The persecution of Christians is increasing year over year. Across the globe, more than 245 million believers face intimidation, prison—even death—for their faith in Jesus Christ. That’s one in nine Christians worldwide.
While religious persecution is spread over many countries, there are some areas where the hostility is particularly intense. These pockets of concentrated persecution are due to the focused efforts of either one person or a larger system bent on smashing or squeezing out Christians in the region.
Top Persecutors of Christians
The list below highlights some of the greatest human rights offenders toward Christians. The list is not comprehensive or in a particular order. There are many more who could be added.
We share this list not to stir up anger, although righteous anger is expected. We hope it moves us all toward prayer and action. Jesus commanded us, directly, to pray for our enemies. So please use this list as a powerful prayer tool.
As Brother Andrew, the founder of Open Doors says, no door is closed to the power of prayer. “Through prayer, we have the ability to move beyond borders and into the very presence of our enemies . . .”
Pray that God would stop their actions. That He would change their hearts, and shine the brilliant light of the gospel onto their path. Pray God would change them like He did with the apostle Paul, one of the most aggressive persecutors in the time of the early church.
For nearly 2,000 years, Christianity has had a presence in countries like Iraq. However, the brutal and targeted attacks from ISIS have driven many Christians to flee these areas. Ten years ago, there were nearly 1 million Christians living in Iraq. A large majority of the population lived in Mosul. Today, ISIS has been driven out of Iraq and Syria for the most part. Now, they are spreading to Southeast Asia and West Africa.
While ISIS is in the news, Al-Qaeda has continued to fight in countries throughout the Middle East. They often marking Christian communities as specific targets. In countries like Yemen, Christian converts from Islam are particularly vulnerable as they are already treated as outcasts by their own communities. As Al-Qaeda takes advantage of distracted governments, Christians in their path experience intense persecution. Ayman al-Zawahiri is the current leader of Al-Qaeda.
3. Kim Jong-un
North Korea has for years been one of the worst persecutors of the Christian church. Kim Jong-un has only increased this terrible legacy, continuing the nation’s policy of outlawing any practice of the Christian faith. Prayer, church meetings, and owning a Bible are all against the law, with violators being sent to prison camps, or even facing the death penalty. It’s because of this that North Korea is the #1 worst persecutor of Christians in the world according to the 2019 World Watch List.
4. Hindu Nationalists
The far-right Hindu nationalist movement in India seeks to wipe out any religious expression that falls outside of the Hindu faith. This includes Christianity. The movement’s mission is to make India a complete Hindu nation by 2021. The predominant Hindu nationalist association is referred to as the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). This movement has created a culture war. It made it very dangerous and difficult for many Christians living in the region. They are often forced out of villages, beaten, and arrested for believing in Jesus.
The radical Islamic terrorist group al-Shabaab is, in many ways, the Eastern African version of al-Qaeda (a group they once had an uneasy union with). Al-Shabaab has terrorized Somalia for the past decade and is recently focusing its attacks on the neighboring country of Kenya. In 2015, a Kenya college campus faced an attack where Christian students were specifically targeted, killing 148 in total. Any place al-Shabaab controls operates under Sharia law, which includes the slaughtering of anyone who identifies as Christian.
6. Boko Haram
Boko Haram made global news when fighters kidnapped over 200 girls from a local school (when the world took notice and responded with #BringBackOurGirls). However, this was nothing new for the Nigerian Islamic terrorist group who have kidnapped thousands of people, many who are children.
The word haram means forbidden. Boko Haram’s belief is that any sort of Western influence is heresy, especially Christianity. To this end, Boko Haram has conducted raids, bombings, and assassinations against any target it deems Western, especially churches and schools. They are a top persecutors as they have taken out contracts on influential Christian leaders. They are also at war with the Nigerian government.
7. Militant Fulani Herdsmen
In northern Nigeria’s Middle Belt area, the latest threat to Christian communities may arguably be even worse than Boko Haram: Hausa-Fulani militants. Clashes with militants among the predominantly Muslim group have claimed thousands of Christian lives. For example, they raze entire villages and brutally kill and rape. However, they are unlike the atrocities and attacks of Boko Haram because Fulani violence as a strike against Christians has gone relatively unreported in national news headlines.
8. Radical Islam
Islamic oppression is one of the most widely recognized sources of persecution for Christians in the world today. Also, it continues to spread. It aims to bring many parts of the world under Sharia Law. The movement often results in Islamic militancy and persecution of Christians. It is expanding in Asia (Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia) and Africa (Egypt, Nigeria, Somalia).
9. Drug Cartels
In Colombia and Mexico, drug cartels are prevalent in certain parts of the country. On top of the danger that these groups bring to ordinary citizens, Christians are specifically targeted. “A soul won for Jesus is a soul lost for them,” shared one pastor from Colombia. “They know that too.”
For this reason, Christian evangelists are particularly targeted. In other words, drug cartel leaders know that Christians are the greatest threat to their way of life. Particularly, pastors who often become leaders in a community are the biggest threat.
10. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP)
The newcomer to this list is the China Communist Party. Over the last two years, the CCP has rapidly advanced its persecution against China’s underground house movement. For example, the top persecutor attack unregistered churches and even registered churches. In the last year, China has shuttered four large churches and banned anyone under 18 from church. Also, the CCP tore down crosses from churches, raided churches and arrested Christians. They also forced churches to install facial recognition cameras. So, the list goes on. Meanwhile, China President Xi Jinping has made moves to establish himself as a cult personality among the Chinese people.
11. The Ultimate Enemy
It’s easy to read this list and feel hopeless in the face of so much evil. However, Ephesians 6 tells us our war isn’t a physical war; it’s a spiritual one. Behind all of the atrocities listed above is Satan, who prowls this world as a roaring lion.
Most importantly, we are also told that God’s kingdom is forcefully advancing, and that in the end, Satan is overthrown and all things are made new.
Pray for God’s Kingdom Among the Top Persecutors
So we pray against the evil mentioned in this article. We can also pray with hope that God’s kingdom would come, and His will would be done. Here on earth now. And then in completion for eternity.