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Religious Tolerance logo

Worldwide persecution of Christians

1998 to 2013: The International Day Of Prayer
for the Persecuted Church
. Worldwide persecution
of Christians as monitored by Open Doors.

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International Day of Prayer:

An International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) 1 is an observance held yearly in over 125 countries. Almost 100,000 congregations in the United States took part in 1998.

"Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith, for the souls of the oppressors, for the nations that promote persecution, and for those who ignore it." 2 

IDOP was organized in 1996 by the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF). Although IDOP remains a conservative Christian organization, it has been able to involve many non-evangelical Christian denominations in its programs.

Steve Haas, President of Prayer for the Persecuted Church and U.S. coordinator for the event commented:

"It seems appropriate that one of the least observed issues of the church becomes the subject of one of the largest prayer rallies in the world...While we gather leadership in Washington for the International Day of Prayer National Service, it will be most encouraging to know that across the country and around the world millions of Christ-followers will join in unity in lifting up our brothers and sisters who share our faith but not our freedom. I've talked with Christians in a number of beleaguered communities of faith worldwide, and the news of this massive prayer and advocacy effort displays support that means more to them than we can imagine. As one believer in Egypt told me upon his release from prison for his faith, 'It has given rise to a kind of holy boldness for us. You are standing with us in our dark night.' " 3

The IDOP estimated that about 200 million Christians around the world face actual persecution, and another 350 million face discrimination and restrictions. These represent about 10% and 18% of the total number of Christians in the world. Their web site cited a number of countries as particular offenders:

bullet China: The two state-sanctioned churches (Catholic Patriotic Assoc., Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement) are tightly controlled by the Religious Affairs Bureau of the Chinese government. Members of unregistered house churches are being prosecuted. Hundreds of Chinese Christians are suffering "re-education through labor" camps.

bullet Egypt: Attacks by Muslim fundamentalists against Coptic Christian are common and were not being effectively countered by the government. The government restricts expansion and even repair of Christian facilities by withholding building permits.

bullet Iran: To convert from Islam to another faith is a criminal offense in this country. Christians are routinely threatened, arrested, imprisoned and tortured because of their faith.

bullet Nigeria: This is a religiously divided country; Christians are mainly located in the south; the north is largely Muslim. A campaign was underway to eradicate all evidence of Christianity in the northern part of the country. Church burning is common.

bullet North Korea: The entire country is suffering from a devastating famine; starvation and near starvation is common. Christians are persecuted and imprisoned.

bullet Pakistan: Christians have been the target of trumped up charges of blasphemy. They are often the target of mobs and fundamentalist Muslims. A high court judge who had the courage to acquit Christians in a blasphemy case was assassinated.

bullet Saudi Arabia: All Christian worship is forbidden in the country -- even within the U.S. embassy. Muslim citizens who convert to Christianity are subject to the death penalty.

bullet Sudan: This country had one of the worse human rights record in the world. It is another religiously divided country, with many Muslims in the north and many Christians and Animists in the south. Horrendous civil rights violations have been conducted against the South. Crucifixion and slavery have been reported from reliable sources. The situation was improved considerably when the country was later divided in Sudan and South Sudan.

bullet Vietnam: The government requires all religious groups to register. But since the civil war ended in the mid 1970's, no Protestant group has been granted official recognition. The government rigidly controls the Catholic church by reducing the numbers of seminary entrants, restricting the number of ordinations, etc.

A major result of this oppression is a massive exodus of Christians from predominately Christian countries. Robert Spencer, is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He wrote:

"Egyptian Catholic spokesman Fr. Rafic Greische told Vatican Radio in December 2010 that

'Muslim fundamentalists...want the Christians to evacuate from the Middle East and leave. And this is what is happening every day. From Egypt to Nigeria, from Iraq to Pakistan, Christians in majority-Muslim countries face a grimmer present and a more uncertain future than ever, as Islamic jihadists step up their efforts to Islamize them or drive them out of their lands — or kill them outright'."

"... The Christian population in Turkey has declined from 15% in 1920 to one percent today. In Syria, it has declined from 33% to 10% in the same span. In Bethlehem, 85% of the population was Christian in 1948; today, 12% hold to the faith founded by the town's most celebrated native son." 4

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2000 to 2013: "Open Doors" evaluation of persecution of Christians:

Open Doors is an agency based Santa Ana, CA, which monitors the persecution of Christians around the world.

In the year 2000, they reported:


Saudi Arabia as the world's worst persecutor of Christians:

"Despite the fact that there are 600,000 expatriate Christians living there, Saudi Arabia still has the unsavory title of the world's worst persecutor of Christians. The kingdom does not permit any practice of the Christian faith."

bullet Afghanistan's small minority of 2,500 Christians are heavily oppressed. 

bullet China's House Church Christians are being harassed, arrested, imprisoned, and sent to labor camps.

bullet Chechnya's non-indigenous Christians have largely left the country; the fate of the rest is unknown.

Sudan's civil war continues:

"... in the south continues with all the atrocities connected."

bullet Yemen, North Korea, Maldives, Iran and Morocco complete the top ten countries in Open Doors' Hall of Shame

Open Doors includes Indonesia, Nigeria and India as the 25th, 26th and 29th worst countries on their list. However, these are countries of great concern for Open Doors


The situation in  Indonesia was seen as rapidly getting out of control:

"Since the war erupted 18 months earlier, more than 2,500 people are reported to have died. These are official figures; the actual number of dead may be higher. In the first six months of this year, nearly a thousand people were killed. Most of the victims were Christians."


In Nigeria, the introduction of Sharia law had triggered riots between Christians and Muslims:

"In clear signs of ignoring the regime's decrees, several northern states have by now implemented Sharia law. Many Nigerians give nothing for the chances of the Obasanjo regime, and it seemed likely that the country will either split up, or that the army will take power again in another coup d'etat."


The situation in India, long known for its religious tolerance, is degenerating:

"In the first half of 2000 the number of attacks continued at a high level. At least two priests died at the hands of Hindu fanatics, four churches were bombed, and there were numberless cases of harassment, destruction and attempts at 're-conversion' of Christians to Hinduism."

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), "Shatter the Silence," at: They distribute an information packet which contains a video, booklet, map and further information. Call toll-free at 888-538-7772.
  2. "What is IDOP?," The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, undated, at:
  3. Originally downloaded from a web site that now has a invalid security certificate.
  4. Robert Spencer, "Muslim persecution of Christians," David Horowitz Freedom Center, (2011). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store

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Copyright 1998 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-DEC-20 
Author: B.A. Robinson

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