The fact that hundreds of millions of Christians are currently facing significant persecution worldwide is perhaps one of the most underreported stories of our generation.
According to Open Doors USA, there are more than 360 million Christians currently facing persecution for their faith around the globe.
David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, recently told the Daily Signal that there are “50 to 60 countries where there is intense levels of persecution.”
The type and intensity of persecution varies depending on the country, from oppression and surveillance to physical violence and murder.
According to Curry, 100 million Christians in China are currently “being surveilled using technology—facial recognition, using artificial intelligence—and they are being punished for going to church too often, for trying to take their kids to Sunday school. There’s a social score in China and a deduction to be a follower of Jesus and to practice that faithfully.”
China is currently ranked number 17 on Open Doors USA’s list of countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
In North Korea, which is ranked number two, Curry shared that if you are a follower of Jesus, and you’re caught, “you’re going to spend the rest of your life and die in a labor camp … And they’ll be executed in some cases.”
Open Doors USA reports that the country where it is most difficult to be a Christian is Afghanistan.
“It is impossible to live openly as a Christian in Afghanistan … Christian converts face dire consequences if their new faith is discovered. Either they must flee the country or they will be killed.”
The organization says that since the Taliban took over the country last year, the situation for Christians has become even more dangerous.
Discussing Christians who live in more persecuted areas of the world, Curry said, “We’re so fortunate here and we’re always bogged down with every kind of anxiety. But these people have lost everything and they found out that their faith, that Jesus, is enough.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ imparted eight blessings, which are also called the Beatitudes.
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10 ESV).
In the United States, where we face relatively little (though growing) persecution, it can be easy to pray and thank God for the blessing of religious liberty that we enjoy.
While there is nothing wrong with giving thanks for the freedoms that we have, perhaps we can learn something from our brothers and sisters in Christ who are facing physical and spiritual persecution overseas.
These Christians remind us that this temporal world is not our home, and that it’s not God’s primary desire for us to be as healthy and wealthy as possible. Rather, God desires us to be holy and faithful, and He can use persecution and poverty to strengthen our faith in and focus on Him.
Those who mourn, who are poor in spirit and who are persecuted – they are truly blessed.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12 ESV).
Photo from Open Doors USA.