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by Martina Moyski  •  •  January 26, 2021  

One in eight face violence

SANTA ANA, Calif. ( – One in eight Christians around the world are fighting for their Faith and life, according to a Christian advocacy group.

David Curry, chairman and CEO of Open Doors USA

The 2021 World Watch List, compiled by the U.S.-based Christian group Open Doors, is profiling the life-or-death situation of Christians throughout the world and is asking for an increase of prayers on their behalf. It puts North Korea, Afghanistan and Somalia at the top of the list of 50 countries where Christians are systematically oppressed.

David Curry, chairman and CEO of Open Doors USA, acknowledges that many people think the World Watch List is strictly about documenting oppression. But he supplements that partial narrative, pointing out that “when our brothers and sisters are persecuted for their Faith, and they still choose Jesus, the Living Water —  this is a miracle in front of our eyes.”

North Korea is number one on the Open Doors List, as it has been for the last 20 years. Just being discovered as Christian in North Korea means an automatic prison sentence. The report says the believer will be “taken to a labor camp as a political prisoner” — if they are not killed instantly.

The prisons have “horrific conditions,” and “few make it out alive,” according to the report. Further, relatives in the believer’s family will also be made to suffer. The report says children are used against parents and husbands against wives as a technique to ferret out the believers.

The report gives the example of Hee-Yol, a woman who fled North Korea to China during a famine in the 1990s. In China, she heard the gospel for the first time and became a Christian.

Chinese police found her and sent her back to North Korea, where she was sent to prison. At first, she said she blamed God, but she then started to plead to God, “Please save me from here.”

Hee-Yol was eventually released from prison and escaped once more to China and then to South Korea. Today she says, “In the most difficult time in my life, I found God through suffering.”

She asks people from around the world to pray for North Koreans. “The North Korean citizens are like slaves. With the light of the Lord, they would be freed,” Hee-Yol extols.In the most difficult time in my life, I found God through suffering.Tweet

According to Open Doors, nearly 70,000 Christians are currently toiling in labor camps in North Korea. 

In Afghanistan, living openly as a Christian is almost impossible. Christian converts are especially vulnerable. According to the report, converts have two options: Flee the country, or risk being killed.

Christians from a Muslim family can be the object of an honor killing or be sent to a mental institution because leaving Islam is considered an act of insanity.

World Watch begs for intercession for underground Afghan Christians, asking that the faithful:

  • Pray for protection for the small percentage of Afghani believers; pray that anyone who might be hunting down secret Afghan Christians would not discover them
  • Pray that despite their isolation, Afghan believers would be strengthened in their faith and that they would find safe ways to access God’s word and communicate with other believers
  • Pray that God would be at work in the hearts of Islamic extremists such as the Taliban and ISIS

In Somalia, Islam is considered a crucial part of Somali identity, reducing non-Muslims to an alien status. 

Just being suspected of being a Christian can mean a death warrant just as in North Korea and Afghanistan. Family, clan or community members can — and do — harass or even kill believers with few repercussions. Female believers are at a particular risk for rape and forced marriage, according to the report. 

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