government often prevents the construction of new churches as well as Christian funerals and holiday celebrations. Believers are frequently harassed, evicted from their homes, forcibly relocated, denied education, arrested and charged with false or trumped up accusations.
Islam 55.8%, Ethnic Religious 16.4% Christian 8.4%
Islam is the official religion, and all ethnic Malays are considered Muslim. It is illegal for ethnic Malays to convert to Christianity, and those found guilty of apostasy can face the death penalty in some states. The government restricts Christian literature in the Malay language. Other ethnicities have religious freedom, but proselytization of Muslims and speech that insults Islam are considered crimes.
MYANMAR / BURMA
Buddhism 75.2%, Christianity 8.8%
A series of race and religion bills has been presented to the parliament with the intent of making Myanmar a Buddhist-only nation. Churches and seminaries must be registered with the government, and independent house churches are illegal. The import of Bibles in indigenous languages is prohibited, and religious publications are censored.
Juche 99.5%, Christian 1.5%
The state religion of Juche requires absolute obedience to the Kim family. Those who engage in Christian activities are subject to arrest, torture, imprisonment and sometimes execution. Those sent to labor camps are forced to work long hours with little food, water or rest. Though the country boasts of its churches, they are used mainly for propaganda purposes.
Christianity 91%, Islam 4.8%
Though a predominantly Catholic country, Christians living in Mindanao are often isolated, live in impoverished conditions and face continual risk of persecution by Muslim rebel groups. Pastors and Christian leaders are targeted for their evangelistic activities. Muslim insurgent groups also steal land and crops, hijack motorbikes, and raid villages, and sometimes abduct villagers to use as human shields while fleeing from the military.
Buddhism 55.9%, Christian 9.5%
The government controls all religious activities. Religious organizations are required to register, and Christians and churches face land confiscations. In particular, minority groups face government harassment. Pastors and churches are subject to arrest, interrogation and beatings. Local authorities in rural areas target new believers for especially harsh treatment, including village expulsion.
Christianity 94%, Non-religious 2.7%
Paramilitary groups and guerrilla rebels view Christians as a threat to their movement. In FARC-controlled areas (red zones), guerrillas have killed Christians and made it difficult for them to evangelize or meet for worship. Pastors and other Christian leaders are targets of harassment, assault and murder. Fear of retribution has caused many Christian leaders to refrain from seeking government protection.
Christianity 56.2%, Non-religious 23.1%
Churches and other religious communities are required to undergo an invasive registration process with the Ministry of Justice. Restrictive laws as well as government-authorized surveillance and harassment allow the government to limit and monitor religious practice. Individual churches are prevented from maintaining their own finances, and any community deemed too independent of government control is targeted for harassment, such as fines, mob attacks, destruction of property and and short-term arrests of leaders.
Catholic 70.2%, Evangelical 14.5%
Rural Catholics in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero (among others) see evangelicals as a threat to their way of life. Local leaders also view them as a threat because they don’t participate in town rituals involving heavy drinking and worship of saints and other deities. Some villages post signs reading, “No Other Religions Allowed.” Evangelicals are often expelled from their communities, losing land, homes and crops. Pastors and Christian workers have been threatened with death.