By / Jan 26

KARNATAKA, India (BP) – A mob of 300 people beat and threatened to kill a Christian couple at a police station in Karnataka State, India, after the wife was falsely accused of forced conversion, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said Jan. 23.

Beaten were Uppaladinni village residents Vijayalakshmi Chavhan and her husband Ashok. Police feigned an inability to stop the attack, sources told CSW.

“This is part of a growing trend of social hostility towards religious minorities across India which the authorities must address as a matter of utmost urgency,” CSW founding president Mervyn Thomas said. “CSW is concerned for the Christians in Uppaladinni who have been singled out, harassed and attacked on account of their beliefs.”

Religious conversions are criminalized in Karnataka and 11 other states in the majority Hindu country, punishable by yearslong prison sentences and monetary fines.

Spiking persecution of Christians in India has led the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and other groups to urge the U.S. State Department to designate India a County of Particular Concern (CPC) for systematic, ongoing and egregious religious liberty violations.

The ERLC is deeply grieved to hear about the systematic mistreatment of our brothers and sisters in Christ in India. We continue to urge the Biden Administration to speak out against religious persecution in India and ask that India be named a Country of Particular Concern, along with Nigeria.

Palmer Williams, ERLC general counsel and senior policy advisor

Read the full Baptist Press article here.

By / Jan 19

Following Jesus has always been a call to risk everything. All throughout the Gospels, Jesus pulls no punches about what it looks like to be his disciple: “Take up your cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24); “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 10:39); “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). While these reminders from Jesus are always true, in some parts of the world they are experienced more imminently than others.

Every January, Open Doors releases its annual World Watch List—a project that ranks the top 50 countries worldwide where it’s most dangerous to identify as a follower of Jesus. In recent days, the organization published the 2024 World Watch List, revealing updated information and trends from the last 12 months. You can find and read the full report here.

Trends and statistics

According to the report’s findings, on average “thirteen Christians a day were killed for their faith in 2023.” This number was part of a larger trend that saw:

  • nearly 5,000 Christians murdered last year, 
  • more than 4,000 detained, 
  • almost 300,000 displaced, 
  • and an estimated 365 million persecuted for their Christian faith. 

That means one in seven Christians around the world currently experience high, and sometimes dangerously violent levels of persecution on a daily basis.

Moreover, according to the report, “The number of attacks on churches and Christian-run schools, hospitals, and cemeteries exploded in 2023.” Almost 15,000 churches and Christian properties were attacked in 2023, which is a “seven-fold [increase] compared to the previous year.” In China alone, some 10,000 churches were shuttered, while in Algeria the number of Protestant churches went from 47 to four. Countries like India, Nigeria, Nicaragua, and Ethiopia closed and/or attacked churches at an alarming rate as well.

Overall, more Christians faced violent attacks in 2023 than ever recorded. The number of displaced Christians around the world more than doubled. One in five Christians in Africa were persecuted for their faith, while that number was two in five for Christians in Asia. Worldwide, Christians faced more hostility in 2023 than they have in recent years. 

Country rankings for Christian persecution

Sitting atop this year’s World Watch List are the same 10 countries as the 2023 list, though the order has shuffled slightly. The countries in order are:

  1. North Korea
  2. Somalia
  3. Libya
  4. Eritrea
  5. Yemen
  6. Nigeria
  7. Pakistan
  8. Sudan
  9. Iran
  10. Afghanistan 

Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa are the regions with the greatest concentration of persecution around the globe. 

Asia: In North Korea, “being discovered to be a Christian … is effectively a death sentence.” Being found out means you’re either deported and sentenced to a life of hard labor or killed along with your family. Religious freedom and the freedom to worship are nonexistent, so meeting for worship or even possessing a Bible or other Christian literature is done at great risk and in utmost secrecy. North Korea is just one example among many Asian countries where persecution is rampant including India (11), China (19), Myanmar (17), Vietnam (35), Malaysia (49), and Indonesia (42). 

Middle East: The Middle East has always been a hotly contested piece of real estate, which remains true today. Saudi Arabia (13), Syria (12), Yemen (5), Iraq (16), and Iran (9), among others, are countries where following Jesus is an extreme risk. In Yemen, for example, a majority-Muslim country where denouncing Islam can mean death or banishment, there are very few Christians. But for those who are Christians, they must keep their faith secret or face “divorce, loss of custody of children, arrest, interrogation, or death.” 

North Africa: On the African continent, Morocco (24), Algeria (15), Tunisia (33), Libya (3), Egypt (38), Sudan (8), and others all made the list. In Nigeria (6)—a country of almost 103 million Christians—it is shockingly dangerous to be a Christian. In fact, “More people are killed for their faith in Nigeria each year, than everywhere else in the world combined.” Nine out of ten religiously-motivated murders worldwide occur in Nigeria. Nineteen of the 50 countries included on the 2024 World Watch List are located in Africa.

While the 10 most dangerous countries have largely stayed the same, it is worth noting that other countries’ rankings have risen significantly in the last year or more (meaning they are becoming more dangerous). For instance, as recently as 2022, Nicaragua was not included on the World Watch List. However, Nicaragua was on last year’s list at number 50 and this year’s at number 30 due to its rapidly deteriorating political situation. Likewise, over the last few years Cuba has risen from being unlisted in 2021 to number 37 in 2022 to 27 in 2023 to number 22 on this year’s list. Like Nicaragua, Cuba’s persecution is mostly delivered by the Cuban government. 

Positive trends

Thankfully, there’s some good news to share as well. First, fewer Christians were killed for their faith in 2023 (4,998) than in 2022 (5,621), which was also lower than the previous year (5,898). Five thousand people is far, far too many, but the downward trend is welcome news in a report filled with dire findings.

As the report points out, political developments in countries like Mali (14) and India (11) show signs of progress and hope. In 2023, Mali adopted a new constitution which recognizes non-Muslim minorities and “paved the way for elections in a nation currently ruled by a military government.” Similarly, India rolled back anti-conversion laws that have long been a tool of persecution, giving hope to Christians who have experienced harassment and intimidation due to the now defunct laws. 

In Laos, a country that has exploded in religious persecution and jumped 10 spots on the World Watch List, the Church there is flourishing and growing. According to one country expert, “I have never seen a clearer connection between growing opposition and a growing church.” 

How can we stand with our brothers and sisters around the world facing Christian persecution?

After reading a report like this, we may experience a number of emotions: helplessness, fear, compassion, horror, and others. And since we’re mostly far removed from the people represented on this list, it’s easy to put the report down and simply move on. As Christians, though, regardless of how many miles lie between us, these are our brothers and sisters. So what should we do?

At the very least, we should labor in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the faith. After all, we believe that God works powerfully and providentially through our prayers. Many of us can give financially to people and organizations that serve the persecuted church in difficult locations. Some of us may even be compelled to go to these places ourselves. But all of us can pray—and there’s no better and more powerful way to strengthen these Christians and help them persevere than to approach God on their behalf in prayer. 

So, use this year’s World Watch List as a prayer prompt. Let it motivate you to pray and inform the way you pray for those around the world who “suffer from high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith”—the same faith we get to exercise without threat or fear. As we pray, the ERLC will continue to advocate for the recognition of religious liberty in all countries around the world 

By / Sep 29

In a world where religious persecution is an unfortunate reality, legal frameworks that offer refuge to those facing these particular hardships—such as the Lautenberg Amendment—are invaluable. 

The Lautenberg Amendment, also known as the Lautenberg Program, is a U.S. immigration policy that provides a pathway for certain persecuted religious minorities to seek refuge in the U.S. This amendment has been instrumental in assisting various groups including evangelicals, Jews, and other religious minorities in escaping persecution and finding safety in the U.S. 

As the crisis in Ukraine continues to escalate, this amendment is more relevant than ever, especially for the Christian community, including Baptists, who are seeking refuge from the conflict and persecution. Unfortunately, for the first time in many years, this long-standing policy has been excluded from the House of Representatives’ proposed Foreign Operations appropriations bill.  

History and purpose of the Lautenberg Amendment

The Lautenberg Amendment, named after its sponsor, Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, was initially enacted in 1989 as part of the U.S. Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. 

It has been reauthorized annually, often as a “rider” attached to larger spending bills, thereby ensuring its continued existence. The amendment was initially introduced to address the needs of Soviet Jews who were facing persecution and discrimination in the Soviet Union. The amendment grants presumptive refugee status to Jews and members of certain other religious minorities, making it easier for them to find refuge in the United States.

The amendment was later expanded to include other religious groups such as evangelicals and Ukrainian Catholics who were also experiencing persecution in the former Soviet Union. The primary purpose of the Lautenberg Amendment is to provide a safe haven for these vulnerable populations and ensure that they are not returned to their countries of origin, where they may face further persecution.

How the Lautenberg Amendment has been used to help persecuted religious minorities

The Lautenberg Amendment has been a lifeline for thousands of religious minorities, allowing them to escape persecution and start anew in the U.S. Under this program, individuals who are eligible for refugee status are not required to establish a well-founded fear of persecution on an individual basis, as is the case with the regular refugee admissions process. Instead, they are granted presumptive refugee status based on their membership in a designated religious minority group.

By lowering the burden of proof, the amendment acknowledges the unique challenges that religious minorities face in proving their persecution, especially in countries where such discrimination is institutionalized. The amendment has been particularly effective in expediting the resettlement process, offering a quicker route to safety for those in dire circumstances such as Jews and other religious minorities from the former Soviet Union. For example, between 1989 and 1990, over 200,000 Soviet Jews were admitted to the U.S. as refugees under the provision. In recent years, the amendment has also been used to help persecuted Christians in countries such as Iran and Iraq.

The importance of the Lautenberg Amendment for Christians in Ukraine

The Lautenberg Amendment continues to be a necessary avenue for Christians in Ukraine to flee the country and seek refuge in the U.S. Ukraine has been experiencing ongoing conflict and political instability which has led to increased persecution of religious minorities, including minority Christian groups. The situation has been exacerbated by the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has led to a surge in internally displaced persons and refugees, among whom are Christians facing persecution. 

The U.S. has a moral obligation to protect and support these vulnerable populations. The Lautenberg Amendment has played a vital role in assisting persecuted religious minorities in finding safety and refuge. By expediting the processing of refugee applications for Christians in Ukraine, the U.S. can help ensure their safety and provide them with the opportunity to rebuild their lives in a more secure environment. 

The continued protection of the Lautenberg Amendment is not just a matter of policy but a moral imperative. Its continuation is particularly essential for Christians in Ukraine who are facing persecution and seeking to flee the country. Prioritizing the Lautenberg Amendment helps to ensure the U.S. will remain a sanctuary for those fleeing religious persecution. The ERLC has communicated these concerns to lawmakers in Congress and is advocating for the continued inclusion of the Lautenberg Amendment in fiscal year 2024 appropriations.

By / Jan 27

In this episode, Lindsay and Brent discuss this year’s March for Life, George Santos’ deception, and the classified documents debacle. 

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By / Jan 24

Every year for the last three decades, Open Doors has released the annual World Watch List, a report ranking the top “50 countries where Christians suffer very high or extreme levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith.” In a country like the United States where the free exercise of religion is enshrined in its Constitution, the World Watch List (WWL) is a sobering reminder that our brothers and sisters around the world face real and present danger for their faith in Christ

What does the 2023 World Watch List reveal?

During its 30 year history, the WWL has revealed an alarming and consistent trend: the persecution of Christians across the globe has grown exponentially, which proved true again this year. Today, more than 360 million Christians suffer at least ‘high’ levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith. Here are some of this year’s takeaways:

  1. North Korea tops the list: With 2022 as the lone exception, North Korea has topped the World Watch List every year since 2002. And this year, with the introduction of a new “anti-reactionary thought law,” there was an increase in the number of Christians arrested and the number of house churches discovered and closed, earning North Korea its highest-ever persecution score. Tragically, those who are discovered and arrested “are either sent to labour camps as political prisoners where the conditions are atrocious“—they face starvation, torture, and sexual violence, for instance—”or killed on the spot.” Often, their families will share their fate.
  1. Sub-Saharan Africa in catastrophe: Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa face the threat of violence every day. The epicenter of the violence is Nigeria, where militants from the Fulani, Boko Haram, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), and others “inflict murder, physical injury, abduction and sexual violence on their victims,” scores of whom are Christians. In the last year, there have been more than five thousand religiously motivated killings in Nigeria, which accounts for 89% of the international total. Conditions in the region have also led to a refugee crisis, as many Christians have been displaced while fleeing persecution.
  1. China’s campaign to redefine human rights: Another development has been the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) campaign to redefine international human rights away from universal standards, leading countries like Russia, India, and others to follow suit. Christians in these countries who are seen to oppose these new rights “by refusing to support the ruling part[ies]” are often labeled “disturbers of the peace” and even “terrorists,” and face arrest and the demolition of church buildings.
  1. Afghanistan’s descent: Afghanistan, who topped the 2022 WWL, fell eight spots to land at number nine this year. While that’s a significant drop, the situation for Christians there remains dire. After the Taliban assumed power in 2021, they went door-to-door rooting out and executing many Christians. Of those who survived, many went deep into hiding or fled the country. The Taliban remains committed to eliminating not only Christians but those with ties to the old regime. 
  1. Top 10 (last year’s rankings in parenthesis): North Korea (2), Somalia (3), Yemen (5), Eritrea (6), Libya (4), Nigeria (7), Pakistan (8), Iran (9), Afghanistan (1), Sudan (13).

While there have been some positive developments, like a decrease in the total number of Christians killed for their faith (from 5,898 to 5,621) and a growing tolerance in several Middle Eastern countries such as Bahrain and the UAE, discrimination and persecution against Christians on the basis of their faith continues to grow around the world. 

What can we do?

As Christians, no matter how many miles separate us from the people represented in the World Watch List, they are our brothers and sisters. While we may feel helpless, we do have the opportunity to “stand with them in solidarity, and remind them they are not alone.” 

Here are several ways we can support and stand with our brothers and sisters who face these significant threats everyday:

  • Pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Use the World Watch List tool as a prayer prompt that both alerts you to the need for prayer and informs you of specific ways that you can pray. 
  • Partner financially with organizations like Open Doors who serve the persecuted church in difficult regions around the world.
  • Sign up to receive email alerts from Open Doors and keep abreast of how you can pray and partner with them in their work. 

Because Christians believe that God works providentially through our prayers, we can all commit to using the World Watch List to remind and motivate us to pray for believers around the world who endure such unimaginable terror. By doing so, we can be certain that God will use our prayers to encourage and minister to Christians in these countries.

What is Open Doors?

Open Doors began in the mid-1950’s when a man known as Brother Andrew “started smuggling Bibles to the persecuted Christians in Communist Europe.” After a visit to Warsaw, Poland, Brother Andrew’s encounter with an “oppressed, isolated, and apparently forgotten church” compelled him to travel throughout Eastern Europe for the next twelve years, “delivering Bibles, encouraging those he met, and recruiting others to help him.” After the publication of God’s Smuggler in 1967 — an account of Brother Andrew’s work in Eastern Europe — his ministry became known worldwide, and “an entire generation caught the vision of supporting Christians who faced persecution and discrimination for their faith.”

Nearly 70 years later, Open Doors has steadily expanded its reach, “serving persecuted Christians in more than 70 countries, working with churches and local partners to provide Bibles, Christian materials, training, livelihood skills and advocacy.” The aim of Open Doors “is to encourage and raise up people in every nation to pray, support and speak up for Christians around the world who suffer for their faith.”

What is the World Watch List?

Beyond its ranking system, the World Watch List is an interactive tool that enables users to “explore the country profiles to find information, stories and prayers for each of the countries, along with ways that [Christians] can stand with [their] persecuted church family in prayer and action.” The list apprises readers of information such as the percentage of Christians persecuted worldwide (along with each specific region), the number of churches attacked and Christians detained or murdered annually, and country-specific information like its dominant religion and system of government. 

Truly, the World Watch List is a tool of immense value, informing Christians like us of how we can pray for and serve those who find themselves in locations hostile to Christianity. For information on the WWL methodology, visit this site.

By / Jun 12

Jeff, Steven, and Travis welcome national security expert and Asia analyst Olivia Enos from the Heritage Foundation to the Leland House to discuss the latest news from North Korea, especially the plight of the persecuted church. Olivia traveled to Singapore and Hanoi for the nuclear summits between President Trump and Chairman Kim-Jong un. And Steven recently traveled to South Korea as part of ERLC’s religious liberty efforts on the Korean peninsula and visited the DMZ to hear from Christian North Korean defectors.

Guest Biography

Olivia Enos serves as a policy analyst in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation specializing in human rights and transnational criminal issues. Enos has published numerous papers on human trafficking in Asia, human rights in North Korea, and reforming the U.S. refugee program and writes a bi-monthly column in Forbes. Her commentary has appeared in The Washington Post, The National Interest, The Diplomat, and Real Clear World, as well as numerous scholarly publications. She has also appeared on Fox News, CNN, and the BBC. She earned a bachelor’s degree in government from Patrick Henry College in Virginia, and a master of arts in Asian studies at Georgetown University. She and her husband Zach currently reside on Capitol Hill.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Dec 28

On November 1, 2018, the ERLC rejoiced at the news of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy charge and death penalty being overturned by the Pakistani Supreme Court. However, since the acquittal, Bibi’s family has reportedly been hunted by Islamic extremist while Asia is being held in protective custody. Currently, Bibi’s request for asylum has been complicated by the protestors who are causing unrest in Pakistan. Demonstrators in Pakistan continue to push for her execution. According to the leader of Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, “there will be war if they send Asia out of the country.”

As Christians, we must not forget our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution for their faith in other countries. We must resolve to pray for them and call upon our leaders to use all appropriate and available means to secure their release and asylum in another country that they might be able to live in peace (1 Tim. 2:1-2).

Furthermore, we must remember that the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and similar countries attempt to undermine God as the Lord of the conscience. No nation or government should have the authority to dictate what its citizens believe about the most important realities in the world. Though the Pakistani government sought to control the consciences of its people, Asia Bibi was not obligated to submit to their illegitimate authority in the matter. God, not government, is the only one who possesses the legitimate authority to judge the consciences of humanity.

Remembering Asia Bibi and her family

We must not let Bibi’s plight be forgotten. In today’s fast-paced media cycle, we must resolve not to move on. Asia needs God to intervene in her dire situation. Moreover, Christians, as fellow members of the body of Christ, need to be concerned with the wellbeing of our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, here are three ways to remember Asia Bibi in prayer:

  1. Asylum: Remember to pray for Asia Bibi and her family to be granted asylum in a country that can adequately care for and protect them from other Islamic extremists who would seek to do them harm.
  2. Safety: Remember to pray for Asia Bibi and her family to be safely removed from Pakistan once they are granted asylum in another country. Part of the difficulty with their situation is the internal corruption of the Pakistani government, the influence of the Islamic protestors, and the lack of safety that is being afforded to the family during the process. While Asia is in protective custody, her family is always on the move, evading those who are trying to find them and kill them through mob violence.
  3. Assimilation: Finally, remember to pray for Asia Bibi and her family as they seek to not only leave Pakistan but assimilate into a new culture and community. Many of us cannot imagine what it would be like to be forever removed from the culture and community of your upbringing. While the Pakistani government’s blasphemy laws have inflicted much harm on Bibi and her family, Pakistan as a country is still her home. She will be forced to leave all she has ever known because of her refusal to abandon her faith in Christ. May the Lord bless Asia and her family as those who “have left houses and brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers and fields for Christ’s sake” and “receive a hundred times as much and inherit eternal life” (Matt. 19:29).
By / Sep 14

What’s going on in China?

Over the past few weeks, the Chinese government has escalated its persecution of Christians by destroying crosses, burning Bibles, confiscating religion materials, and closing churches.

This week the Beijing city authorities banned Zion Church, one of the largest unofficial Protestant “house” churches in the city and confiscated “illegal promotional materials.” The crackdown started in April, after the church rejected requests from authorities to install 24 closed-circuit television cameras in their building.

Bob Fu, president of China Aid and the recipient of ERLC’s Religious Liberty Award in 2007, told the Associated Press that the closure of churches in central Henan province and a prominent house church in Beijing in recent weeks represents a “significant escalation” of the crackdown.

“The international community should be alarmed and outraged for this blatant violation of freedom of religion and belief,” said Fu.

Fu also provided the AP with video footage of what appeared to be piles of burning Bibles and forms stating that the signatories had renounced their Christian faith. Fu said that marked the first time since Mao’s 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution that Christians had been compelled to make such declarations, under pain of expulsion from school and the loss of welfare benefits.

 Chinese law requires Christians to worship only in congregations registered with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, but many millions belong to so-called underground or house churches that defy government restrictions.

 What is the Three-Self Patriotic Movement?

 The Chinese Christian Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) is a state-sanctioned Protestant body for the organization of all Protestant churches in China. The organization was created in 1951 to promote a strategy of “self-governance, self-support, and self-propagation” to remove foreign influences from Chinese churches, and to profess the member church’s loyalty to the communist government. For churches registered with TSPM, the government pays for many of their buildings and funds the education of its pastors.

 Many Chinese congregations refuse to join the TSPM for various reasons, including that TSPM promotes liberal theology while the faith of the house churches is generally evangelical theology.

 What are “house churches”?

 Churches in China that are not part of either the state-sanctioned China Christian Council or the Three-Self Patriotic Movement are considered “house churches.” The term can be misleading, though, since it can refer to any unauthorized church, regardless of size or meeting location. Some “house churches” in China are mega-congregations. The Zion Church in Bejing had 1,500 members.

 Since many house churches are allowed to exist, does China have freedom of religion?

 Freedom of religion is technically guaranteed in the Chinese constitution. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China of 1982 specifies that:

Citizens of the People's Republic of China enjoy freedom of religious belief. No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion. The state protects normal religious activities. No one may make use of religion to engage in activities that disrupt public order, impair the health of citizens or interfere with the educational system of the state. Religious bodies and religious affairs are not subject to any foreign domination.

 The constitution protects the right to hold or not hold a religious belief, and protects "normal religious activities," that is, religion groups that submit to state control through the State Administration for Religious Affairs. China has five officially sanctioned religious organizations: the Buddhist Association of China, the Chinese Taoist Association, the Islamic Association of China, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and the Three-Self Patriotic Movement.

As Brian C. Stiller, the Global Ambassador of the World Evangelical Alliance, says, “The issue isn’t so much freedom of religion as it is freedom of assembly. The government seems not as concerned about what people believe, as they are over people gathering in large groups or by becoming too public.” [Emphasis in original]

 How has the U.S. government responded to the crackdown?

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad, issued a statement earlier this week saying:

USCIRF is highly concerned by reports of Chinese authorities’ escalating religious freedom violations. On the same weekend as national media in the United States revealed the horrific detention of countless Uighur Muslims in extra-judicial “re-education camps,” the Chinese government also reportedly raided and shut down Zion Church in Beijing. These collective actions, coupled with abuses against other religious communities, such as Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners, signal an alarming escalation in persecution of citizens in China under Xi Jinping. USCIRF condemns the Chinese government’s ongoing brutal and systematic targeting of religious communities for their beliefs.

By / Jan 29

“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many” (2 Cor. 1:10-11).

During the times of Paul’s persecution, he trusted in the prayers of Christians he knew, and did not know. It was this prayer that gave him hope to continue preaching the gospel in difficult places. Likewise, may we not forget to lift up our persecuted brothers and sisters, that they might continue to find hope in God.

The persecuted church in Eritrea

After gaining independence from Ethiopia in 1993, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, a communist party, took power and began ruling the Eritrean people with an iron first. A constitution was ratified in 1997 that is supposed to give individuals the right to believe and practice any religion of their choosing. However, the Constitution has never been viewed as a binding document, and thus has been consistently ignored by the Isais Afwerki regime.

A state-controlled church

In 2002, Eritrea declared that it would recognize only four religious organizations: The Evangelical Church of Eritrea, the Roman Catholic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and Sunni Islam. Each of the four churches have faced strict oversight by the Eritrean government. Each church has government-appointed leaders, must submit activity reports twice a year, and cannot accept funds from foreign religious groups. Churches must receive authorization from the Office of Religious Affairs before they can print and distribute papers. Those who do not comply face jail time.

Abune Antonios, the Eritrean Orthodox Patriarch, was appointed by the government to his position, but began speaking out against their authoritarian practices. As a result, he has been under house arrest since 2006. On July 16th 2017, he was allowed to attend his first church service in over a decade. The next day, he was re-detained.

Those who have different religious backgrounds from the four recognized groups have no legal basis to practice their faith. They are not able to build churches; they cannot gather for Bible study; and their pastors face threats of fines and imprisonment. Reliable news reports of the internal affairs of Eritrea are sparse, because there are no private newspapers, opposing political parties, or internal non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, some smaller Christian new outlets are reporting that Eritrean forces are going door-to-door and asking citizens which religion they are, and arresting those who name something other than the four permitted religions. More than 200 people have been arrested in the past several months.

Human rights abuses

The United Nations reports that since its inception, the Eritrean government has committed crimes of enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution, rape, and murder against its citizenry in order to instill fear and establish a sense of impenetrable authority.

In the military, religious practice is prohibited. Soldiers who are found with religious materials, or are discovered to be attending religious gatherings, are severely punished. This issue is worsened by the government's mandate on every citizen, between the ages of 18 and 70, to work a full-time and indefinite national service position, either in the military, development, or civil service. Those who do not participate in the civil service are imprisoned.

It is estimated that 1,200-3,000 individuals are suffering in Eritrean prisons for religious reasons. Once detained, Christians are not allowed to pray, sing, preach, or read the Bible. Often, religious prisoners are kept in solitary confinement for indefinite time periods, and undergo extreme temperature changes. If they ever are released from prison, Christians are coerced into recanting their belief in Jesus Christ and are warned to not engage in religious services.

The only option for Christians who wish to worship freely is to flee to neighboring states, or to seek refuge in Western Europe or the United States. Since 2014, 6 percent of the population has fled the country. The dire situation is contributing to the global refugee crisis and is threatening to destabilize the entire region of the Horn of Africa.

Prayer points

  • Pray that prison guards come to faith in Christ through imprisoned Christians’ testimonies
  • Pray that government officials will recognize that by imprisoning and killing Christians, they are persecuting Jesus Christ
  • Pray that President Afwerki will allow for open diplomacy and will engage with the international community in discussion about human rights abuses

Further resources

By / Aug 2

May we pray that the people of Sudan have the peace & joy that only comes from Christ, no matter the circumstance.“Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” Ephesians 6:19-20

Praying for the persecuted church in Sudan is a chance to pray for boldness and faithfulness for a fiercely persecuted people. May we pray that the people of Sudan have the peace and joy that only comes from Christ, no matter the circumstance.  

A war-torn government committed to persecution

Islam is the prominent religion in Sudan. Of the 42,166,000 people who live in the African country, 90.1 percent identify with the religion of Islam. The remaining 10 percent is split between other religions, with five percent of the population identifying as Christian.

The country is being torn apart by constant tribal war. Sudan is currently run by President Omar al-Bashir who came to power during 1989 when, as a Brigadier in the Sudanese Army, he led a group of military officers in a military coup that overthrew then democratically elected Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Sudan has had long-running internal conflicts stretching back to the 1960s. The conflicts have mostly arisen in the Western Darfur region between the Arab-Muslim north and the black-Christian south. The struggle between these two parts of the country led to the succession of South Sudan in 2011.

After the succession of South Sudan, the newly formed country was quickly stricken with a massive famine and civil war. The UN ambassador Nikki Haley explains, "The famine in South Sudan is man-made. It is the result of ongoing conflict in that country.” The World Food Programme has reported that 40 percent of the South Sudanese population is in need of food urgently, and according to the UN, 100,000 people are in imminent danger of death because of starvation.

May we pray that the people of Sudan have the peace & joy that only comes from Christ, no matter the circumstance.

South Sudan is predominantly Christian, but Sudan continues to be heavily Islamic. The government of Sudan applies a strict interpretation of Islamic law and uses that to harass the Christian community of the country. Conversion from Islam to any other religion is considered apostasy and is punishable by death. The government of Sudan continues to publicly support the assault of churches and even carries out their own assault. Recently, in a Sudanese Air Force bombing raid, the government targeted a church in the Nuba Mountains, completely destroying the compound and killing 11 people.

Another more prominent example of persecution in Sudan and Miriam Ibrahim. On May 15, 2014, she was sentenced to death after being tried and convicted of apostasy from Islam. During the trial, the Sudanese judge had given her three days to renounce her faith. When she refused, her death sentence was issued. Miriam had been arrested while pregnant with her second child, and two weeks later, on May 27, 2014, Miriam gave birth in prison. Although Miriam was later freed as a result of tremendous international pressure, her case stands as an example to the Christian minority in Sudan and, particularly, to followers of Jesus with a Muslim background.

The Naivasha Agreement, which ended the Second Civil War in Sudan, “accomplished” a few things.  It is supposed to protect Non-muslims in the North, but some interpreters of Muslim law in Sudan refuse to recognize this as actual law. They still consider anyone converting from Islam to any other religion as apostasy and will not follow this part of the agreement. Sudan continues to be one of the hardest places in the world to be a Christian. As of right now, Open Doors ranks Sudan as the fifth most persecuted country in the world.  

Prayer Points

  • Pray for the Christians in Sudan and South Sudan who risk everything they have for the sake of the gospel and the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
  • Pray for Christians who could face with the death penalty if their conversion from Islam is discovered.
  • Pray for the ending of all apostasy laws in Sudan and the end of all religious persecution to Christians.
  • Pray for the ending of government-sanctioned persecution of Christians across Sudan.
  • Pray for the leaders and non-Christians of Sudan, that their hearts would be radically changed for the gospel.

Further Resources

Policy intern Mitchell Dorris contributed to this article.