Persecution Rising Faster in Asia than Anywhere Else

Jan 12, 2017 998

Asia Bibi in Pakistan is appealing a death sentence for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi in Pakistan is appealing a death sentence for blasphemy.

The Open Doors World Watch List report for 2017 has revealed persecution of Christians is rising faster in Asia than anywhere else. India, Vietnam, Laos and Bangladesh all showed the highest increase in the persecution of their Christian minorities. Mike Gore, CEO of Open Doors Australia isn’t surprised.

For the majority of Indians, Hinduism has always been an important part of Indian life and identity but under the Modi government, this has been strengthened to the point of violently rejecting all other religions,” said Mike. “Now in neighbouring Buddhist countries as well, politicians have started to trade on religion as an important part of their national identities too. So we are seeing this sort of violent persecution spread in Asia.”

For the 16th year in a row North Korea has ranked 1st on the list. Pakistan, Syria and Iraq have all been named as other countries where persecution has remained persistently bad. The main cause of persecution has also not changed from last year. In 34 of the 50 countries on the list Islamic Oppression has been identified as the reason of persecution.

“Christians in these (majority Islamic) countries often make up a small minority and find themselves easy targets,” Mike Gore said. “In many countries like Pakistan and Iraq there is often no help found from the government or a continued persecution from state bodies as well. This is most obviously seen in Saudi Arabia where there are still no churches in the entire country despite a growing underground Christian population. Or Iran where churches are increasingly being ordered to close down.”

The work of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has continued to be a factor in 2016. Even with major military losses in the year the group has maintained control of several areas. Several Christians were caught in these areas but some Christians were working there as well.

“I am going to grow my beard even longer, and I intend to look like an Islamic State fighter,” says a Syrian orthodox Priest. He adopted the unusual tactic of entering various Islamic State prisons under the guise of inspecting them and was instrumental in the release of 220 Christians. “I just got fed up hearing of (the) killings and fleeings. It was time to break the mould, and do something daring like Jonathan, the son of Saul, and go into the camp of the Philistines.”

This year saw the continuation of Asia Bibi’s blasphemy case in Pakistan with a possible death sentence being prolonged. This is the result of a blasphemy charge brought against her and a state unwilling to make a legal decision that would conflict with violent Jihadists wishes. There was also a blasphemy claim made against the Christian governor of Jakarta, Ahok. Islamic extremists now taking advantage of a political situation to achieve their goals in Indonesia, what was considered a more tolerant Islamic nation.

“It is important when considering these facts to not lose sight of God’s sovereignty,” says Mike Gore. “It can be tempting for us to read stories of persecution and become angry or discouraged. The greater challenge is to continue following Jesus’ command to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute (Matt 5:44).”

A copy of the full list with profiles on each country and an interactive map is available on the Open Doors Australia website, www.opendoors.org.au. Open Doors works to strengthen persecuted Christians in over 60 countries around the world. It was started in 1955 when Dutch missionary Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into communist Eastern Europe. – Open Doors

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