The 2019 Open Doors Watch List is out, and as per previous years persecution is rampant in many of the same countries around the world with North Korea topping the list for the 18th consecutive year. Close behind and threatening to tie the DPRK is Afghanistan.
While we saw some political attempts by the west to de nuke North Korea, and the world reaching out to the dictatorship, and talks of ‘peace’ between North and South, reports indicate that local authorities are increasing incentives for anyone who exposes a Christian in their community. If Christians are discovered, they can be sent to detention centers, re-education camps and maximum-security hard labor prison camps known as the Kwan-li-so or they are killed on the spot. Even more, their families to the fourth generation share their fate as well. Daring to meet other Christians for worship dangerous and risky which must be done in utmost secrecy. There is no fellowship or corporate worship in North Korea.
Open Doors estimates there are 250,000 imprisoned North Koreans—50,000 of which are political prisoners jailed for their Christian faith. You can read the story of one of them, Prisoner 42 here.
In a few days, President Trump will be meeting with Kim Jung-un in Vietnam for another summit. Click here and find out how to pray with our brothers and sisters in North Korea, that the Holy Spirit will shine light in one of the darkest places on our planet.
While there are many, many Muslims around the world coming to Jesus, many of the Islamic nations are still in the top countries where persecution of Christians is so prevalent. In fact, 7 of the top 10 countries are Islamic nations. As mentioned, the number 2 spot this year is Afghanistan.
At least half of Afghanistan’s provinces are either ruled or contested by the Taliban, and Afghanistan is 99 percent Islamic. Officially there are no Christians in Afghanistan. Christianity is considered to be Western and hostile to Afghan culture, society and Islam which is why conversion away from Islam is seen as treason.
Every day an average of 11 Christians lose their lives for their faith, however “persecution incidents” often go unreported. Christians are extremely vulnerable in Afghanistan. From their family members who feel compelled to save the family honor by forcing believers to reconvert to Islam, or being disowned, banished, abused, kidnapped or even killed, they also face threats from Islamic groups such as the Taliban and ISIS.
Ways to pray for those in Afghanistan include praying for the underground church to continue to grow as it has in other countries such as China. Pray for believers to find ways to worship together. We also need to pray for Christian sermons, music and teaching that many Afghans are receiving through the internet. Another issue is the drug culture and corruption in the drug trade which threatens the country’s development and increases crime and terrorism. Drugs like opium are much more lucrative than virtually any other crop. Compared to wheat, farmers can earn 11 times the amount of money with poppy production. The Taliban are heavily involved in drug production and estimates indicate that 70 to 80 percent of all drug trafficking gains end up in the Taliban’s pockets.
Pray for Iranian Christians who have been going to share the gospel in Afghanistan, for their safety and that people’s hearts will be opened to Jesus. Pray for the Christians in areas held by terrorist groups and corrupt governments, pray for families of those martyred, that they might find comfort from God and a desire to have a relationship with Him through Jesus.
And Pray for women, because in Afghanistan and many other places in the world, women are the most vulnerable. In Afghanistan women have few rights are often neglected (especially widows), abused and many are denied even basic education or medical care. Often times authorities offer no protection. Children too, are abused in horrific ways. Pray they will find real comfort, healing and mercy from their Father in Heaven and that through Jesus they will know how loved they are.
When we pray for those who are being persecuted for Christ, they know and are comforted. In every country Open Doors and Voice of the Martyrs is operating, the number one request from Christians is prayers from believers. Specifically that they will not deny Christ, prayers for the gospel to be shared, prayer for the persecutors! That they would be touched by the faith of those Christians and want to know more about why they stand strong on Jesus.
Some day we will all be in the land of glory, and we will all get to sit at the feet of Jesus as we all recount our stories. Some folks think of how cool to meet Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David…. hearing the great stories from them and the New Testament saints like Paul. But we will also hear the great stories from these folks that we pray for- and what a story they will tell. But what will be so amazing is when they tell us, “You prayed for us, and we felt God’s presence more because of it!”
Have a blessed and safe Monday and week all!