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 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 / Nov 4

November 6 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. On this Sunday, we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. But more importantly, we lift them up to our good God who hears our prayers. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

Let us approach our God, therefore, with confidence that we serve an infinitely big, infinitely powerful God who is ready to save.

If you are a pastor, set aside time this Sunday to join with churches around the world in praying for those that suffer for no reason other than that they follow their Savior, Jesus Christ.

If you are a church leader, dedicate some time this week with your ministry, Bible study, or small group to pray for our persecuted fellow believers.

If you have a family, spend time praying around the dinner table for those that live in places that do not recognize the fundamental human right of religious liberty.

How you can pray for the persecuted church 

Every year Open Doors, a network that serves persecuted Christians around the world, produces the World Watch List, which highlights the countries where persecution of Christians is highest and offers suggestions for how you can pray for them. Here is what you should know about the 10 countries with the highest levels of persecution and how you can pray for our brothers and sisters in those nations. 

Afghanistan

Persecution type: Islamic theocracy imposed by the Taliban

Estimated number of Christians: Possibly thousands

How Christians are suffering: “The Taliban will make sure that Islamic rules and customs are implemented and kept. Christian converts don’t have any option but to obey them. If a Christian’s new faith is discovered, their family, clan or tribe has to save its honor by disowning the believer, or even killing them.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for secret believers in Afghanistan, that they will be protected from the violence of the Taliban.”

North Korea

Persecution type: Communist and post-Communist oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 400,000

How Christians are suffering: “An estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in North Korea’s notorious system of prisons and labor camps. And, to make matters worse, often a family will share the same fate as the person captured.”

Prayer prompt: “Christians in North Korea are in danger. Pray for Christians who worship secretly, Christians who are in prison, and the families of Christians who have been arrested or killed. Ask God to be with these believers and to strengthen them to find hope and see His hand at work in their lives.”

Somalia

Persecution type: Clan oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few hundred

How Christians are suffering: “The small number of believers in Somalia are largely Christians who have converted from Islam. Christians are viewed as high-value targets by Islamic radical groups. Even when Christian converts are not targeted by extremists, they are intensely pressured by their family and community.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for Christians who are targeted by Islamic extremists. Ask God to protect them and grant them hope.”

Libya

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 34,600

How Christians are suffering: “When a person in Libya leaves Islam to follow Christ, they face immense pressure from their families to renounce their faith. Their neighbors and the rest of the community ostracize them, and they can be left homeless, jobless, and alone.”

Prayer prompt:  “Libya’s government has been unstable for a decade. Pray for some stability and rule of law in the country.”

Yemen

Persecution type: Clan oppression

Estimated number of Christians: A few thousand

How Christians are suffering: “The persecution against Christians in Yemen has been extreme for years, leading to a jump of two spots on the 2022 World Watch List. Pressure on converts from Islam is at the highest levels in every part of life.”

Prayer prompt:  “The civil war has lasted for nearly a decade. Pray for peace, pray for stability and pray for an openness to religious freedom.”

Eritrea

Persecution type: Christian denominational protectionism

Estimated number of Christians:  2,611,000

How Christians are suffering: “Despite almost half the population identifying as Christian, believers in Eritrea continue to suffer extreme persecution, making it one of the hardest places in the world to follow Jesus. Christians not part of recognized denominations are at risk of severe persecution. Gatherings are raided and believers arrested. The conditions facing Christians in prison can be inhumane.”

Prayer prompt:  “Ask God to protect Christians who convert from Islam, or who join a church outside of the Orthodox tradition.”

Nigeria

Persecution type: Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians:  98,006,000

How Christians are suffering: “Persecution in Nigeria is, simply put, brutally violent. In much of northern Nigeria, Christians live their lives under the constant threat of attack from Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Fulani militants and criminals who kidnap and murder with few consequences. The violence is so bad it has begun to travel south, as well.”

Prayer prompt:  “Pray for the many militant groups who attack Christians in Nigeria. Ask God to change their hearts as only He can.”

Pakistan

Persecution type:  Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 4,080,000

How Christians are suffering: “In Pakistan, Christians are considered second-class citizens and are discriminated against in every aspect of life. Church leaders can be arrested if they don’t abide by the authorities’ wishes.”

Prayer prompt:  “Pray for the women and girls who are kidnapped, forced to convert to Islam and marry Muslim men.”

Iran

Persecution type:  Islamic oppression

Estimated number of Christians: 800,000

How Christians are suffering: “The severity of persecution facing Christians in Iran remains largely unchanged. Converts from Islam are most at risk of persecution, especially by the government, and to a lesser extent, by society and their own families.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for the religious leaders of Iran, that they would have their hearts changed to recognize Jesus as Lord.”

India

Persecution type: Religious nationalism

Estimated number of Christians: 68,863,000

How Christians are suffering: “The persecution of Christians in India has intensified, as Hindu extremists aim to cleanse the country of their presence and influence. The extremists disregard Indian Christians and other religious minorities as true Indians, and think the country should be purified of non-Hindus. This has led to a systemic—and often violent—targeting of Christians and other religious minorities, including use of social media to spread disinformation and stir up hatred.”

Prayer prompt: “Pray for the healing of the many victims of religious violence in India. Ask that God would heal both hearts and bodies.”

By / Feb 11

“The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), the public policy office of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) hosted an online event Tuesday, discussing oppression and the Olympics.”

Read the full article here.

By / Feb 2

This week, Chelsea Sobolik sits down with David Curry, President and CEO of Open Doors USA. They discuss the release of Open Door’s 2022 World Watch List, and where it’s the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. David shares ways that Christians can pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Guest Biography

Open Doors USA President and CEO David Curry advocates on behalf of those who are persecuted for their Christian faith. He provides leadership to Open Doors in its mission to strengthen and equip Christians who live under extreme restrictions, while encouraging these believers to remain strong in their faith.

For over 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world’s most oppressive regions, empowering and equipping persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries by providing Bibles, training, and programs to help strengthen the church.

Since assuming the role of CEO in August 2013, Curry has traveled extensively to encourage those living under persecution and support the work of Open Doors. In addition, Curry is often present in Washington, D.C., advocating for religious freedom at the highest levels of our government. He has testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and met with a wide range of policymakers in Washington from both sides of the aisle, including at the White House, in the Senate and at the U.S. State Department.

Curry appears frequently on Fox News and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has also been published or featured in sources such as CBS News, CNN, The Washington Post, Christianity Today, USA Today, The Christian Post, and other news outlets.

Prior to coming to Open Doors, Curry served as CEO and president at Christian organizations that serve homeless and neglected children in several countries, including India and Peru.

Curry is the author of four books and holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwest University in Seattle and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Faith Evangelical College and Seminary based in Tacoma, Washington

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By / Jan 31

For nearly 30 years now, as a way of monitoring severe and ongoing opposition to Christianity, Open Doors has published what it calls the annual World Watch List — a “ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.” For those of us in the West who enjoy an unprecedented level of religious liberty, the World Watch List is a sobering reminder that our brothers and sisters around the world face real and present danger simply for following Jesus.

What is Open Doors?

Open Doors began in 1955 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.”

Over time, Open Doors’ work “pushed beyond the Soviet Union,” expanding into Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Today, Open Doors “is 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?

As mentioned, “The World Watch List is Open Doors’ annual ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution.” More than that, 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.”

In addition to the annual ranking, 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, aiding Christians like us on how we can pray for and serve those who find themselves in locations hostile to Christianity.

How are countries on the World Watch List analyzed?

“Countries are ranked by the severity of persecution of Christians, calculated by analyzing the level of violent persecution plus the pressure experienced in five spheres of life,” which include private life, family life, community life, national life, and church life.

For a more detailed look at Open Doors’ methodology, visit this site

What did the 2022 World Watch List reveal?

According to the report, “In just the last year (during their reporting period), there have been:

• Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination.

5,898 Christians killed for their faith.

5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked.

6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.

3,829 Christians abducted.”

Additionally, the report revealed that “1 in 7 Christians are persecuted worldwide,” “1 in 5 Christians are persecuted in Africa,” and “2 in 5 Christians are persecuted in Latin America.”

By and large, the majority of countries on the list are located within Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, but three countries in North and South America (Mexico, Cuba, and Colombia) are on the list as well. After 20 years atop the list, North Korea was replaced as number one on the World Watch List by Afghanistan, due largely to the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

Alarmingly, Open Doors highlighted in this year’s trends that “persecution of Christians has reached the highest levels since the World Watch List began nearly 30 years ago.” The report states that:

“Every country in the top 50 is ranked as experiencing ‘very high’ or ‘extreme’ levels of persecution. Outside of the top 50, an additional 26 countries are categorised as having ‘very high’ or ‘high’ levels of persecution. The severity of persecution in countries on the list, demonstrated by the total points scored, has increased by more than 20% since 2014. This signifies an increased pressure in all areas of life for persecuted Christians.”

Nevertheless, “God is building his church and people are coming to faith even in hostile environments . . . The World Watch List shows once again that against all odds, the church is active and alive . . . God’s faithfulness remains a beacon even in the most dangerous places on earth to be a Christian.”

What can Christians do?

As Christians, no matter how many miles separate us from these men, women, and children, they are our brothers and sisters. Regardless of how helpless we may feel, being so far removed from such hostile contexts, or how big the problem is (over 360 million Christians!), we have the opportunity to “stand with them in solidarity, and remind them they are not alone.” 

Open Doors gives several ways we can stand with our brothers and sisters, including:

And because Christians believe that God works providentially through our prayers, we can all commit to using the World Watch List to inform us how we can be praying 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. 

By / Aug 18

On Sunday, the Taliban entered Kabul, the capital city of Afghanistan and quickly took control of the city. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Hundreds of Afghan civilians were seen close to the runway and around parked planes Monday, with some hanging from boarding ramps as they scrambled to get into aircraft, hindering evacuation efforts.” Events in Kabul are changing by the hour, but one thing should be certain: The United States should swiftly offer refuge for those fleeing persecution. 

Southern Baptists have a long history of “ministering care, compassion, and the Gospel to refugees who come to the United States,” and encouraging our churches and families “to welcome and adopt refugees into their churches and homes as a means to demonstrate to the nations that our God longs for every tribe, tongue, and nation to be welcomed at His throne (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 7:9–12; Psalms 68:5; James 1:27; Leviticus 25:35; Leviticus 19: 33–34).”

The ERLC advocates for the dignity of the sojourner in accordance with Scripture’s expectation on God’s people to minister to the vulnerable. God’s love for the immigrant, refugee, and foreigner is a specific and consistent biblical theme, and he calls his people to do the same. Christ, the greatest example of love, commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program

The U.S. has a long history of welcoming refugees fleeing persecution. The annual number of refugees is determined not by statute but by the president, in consultation with Congress. Under the Trump administration in 2020, refugee resettlement hit a record low of 15,000.

During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time.” However, in April, he issued a memo instructing the Department of State to keep the refugee admissions at 15,000. Evangelical leaders urged the Biden administration to immediately reset the refugee ceiling as promised In May, President Biden officially raised the refugee ceiling to 62,500.

What is Priority 2 refugee status?

The U.S. government defines the term refugee as “any person who is outside any country of such person’s nationality or, in the case of a person having no nationality, is outside any country in which such person last habitually resided, and who is unable or unwilling to return to, and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of, that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.”

Priority 2 (P-2) refugee status is granted to “groups of special humanitarian concern identified by the U.S. refugee program.”

Why should P-2 status be offered for Afghans?

On August 2, the Department of State announced a Priority 2 (P-2) designation “granting U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) access for certain Afghan nationals and their eligible family members.” While this action is commendable, it does not explicitly call for P-2 designation for Christians and other religious minorities. Non-Muslims will face almost certain persecution under the Taliban.

In an Evangelical Immigration Table letter to President Biden, the table organizers made the case for the protection of other vulnerable Afghans: 

“there are many other Afghans likely to be at risk of persecution under Taliban rule, including Christians and other religious minorities, women and girls who have pursued the opportunity for education, and others associated with the U.S. presence in Afghanistan who may not qualify for Special Immigrant Visas. The United States should do everything reasonably possible to protect these individuals and, should they make the decision that they must flee as refugees, prioritize them for resettlement to the United States. Specifically, we urgently request you increase P-2 processing of Afghan refugees to the United States. The current policy of only allowing those who are in a third country to qualify for P-2 status is untenable and does not honor their commitment and sacrifice.”

By offering Priority 2 refugee status to Afghans fleeing persecution, our nation can demonstrate that this country is a safe haven for the persecuted and those whose human rights have been abused and whose religious freedom has been violated.

How has the ERLC advocated for refugees?

The ERLC has advocated for a robust refugee resettlement program by making the case that the program has long enjoyed both broad bipartisan support in Congress and in the communities these men and women have enriched, including many Southern Baptist churches. We have urged both the Biden and the Trump administrations to maintain a strong program for those fleeing persecution around the globe.

Additionally, the ERLC has supported and advocated for the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, which designates Hong Kong residents as Priority 2 refugees and streamlines their admission process to the United States. This bipartisan bill opens up an asylum path for frontline activists in immediate danger. Additionally, the bill instructs the secretary of state to coordinate the intake of Hong Kongers as refugees with other like-minded countries. Passage of this bill would send a clear message to Beijing that the United States does not support the CCP’s attempt to silence its dissenters by denying them fundamental human rights.

The ERLC has also supported and advocated for the Uyghur Human Rights Protection Act. This bipartisan bill designates Priority 2 refugee status for ethnic Uyghurs and others who are suffering from arbitrary arrest, mass detention, and political and religious persecution by the Chinese government. 

How can you get involved?

Pray. Ask the Lord to protect Christians in Afghanistan and help them remain courageous. Pray for vulnerable people trying to flee persecution. Ask God to grant them swift escape and guide them to a refuge and safe haven. 

Volunteer. Find opportunities in your local community to assist refugees as they are being resettled. World Relief has partnership opportunities throughout the country and provides plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Advocate. Call your local congressperson and senators and ask them to urge the Biden administration to prioritize providing a safe haven for those fleeing persecution in Afghanistan.

By / Apr 23

On April 20, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2021 annual report. As the report mentions, USCIRF was created as a result of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (IRFA). USCIRF “is an independent, bipartisan U.S. government advisory body, separate from the U.S. Department of State, that monitors religious freedom abroad and makes policy recommendations to the president, secretary of state, and Congress.”

The recommendations in USCIRF’s report are based “on its statutory mandate and the standards in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international documents.” The report, which in its current form is 108 pages long, assesses religious freedom violations and progress during calendar year 2020 in 26 countries and makes independent recommendations for U.S. policy for both the Biden administration and for Congress.

The report’s primary focus is on two groups of countries. The first group includes those countries that USCIRF recommends the State Department should designate as “countries of particular concern” (CPCs). IRFA defines CPCs as countries where the government engages in or tolerates “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom, such as torture or prolonged detention without trial. The second group are countries that USCIRF recommends the State Department should place on its Special Watch List (SWL). The SWL is for countries where the government engages in or tolerates “severe” violations of religious freedom that are ongoing and egregious. In addition to these groups, the report also includes USCIRF’s recommendations of violent nonstate actors for designation by the State Department as “entities of particular concern” (EPCs). 

In this year’s report, USCIRF recommends 14 countries to the State Department for designation as CPCs. Ten countries were previously designated as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Four other countries are also recommended to be added: India, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam. 

The report also recommends 12 countries be included on the SWL. Two countries—Cuba and Nicaragua—had previously been included on the list. The 10 other countries recommended for inclusion are Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. 

Finally, seven nonstate actors are recommended to be designated as EPCs: al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, the Houthis, Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Taliban.

The ERLC is deeply committed to advocating for religious freedom around the world. In 2019, we released a short film titled “Humanity Denied: Religious Freedom in North Korea.” The film features defectors from North Korea as well as church leaders and human rights activists in South Korea. China has increased its persecution of Christians, Uyghur Muslims, and other ethnic and religious minorities. This is extremely concerning, and the ERLC has been calling on the U.S. government to hold China accountable for their religious freedom abuses and to counter China morally.

In addition to country-specific advocacy, the ERLC has also worked on initiatives to fight against blasphemy laws and the rise of anti-Semitism. We are dedicated to advocating for the vulnerable and oppressed around the world and to fighting for the rights of our persecuted brothers and sisters.

ERLC is grateful for the work of the USCIRF and encourages all Christians to support the work of this advisory body. We can also use this report, as we do resources from the Joshua Project and Operation World, as a prayer guide for the nations and for persecuted Christians around the globe. Here are four ways, recommended by Casey B. Hough, that Christians can use USCIRF’s annual report in daily prayer for the nations:

  1. We can pray for the endurance and faithfulness of Christians who live in the countries listed in the report.
  2. We can pray for those who have not yet heard the good news of Jesus Christ because of the difficulties that missionaries encounter with the government.
  3. We can pray with gratefulness to God for the religious freedom that he has granted us at this time in history.
  4. Finally, we can pray for God to use the efforts of USCIRF and other international organizations to quell the religious freedom violations that exist around the world so that the gospel might advance without hindrance (Col. 4:3).
By / Feb 12

In the opening lines of last week’s executive order addressing the country’s refugee program, President Biden wrote, “the long tradition of the United States as a leader in refugee resettlement provides a beacon of hope for persecuted people around the world.” Sadly, the rising tide of nationalism in our politics has dimmed that once bright light. There is much work to be done if America is to, in Biden’s words, lead again. Critical to that work is the rebuilding of a refugee resettlement program that honors our nation’s rich history of welcoming the world’s most vulnerable.

The President is charged with determining the maximum number of people allowed entry through the refugee process. The number, while set by the White House, represents an annual conclusion of a worthwhile debate throughout Washington. It’s a debate in which the ERLC is regularly engaged.

During the 2020 campaign, President Biden promised to “set the annual global refugee admissions cap to 125,000, and seek to raise it over time.” While the administration’s recent executive order marks an encouraging move toward relighting that beacon, the refugee ceiling is the critical next step.

Among other directives, the order begins a wide ranging review of the federal government’s refugee resettlement procedures. For example, the order directs the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to designate a senior-level employee in their departments to focus on the refugee application process. Among the specific reviews ordered is the nation’s policy which grants Special Immigrant Visas for Iraqi and Afghan allies.

The refugee program has long enjoyed both broad bipartisan support in Congress and in the communities these men and women have enriched, including many Southern Baptist churches. The vetting procedures for refugees were already the strongest of any category of immigrants, and these security procedures have been further strengthened. This program tells an important story about who we are as a nation. It has enabled remarkable talents to become Americans and pursue the American dream such as Vietnamese refugee David Tran who created the popular Sriracha hot sauce.

Since the Refugee Act of 1980, the resettlement ceiling before the Trump Administration ranged from as high as 230,000 to as low 67,000. The historic average over the decades hovered near 95,000. President Trump first set the refugee ceiling at 50,000 in 2017 and then cut it each year, leaving it at 15,000 for 2021.

This precipitous drop not only closed the door to many of our own brothers and sisters abroad in the persecuted church seeking safe harbor, but it also starved the resettlement pipeline needed to provide that harbor in America. Integrating these families seeking refuge in our local communities requires the ongoing partnership of government offices and non-profit agencies. Without refugees moving through the line, many agencies shutter. This leaves our future capability to serve in peril.

The Evangelical Immigration Table, of which the ERLC is a member, responded last Friday to President Biden’s order noting both appreciation of this first step but also urging him to follow through on his commitment to officially raise the ceiling.

In the EIT press release, Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, explained how, “our advocacy for religious minorities in peril around the world, whether they be Uyghurs in China or Christians in Syria, is a priority of our work at the ERLC.” Moore also said it was his “prayer that Christians will lead the revitalization of America’s commitment to be a beacon of freedom and safe harbor for the oppressed and persecuted.”

As vaccines and treatments help the world climb out from under the coronavirus pandemic, we ought to use this time of restricted global travel to rebuild the resettlement infrastructure. We should invest now in the infrastructure needed for overseas processing and help resettlement agencies in the U.S. rebuild so that when our door is able to be reopened, our welcome mat is ready. Instrumental to this process are faith-based organizations who partner with local churches to welcome refugees as our new American neighbors.