5When Open Doors releases their ‘World Watch List’ analyzing and ranking countries based on their level of persecution, Christians take note. Last week they revealed their most recent report complete with not only rankings, but specific details about each country, current political and social climates, and the forms of persecution taking place. The report is incredibly comprehensive and is worth spending some time on, but understanding that time is limited, here are five quick observations to make about the report.
1) Notable Countries
One of the primary aspects frequently noted by interpreters of the most recent report is the increase in Asian countries on that list. Over the past two years the news stories have been filled with more reports from Asia, and so this is not a surprise. Some may be somewhat perplexed though, to note that despite the disturbing reports coming out of China, it only warrants a ranking of #27. China has received more attention than any other country for the way in which the government has openly shuttered churches, removed religious symbols, and even banned the presentation of certain texts. How is it then that China is not ranked any higher? The ranking places China against other countries, and so we can simply conclude that persecution in other countries is simply worse than in China. Of note though, is that China jumped 16 spots from its previous ranking. That means it jumped over 30%. Considering that the situation or religious oppression in these top countries is stable (not necessarily good, but it remains constant) and shows no signs of getting better, that is a massive change in a relatively short amount of time.
Another surprising appearance on the list is the inclusion of Mexico at number 39. While many are aware of varying problems in Mexico, religious persecution is not one that many would anticipate. This is especially surprising when one considers that of the countries 130 million people, 125 million profess to be Christian (all-inclusive). Mexico offers an interesting case on two levels. First, it provides an example of what is taking place around the world through increased antagonism for those who are not in line with the current social agenda. Second, Mexico has the reputation of being the center of organized crime comprised primarily of drug cartels. Officially, the persecution taking place in Mexico is listed as ethnic antagonism. In the details, this phrase is referring to the increased violence against all people from those organized crime centers. That revelation brings concern on many levels.
2) Islamic Oppression
Unsurprisingly, the most common instigator of persecution is Islamic oppression. Of the top 10 countries on the list, it is the primary factor for seven. In fact, a majority of the countries on this list are the result of Islamic oppression. Such a statement is worth noting because it is contradictory to much of the dialogue taking place that seeks to downplay this aspect.
3) Public Aggression
The World Watch List gives a rating in six categories based on varying aspects. For sake of time, it is impossible to share all of the varying details and information that is considered. However, I would recommend readers to go directly to the website and report where you can read more in detail. What is increasingly clear in considering those categories and reading some of the descriptions offered, one can see an increase in public aggression against Christians who speak against the social agenda. This includes public debates about abortion, same-sex marriage, sex education in school, and other biblical topics. Christians are being targeted by violence, humiliation, harassment, criticism, and ridicule in an effort to silence them for their biblical beliefs. I remember a gentleman I went to high school with decrying on Facebook that there is no war on Christianity, as he continued to belittle Christians in the same sentence. The report by Open Doors confirms that not only is there a war against Christian beliefs, but it is increasing. To deny its existence is beyond naïve and arrives at willful ignorance.\
It is incredibly interesting to look at Open Doors Watch List in conjunction with a map of the Corruption Perception Index. Of the top ten countries who rank high for the allowance of Christian persecution, six of those countries also rank in the top ten for corruption. Only three countries fall outside of the top 15 for corruption: Iran (50), Pakistan (63), and India (99). Primarily, those countries still find themselves in the middle part of the upper half of worst countries for corruption. Without more intense research, it is inappropriate to make too many uninformed inferences. However, it does pique interest and demonstrate that research about both topics and their relationship would be a valid study.
5) Christians Response
For many people, the report has the ability to incite cries of despair. Such a response is indicative of a lack of trust in God though. Throughout the New Testament there are plenty of examples of persecution and oppression for those who share Biblical truth. Both Peter and Paul write in their epistles warnings of days to come when people will reject the truth. They go further to say that people will not only reject the truth but reject those who bring the truth by their aggression and oppression. Despair then, is not how we respond.
Our best response is to do nothing. I do not mean that we simply permit the distortion of truth, ideas, and people. What I do mean though, is that our response to increased aggression should be no different than what we are already doing according to God’s revealed will in His word. That includes the following:
- Prayer: The author of the report is quick to point readers towards this great act of reliance upon God.
- Proclamation: We continue to preach the truth regardless of the rejection of truth (cf. 2 Timothy 4:1-4).
- Perseverance: We continue to persevere towards eternity with complete trust in the Lord’s promises to fulfill His will.
While many of us are generally far-removed from the persecution categorized in this year’s “World Watch List” it continues to be a reminder to all of us about the depths of sin, depths of rejection of God’s truth, and the lengths that many will go for the sake of preserving that rejection. Therefore, we do well to pay attention to it. It serves as a reminder of what others endure for the sake of truth and an encouragement to us about God’s ability to sustain us in the midst of such oppression.
Photo by Brett Zeck on Unsplash