By: Brian Chilton | January 13, 2017
In our last article, we began to examine the top 10 nations that hold the greatest challenges for Christians in 2017. These nations are gauged by Open Doors USA according to a persecution index scoring nations from 1 to 100, with 100 representing the greatest persecution being afforded to Christians. Our previous post noted that Eritrea ranked 10, Yemen ranked 9, Iraq ranked at 8, Iran ranked at 7, and Syria ranked at number 6. This article will reveal the top five nations that pose the greatest challenges for Christians in 2017.
5th Most Dangerous Nation in 2017: Sudan (Scored 87/100).
Sudan is located in northeast Africa. The nation borders Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea (ranked 10), and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west, and Libya to the northwest. Sudan is the third largest nation in Africa. The country holds a portion of the Nile River, as well.
Sudan is an Islamic republic, headed by President Oman al-Bashir. Of the 42,166,000 people in Sudan, 1,996,000 are Christian (roughly 5%). Open Doors USA attributes Christian persecution to Islamic oppression coupled with dictatorial paranoia (that is, fear that others are out to take over the government). Persecution is extreme in Sudan.
Sudan has found itself on the watch list since 1993 and has ranked in the top 20 of the nations that most persecute Christians for years. Al-Bashir rules with an iron fist leaving no room for the freedom of expression. According to Open Doors USA, “the ethnic-cultural landscape is complicated and divisive: Arab versus Ethnic Africans, Muslims versus Christians.” The Sudanese government seeks to create a strictly implemented one-nation-religion, as well as implementing the use of only one language and culture.
Pray for Sudanese Christians as well as the governmental agencies. Pray that God would open their hearts to the grace of God found in and through Jesus Christ.
4th Most Dangerous Nation in 2017: Pakistan (Scored 88/100).
Pakistan ranks 4th on the 2017 world watch list with a whopping 88 points. Pakistan is a federal parliamentary republic found in South Asia. Pakistan holds an enormous population of near 200 million people. Pakistan hosts a 650-mile coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman to the south. The nation is bordered by India to the east, Afghanistan to the west, Iran to the southwest, and China to the northeast. Pakistan is separated from neighboring Tajikistan by the Wakhan Corridor to the north and shares a small coastal border with Oman.
Of the 196,744,000 citizens of Pakistan, 3,938,000 are Christian (roughly 2%). Unlike some of the nations mentioned, Christians are allowed to worship and historical communities openly exist. However, Christian communities suffer from severe rules and consistent monitoring. Converts to Christianity suffer greatly from both radical groups as well as from their families and neighbors. Recently, Christians have been targeted at parks where terrorists planted bombs in local playgrounds where Christians congregate. It is important to note that not only Christians died in this attack, but many Muslims died, also.
Not only are Christians targeted for bombings, women are abducted, raped, forced into marriages, and families can and have been evicted for their home and country. Because of stringent blasphemy laws, Christians often suffer from unverified and false accusations which may lead to a barrage of punishments, including death.
Pray for Pakistani Christians. Many of these individuals are good, wholesome, believers who desire to glorify God in all that they do and say. Pray that the hearts of their oppressors would change and be transformed by the love and grace of God.
3rd Most Dangerous Nation in 2017: Afghanistan (Scored 89/100).
Afghanistan has been in the news for quite some time due to the violence and unrest in the land. Thus, it is of no surprise that Afghanistan would rank third as the most dangerous lands in 2017 for Christians. Afghanistan is a landlocked nation in South and Central Asia bordered by Pakistan to the southeast, Iran to the west, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, and China to the northeast. The government is a republic led by President Ashraf Ghani.
Of the 34,169,000 citizens, only a few thousand are Christian (roughly .03%). Due to a weak government brought forth by constant unrest, the view that Islam unites the nation, as well as highly organized criminal organizations, Christians, other non-Muslim citizens, and unpopular Muslim sects are targeted. Christian converts are often murdered by their extended family. In other cases, converts are taken to mental institutions. Nearly always, converts automatically lose rights to personal property and their possessions. False accusations of conversion have been made towards less popular individuals of certain communities instilling fear in those even considering placing their faith in Christ.
Pray for the Afghani Christians. Open Doors USA did not have a precise number of Christians in the area, so there may be more or less than what is presented in this article. Pray for Afghanistan’s stability and for those who oppress the believers in this nation. Pray that their hearts and minds would be transformed by the grace of God.
2nd Most Dangerous Nation in 2017: Somalia (Scored 91/100).
Somalia, unsurprisingly, makes the second most dangerous nation for Christians in 2017 as it h
as produced terrorists for some time. Somalia is located at the so-called Horn of Africa at the far east side of the continent. The nation borders Ethiopia to the west, Djibouti to the northwest, the Gulf of Aden to the north, the Indian Ocean to the east, and Kenya to the southwest. Somalia hosts the longest coastline on the mainland of Africa and holds many plateaus, plains, and highlands. Hot weather persists nearly year-round.
Somalia scores a horrid score of 91 out of 100 points on the persecution index, one shy of the leading nation of persecution. The nation is steeply Muslim in nature hosting a federal republic governmental infrastructure led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud. Somalia has been on the watch list since 1993 as the nation holds a tribal system that is resistant to democracy and Christianity. Like other nations, Christianity is viewed as a byproduct of the Western world. Since democracy is non-existent, Christians have no voice. According to Open Doors USA, “Since the downfall of Ziad Barre in 1991, Somalia has become a safe haven for Islamic militants.” Christian converts face intense pressure from adversaries of the faith. Martyrdom is extremely common. Even the suspicion that one has accepted Christ may lead to a hasty death.
Pray for the Somali Christians. Pray that God would intervene and transform the hearts of their oppressors. We have listed the top nine most dangerous nations. While most of the nations on the list have not surprised me due to the reported level of persecution taking place, the top nation greatly surprised me. In fact, the top nation persecuting Christians is not a Muslim nation, but something quite different.
Most Dangerous Nation in 2017: North Korea (Scored 92/100).
Surprisingly, the top nation guilty of persecuting Christians is not a Muslim nation. Rather, it is the atheistic, communist, secularized nation of North Korea. Yes, North Korea! Perhaps North Korean persecution is more surprising to us because of the fact that there is little that is known about the inner workings of North Korea. North Korea is greatly secretive and privatized. Despite the clandestineness of the nation, North Korea tops the Open Doors USA list.
North Korea is in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. North Korea borders South Korea to the south, China and Russia along the Amno (or Yalu) and Tumen rivers to the north and northwest, the Korean Bay to the southwest, and the Sea of Japan (or the East Sea) to the east. The nation is a communist dictatorship ruled by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea is largely atheistic while some traditional beliefs are held by a few. The government rules all aspects of daily life, coupled with an extreme level of paranoia, which leads to intense oppressive conditions for the citizens of the land.
It is estimated that of the 25,405,000 North Koreans, 300,000 are Christian (roughly 1.1%). North Korean Christians (NKC) bear excruciating conditions. NKC cannot express openly express their faith to any degree as they are constantly surveyed by governmental agencies, neighbors, and even their immediate family. Since worship of the Kim family is mandated, any worship to Jesus is punishable by law which disallows any public gathering of worship. NKC must pray with their eyes open and are disallowed from owning a copy of the Bible or any religious material. NKC are often arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and martyred. Christian families and communities have been kidnapped and executed. Individuals may often find that neighbors completely vanish in the night without any recollection as to their whereabouts.
Individuals, including NKC, who unsuccessfully flee to the more Christianized and tolerant South Korea directly or through China risk severe beatings, starvation, torture, and death. NKC cannot win either way. They suffer if they stay and they suffer if they attempt to leave.
Pray for the NKC. God can do the miraculous. Pray that God would transform Kim Jong Un and the North Korean authorities. You say, “That’s impossible.” Understand, “nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).
We have examined 10 nations leading in persecution causing great danger to its Christian citizens. Understand that these articles are not meant to disparage any form of religion and are not intended to condemn any nation. These articles should, however, encourage us to pray for persecuted Christians across the globe. As a Christian myself, I understand that the Christians in North Korea, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Eritrea, and across the world are not distant people. They are family! We as the body of Christ are family as we will unite in our worship of the risen King Jesus one day. It is a certainty that one day this united, global, Christian family will join together praising and worshipping God! John saw a day when “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9-10, ESV, emphasis mine). Also, we should be encouraged to know that at some point “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11, ESV). To God alone be the glory!
To see the complete list, go to https://www.opendoorusa.org/ and look for the Christian persecution watchlist.
© 2017. Bellator Christi.
 “Sudan,” OpenDoorsUSA.org (2017), https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-lists/sudan/, retrieved January 13, 2017.
 “Somalia,” OpenDoorsUSA.com, https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-lists/somalia/, retrieved January 13, 2017.