With the launch of the annual 2014 World Watch List (WWL) earlier this month, Open Doors has pulled back the curtain on the hidden truth of Islamic radicals: that their groups and regimes consider Christians to be unacceptable wherever they live and these radicals enforce their agenda by the sword.
The World Watch List, which ranks 50 countries which are the worst persecutors of Christians, shows nine of the top 10 countries to be those where Islamic extremism has taken root either as a government, or as a strong outlaw force. The communist country of North Korea is No. 1 on the list for the 12th year in a row. Also, Islamic extremism is driving persecution in 36 of the 50 countries on the WWL.
Leading the list of those Islamic-dominated countries is Somalia, which is No. 2 on the World Watch List. Somalia, which was No. 5 a year ago, is a failed state where Islamic extremists have strong sway in doling out punishment to people who owns a Bible or dares to proclaim themselves Christians. It is illegal to be a Christian and Muslims who convert to Christianity - called Muslim Background Believers - are often killed. As one Christian told an Open Doors researcher, "In Somalia, a Christian cannot trust anyone. One false confidence and you literally lose your head."
Perhaps nothing illustrates this better than when I was in Washington, D.C. for a news conference on Christian persecution at the National Press Club. While being interviewed by FOX News, I was asked about Somalia and other extreme Islamic states. I shared the World Watch List data which showed the intense pressure believers face for their faith.
In response to the interview, one person who identified himself as a Somali said the WWL must be wrong and a farce because "we don't have any Christians in Somalia." Think about that for a moment. What type of society must it be to force 100 percent conformity upon 10 million people?
In the book The Insanity of God, author Nik Ripken, a former missionary in Somalia, tells of the conversion of four Somali individuals to Christianity who were then beheaded by Islamic extremists who found out about this so-called "crime."
Somalia is but one brutal example of how intolerance towards Christianity has reached a crisis point. Other countries on the top 10 list include war-torn Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran and Yemen. The exodus of Christians from Iraq is alarming. In the 1990's the number of believers in Iraq was estimated at 1.4 million but today Open Doors estimates the number at 330,000.
What is not noted on the WWL, but is implied, is what is at risk for the rest of us: the ability to study, consider, discuss and choose for ourselves what we believe.
When we sit idly by as millions of people live under governments and regimes that limit those freedoms, and even kill those who dare to exercise their independence of thoughts and their faith, it can't be long until it comes back to us.
Part of me would like to believe that Christians in the West would stand up to protest the horrific injustice suffered by religious minorities for practicing what they believes. But at this point it's not clear that Christians in the West are going to speak up on behalf of their brothers and sisters in Christ; even as over 2,123 people (the number Open Doors can document but probably is much higher) were killed for their Christian faith in 2013.
Hopefully, the 2014 World Watch List will awaken society, and Western believers specifically, to the growing loss of religious freedom for Christians living in three-fourths of the countries on the list.
There is something you can do today for our fellow believers in Christ - fervently pray that they will stand strong in their faith. Join Open Doors USA as we pray through 2014 for each country on the World Watch List. Take the 5-5-5 Challenge to pray daily for the 50 nations at www.worldwatchlist.us or www.OpenDoorsUSA.org. Your prayers and support can make an eternal difference for persecuted Christians.
Dr. David Curry is President and CEO for Open Doors USA (based in Santa Ana, California), the American arm of Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry supporting persecuted Christians since 1955.
Publication date: January 27, 2014