According to the human rights organization Open Doors, the number of Christians in the world subjected to persecution — 245 million — is 14% higher than it was a year ago.
In its 2019 World Watch List, Open Doors reports:
“In seven out of the top 10 World Watch List countries, the primary cause of persecution is Islamic oppression. This means, for millions of Christians — particularly those who grew up Muslim or were born into Muslim families — openly following Jesus can have painful consequences. They can be treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against for jobs or even violently attacked.”
The report also states that Muslim converts to Christianity in countries governed by sharia [Islamic] law face the most severe persecution, both by the state and by family, friends and community. The following are examples from the report:
- In Iran, “Converts from Islam face persecution from the government; if they attend an underground house church, they face the constant threat of arrest.”
- In Qatar, “Christians experience persecution at all levels of society: The government, the local community and even one’s family can be dangerous for Christians, especially for converts from Islam to Christianity. Islam is seen as the only acceptable faith, and Sharia law prescribes a wide range of rules for personal, family and community life. Evangelism is outlawed and can lead to a lengthy prison sentence.
- In the United Arab Emirates, “Christian converts often lose their inheritance and parental rights, are forced to marry, are fired or are required to work for free. To avoid the death penalty or other penalties, Christian converts often feel like they must hide their faith or flee to another country.”
- In Pakistan, “Christians continue to live in daily fear they will be accused of blasphemy — which can carry a penalty of death. … Christians are largely regarded as second-class citizens, and conversion to Christianity from Islam carries a great deal of risk.”
The persecution of Christians, and converts to Christianity, has a theological foundation. Under sharia law, those who leave Islam, criticize it or commit other acts of “blasphemy” are to be executed. In countries such as Saudi Arabia, according to Open Doors, “All expressions of religion other than Islam are forbidden. Anyone who commits apostasy by leaving Islam is, in theory, punishable by death.”
It is not only sharia-governed countries that persecute converts to Christianity, however. Many other Muslim-majority countries that have “secular” constitutions also engage in the travesty. For example, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan are all secular on paper. In the case of Uzbekistan:
“The police, secret service and mahalla local authorities strictly monitor religious activities, with state authorities regularly raiding non-registered churches. In general, the Islamic culture makes life for Christian converts particularly difficult, but indigenous Christians with a Muslim background bear the brunt of persecution from the state and family, friends and community.”
Another country that is secular on paper but increasingly oppressive towards Christians is Turkey. According to the Open Doors report:
“Over the last year, the situation in Turkey has deteriorated significantly for Christians as President Erdogan’s powers grow. Churches there try to maintain a low profile, especially after the two-year case of U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson who was unjustly jailed there and released in late 2018. Religious nationalism continues to grow to new heights.”
by Uzay Bulut