Christianity, World’s Most Persecuted Faith

By Mark A. Kellner
Posted November 17, 2020

The world is no stranger to religious persecution. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center—a non-partisan think tank in Washington, D.C.—the year 2018 has continued the trend of “harassment against religious groups—either by governments or social groups and individuals—in the vast majority of countries around the world (185 out of 198).” The study surveyed global practices of 2018 and was released on November 12, 2020.

The report defined “harassment” as inclusive of “a wide range of actions—from verbal abuse to physical violence and killings—motivated at least in part by the target’s religious identity.”

Furthermore, it stated that “laws, policies and actions by officials that impinge on religious beliefs and practices … continued to climb, reaching an all-time high since Pew Research Center began tracking these trends in 2007.”

It also noted that the world’s most persecuted faith is Christianity. “In 2018, Christians reportedly were harassed in 145 countries, up from 143 countries in 2017,” the organization said. The second most persecuted religious group was Muslims, facing harassment in 139 nations in 2018, a minor decrease from 2017’s 140.

Who is doing the harassment? Pew reported that Christians were among the several faiths “harassed by government actors in more countries than they were by individuals or groups not affiliated with the government, such as other religious groups, hate groups or secular groups.” Adherents of the Jewish faith, however, experienced the opposite, with a higher number of social attacks than government.


Christians Persecuted Around the World

A British charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), summarized the global situation for Christians this way: “Christians emerge as the world’s ‘most widely targeted’ faith group, slightly ahead of Islam. In January 2019, Open Doors estimated in its World Watch List for 2018 that 73 countries with 245 million Christians ‘showed extreme, very high or high levels of persecution.’ This was up from 58 countries with 215 million Christians in 2017. The same survey showed that every day on average 11 Christians are killed for their faith in the 50 worst-offending countries.”

The Middle East is now encountering the grim outcomes of its previous Christian genocide, leaving some Christian communities on the brink of total annihilation. In certain regions of Africa, Islamists are deliberately working towards Christianity’s extinction by coercion, deception, and bribes. But, according to the ACN report, “persecution against Christians has worsened the most in South and East Asia. This is now the regional hot spot for persecution.” In comparison, according to the Pew study, the Americas have consistently maintained the lowest scale of religious persecution.

North Korea remains the world’s most dangerous place for a Christian. Britain’s Daily Mail reported, “Arrested for possessing a bible, fed on soup containing nothing more than water and sand, tortured using an electrified cage, and shot in front of their fellow inmates. These are just a few of the horrifying tales of abuse suffered by religious prisoners in North Korea, where worshipping anyone other than Kim Jong-un is strictly outlawed.”

The newspaper, citing a study from London’s Korea Future Initiative, added, “While the prisons are designed to punish all religious believers, former inmates recalled how the harshest punishments were reserved for Christians. … In one case, a man who had converted to Christianity was forced into a metal cage that measured just 3ft high by 4ft wide.”

The prisoner sat there for 12 hours, praying, the newspaper reported, before he passed out and was removed by guards, who beat him while he was unconscious. “Usually prisoners lasted only three or four hours in the cage, but I sat there for 12 hours and prayed. I kept praying to God to save me,” recalled the unnamed Christian. Having survived the torture and eventually escaping the country, the man did indeed have his prayer answered.


Perilous Times Ahead

None of this persecution should come as a surprise, for Jesus Christ assured us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

That tribulation comes not from Jesus but from the adversary of souls, the devil. And it occurs because we are in the midst of the ultimate war between good and evil. “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12), Scripture tells us. The devil is on the attack, “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), and his prime targets are those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).

Again, Jesus predicted, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. … If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18–20).

Christians are called to live a life separate from the world, engendering especial hatred during the end times. In the final days, all people—even God’s people—will undergo the most terrible time of trouble the Earth has ever known. But those who remain steadfast in the faith of Jesus will be protected and “saved out of it” (Jeremiah 30:7).

If you want to learn how to survive the coming tribulation—a period that might make today’s persecutions seem mild by comparison—check out Pastor Doug Batchelor’s article, “Through the Tribulation.”

And be sure to visit the Revelation Now! website, where Pastor Doug, through the book of Revelation, reveals what is soon going to happen and, most important, declares the way of escape through the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Learn how Christ can save your life for eternity!

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.
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