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Rich countries could join Christian persecution list

Open Doors predicts end of religious freedom in the West

One of the creators of an annual global report about Christian persecution warns that countries such as Australia might soon be included on it for the first time.

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“I’m very concerned about the current trend in the Western world,” Wybo Nicolai told Eternity during his recent visit to Australia. Nicolai works with Open Doors’ Field Leadership team, and he helped create the World Watch List in 1991. Measuring the factors behind persecution as well as the individual freedom of Christians within particular countries, the list has become an annual summary of the worst places on earth to be a Christian.

“I fear that we are at the brink of losing freedom of religion in this part of the world. I am not optimistic about what is going on.”

“This could be the last decade where we are still enjoying full freedom of religion.” – Wybo Nicolai

Nicolai alluded to conflict and controversies in Western world societies – from street evangelism to abortion – which have surrounded the sharing of Christian beliefs and views. He could see Australia, or other comparable countries, becoming part of the World Watch List during the next decade.

“If I look to developments in Europe, I would not be surprised if a country like the UK, France, maybe Sweden, could be in the list in ten years from now.”

“From my perspective, this could be the last decade where we are still enjoying full freedom of religion.”

However, Nicolai believed “we should not be too concerned about that.” He pointed to predictions Jesus made, recorded near the end of the Bible’s book of Matthew. “When Jesus got the question from his disciples about what will it look like when the ‘End of Times’ come, he gives a wonderful explanation in Matthew 24. He says that this kingdom [of God] has spread to the ends of the earth – all nations have been reached – and you will be hated by all nations.”

“There are many, many incidents against the church. But the world is not aware.” – Wybo Nicolai

Having worked on the World Watch List each year for almost three decades, Nicolai has documented how Jesus’s prediction has come true. Since 2005, for example, there has been a significant increase in the amount and severity of Christian persecution, as Christianity has spread to all parts of the globe. The rise in radical Islam has been a key factor behind increased Christian persecution, as well as a “radical Hindu” movement in India that Nicolai said “the world has overlooked.”

“The Christian church has grown tremendously in the past decade in India but, unfortunately, there are many, many incidents against the church. But the world is not aware.”

Nicolai feels blessed to have been able to work with Open Doors, an interdenominational organisation aiming to support persecuted Christians around the world. Having seen first-hand how Christians can be oppressed or attacked for their faith, Nicolai encouraged Christians in Australia to seize the opportunity they still have to share the good news of Jesus.

“We should make good use of the time we still have.” – Wybo Nicolai

“It has been luxury that we have had freedom of religion for a couple of centuries in Australia and we should be thankful to the Lord that we have had the joy of so much freedom for such a long time. Now, we should make good use of the time we still have.

“So, I think we should speak out in Australia, in Europe, to defend our rights but most of all we should speak out on what is most important in our Christian faith. We have a message for the world, even though part of the world doesn’t like the message.”

“It’s always the same request; it is the top priority of the persecuted church.” – Wybo Nicolai

The World Watch List helps to determine where Open Doors puts money and resources to support persecuted Christians. But what can everyday people do with the annual report? Nicolai said Open Doors does not expect the World Watch List to become a political tool or ignite a social movement. Instead, it can inspire the powerful action that persecuted Christians would most like taken for them.

“The No. 1 request we get from leaders under persecution is ‘Can you pray for us?’ This is what I have been hearing for the past 30 years, from my first trip to Poland in 1995 until a few weeks ago when I was in Iraq. It’s always the same request; it is the top priority of the persecuted church.”

“For us, the World Watch List has been a tremendous tool in pointing out the worst places on earth and challenging Christians in the free world – in Australia, in Europe, in other parts of the world – to please pray for your brothers and sisters who are being persecuted. This is what they are facing.”

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