In our series on Jesus’ seven letters to the churches in Revelation, we've been focusing on understanding what Jesus is saying to our congregations. How is the Spirit of Christ encouraging and challenging Trinity and Redemption? In what ways are we being called to grow and change as we seek to be faithful “lampstands” for our king?
And yet in these letters we are also reminded of the different forms of affliction churches endure throughout the world for the sake of the gospel. Even as we experience in America a kind of pressure to compromise our faith, it is important that we also remember that we have brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are experiencing terrible forms of violence and persecution because they hold fast to the name of Jesus.
Open Doors USA, an organization focused on serving persecuted Christians throughout the world, puts out an annual “World Watch List.” This list describes world-wide trends in persecution and identifies the 50 most persecuted countries in the world. It is an excellent aid in helping us to remember and pray for persecuted Christians.
Some of the findings from the 2018 list:
- 215 million, or 1 in 12 Christians worldwide, experience high levels of persecution.
- While North Korea is ranked #1 for the 16th consecutive year, the most common source of persecution in the list is “Islamic Oppression.” The guide notes that the movement of radical Islam “which often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians, is expanding in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Somalia).”
- Religious nationalism is also an increasing source of persecution, as majority Hindu and Buddhism countries have sought to marginalize Christianity and other minority religions.
As part of our efforts to stand with fellow believers throughout the world, I invite you to spend some time with this guide and to pray for the persecuted church.