In recent months, stories of Christian persecution have seemed more like pages ripped from the Book of Exodus than modern-day news reports.
A Christian couple beaten to death and then burned in a kiln…more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria … a mother forced to give birth in chains in Sudan … the mass exodus of families forced from their homes in Syria and Iraq, driven out by the brutality of ISIS … The violence and cruelty seem to know no bounds.
These don’t even take into account the untold stories of persecution happening in closed countries like North Korea. Kenneth Bae’s capture, imprisonment and then fortunate release only highlights the instability of the country and suppression of religion there. There is no question that millions of Christians around the world live in constant danger simply because of their choice of religion.
I urge you to not forget about those living without the rights you enjoy. Do not forget about those who fear for their lives simply because they own and read a Bible.
Recently, the world marked the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted. During Open Doors’ webcast to mark the occasion, my colleague Mike Gore from Open Doors Australia remarked that Christian persecution has reached “biblical proportions.” It was a frighteningly apt description.
Only 300,000 Christians or less remain in Iraq (in 2003 there were over one million Christians), with more fleeing monthly, and it is legitimately feared that none will be there by 2016. Syria has seen its own exodus, with so many Syrians fleeing their own country that one in every four persons in Lebanon is a now refugee, both Christian and non-Christian.
Christians in North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fear for their lives simply because they are Christians. These countries topped the 2014 World Watch List of the most dangerous places for Christians to live.
As the January 7 release of the 2015 list nears, there is a tragic amount of competition for the ignominious top spot. We hope to see conditions improve in some of these countries, but we are not optimistic that anything has changed for the better in the last year. More likely, things have gotten worse.
So, what can we do? When we talk with persecuted, displaced and despondent Christians, their primary request is not for food, water or shelter, but for our prayer. Knowing that Christians in America have not forgotten them brings persecuted Christians desperately needed hope.
I recently returned from Egypt, where I met with Egyptian Christians to see how they were faring since the change in government. Many came up and welcomed me to their country — a very different reception from the one I received last January, when I witnessed gangs of Muslim Brotherhood supporters shooting and fighting in Tahrir Square.
Now Egyptians are walking and taking lunch there, a sign that the troubled nation is relaxing. But many churches still lie behind Jersey barriers and wire for protection. Since the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood, hope is on the rise in this country, though there is still a long way to go.
I urge you to not forget about those living without the rights you enjoy. Do not forget about those who fear for their lives simply because they own and read a Bible. Do not forget about those who have watched their children die simply because of their faith. Remember and pray for them.
The rise of Islamist extremism and the ongoing suppression of faith by communist regimes continue to drive persecution of Christians and other religious groups.
For far too long, much of the free world has done little to oppose the persecution of Christians. It is time for those of us who are living with the blessing of freedom of religion to advocate for those who are not.
David Curry is the President of Open Doors USA. For nearly 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world’s most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. Each year, Open Doors releases itsWorld Watch List, a ranking of the 50 countries where Christian persecution is worst.