Open Doors USA: "These Believers Need Your Prayers!
Prayer Support Vital for Believers in the Three Countries Where Christians Suffer the Most
After extensive research, careful documentation, and review of testimonies from persecuted believers around the world, Open Doors has issued the 2006 edition of our World Watch List. This annual report ranks the 50 nations where Christians suffer the most, based on the intensity of persecution that believers face for actively following Christ.
An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide may be subject to interrogation, arrest, and even death for their faith in Christ. We call upon all believers to pray for these brothers and sisters, especially in the following three countries where persecution is the most intense.
1. North Korea - hundreds of Christians killed in 2005
For the fourth year in a row, North Korea holds the ignoble distinction of being the world's worst violator of religious rights. As the most repressive nation on earth, the regime is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country. Human rights violations are commonplace.
The brutal Stalinist regime considers Christianity the greatest threat to its power. Consequently, Christians are specially targeted for arrest - often along with three generations of the believer's family in an effort to eliminate the faith's influence.
Tens of thousands of Christians are currently suffering in North Korean prison camps where they face cruel abuses and starvation-level food rations. Open Doors also estimates that hundreds of Christians were killed in 2005 - sometimes just for carrying a Bible.
Please pray for religious freedom for our Christian brothers and sisters in North Korea. Ask God to give them the strength they need to stand strong in the midst of intense suffering. Pray also that God’s Church will continue to grow in North Korea.
2. Saudi Arabia—largest crackdown on Christians in a decade
Also for the fourth straight year, Saudi Arabia holds the second spot on the World Watch List. Officially, there is no religious freedom in Saudi Arabia. By law, citizens are only allowed to adhere to one religion: Islam.
The public practice of non-Muslim religions is strictly prohibited, and although non-Muslims have the right to worship in private, more than 70 Christians were arrested during worship in private homes in 2005. This is Saudi Arabia’s largest crackdown on Christians in a decade.
In addition, apostasy (conversion to another religion) is punishable by death. Christians who have converted from Islam live in constant fear for their lives. They worship in secret and are usually isolated from other believers.
Please pray for safety, courage, and strength for believers living out their faith in this oppressive country. Pray also that God’s Word would continue to go forth in Saudi Arabia and that many would come to faith in Christ.
3. Iran—a new wave of persecution follows presidential election
Islam is also the official religion in Iran, the country holding the number three spot on the World Watch List this year. In June 2005, the election of Muslim hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president prompted a new wave of persecution against Christians.
Presumably as part of the new president’s commitment to make Iran adhere even more rigidly to Islamic law, local officials throughout the nation have allegedly been ordered to crack down on all Christian cell groups. Increasingly, Christians have been harassed, beaten, and imprisoned. In November a house church pastor was killed, and it is feared that many more Christians will be murdered for their faith in the days ahead.
Former-Muslim converts face particular hardship as the government is intent on making them return to Islam. A new law makes it illegal to offer any assistance to believers of Muslim origin, a policy that threatens discipleship and evangelism efforts.
Please pray for Christians in Iran, particularly Muslim-background believers who worship in fear and secrecy. Pray that false doctrines will not arise in their isolated cell groups. Pray also that evangelism and discipleship efforts will go forth despite opposition.
Thank you for remembering all of these persecuted believers in your prayers. Your prayers and gifts are a vital part of encouraging and equipping our brothers and sisters in Christ, allowing them to stand strong in the midst of unimaginable hardship and persecution."