This Easter let’s not forget the millions of persecuted Christians

Three ways to care

Open Doors’ global CEO Dan Ole Shani urges us to remember persecuted Christians this Easter. 

Easter is a time to reflect upon the incredible sacrifice that Jesus made for humanity, and there is no better time to also remember the suffering of our brothers and sisters across the globe.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Open Door’s World Watch List measuring the most dangerous places to be a Christian.

One in seven Christians suffer severe opposition for their faith.

This statistic is hard to fathom in Australia, where people are free to worship and attend church openly.

While I’ve been made aware of intolerance against Christians within the Australian community– such as The Project’s recent X-rated joke about Jesus Christ – most of us aren’t faced with serious threats of violence and even death for speaking the name of Jesus in a public space.

We don’t experience beatings or see our families being threatened, kidnaped or killed just because we follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

The list is a sombre reminder that violence against Christians is not diminishing but growing.

The numbers in this year’s World Watch List give an insight into the very real dangers Christians encounter every day and the risks taken by our ministry partners who support the persecuted believers we serve.

North Korea tops the list with a score of 98 – the highest score that’s ever been recorded for any country on the list, due to an increase in arrests of Christians and house churches discovered and closed.

In China, the use of digital surveillance technology is spreading, adding to persecution and intimidation.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, violence against Christians has reached new heights.

This year’s list saw Nigeria reach its highest rank ever, coming in as the sixth most dangerous place to be a Christian.

Believers continued to experience brutal attacks in northern Nigeria, and now the violence has spread to the south. Boko Haram, Fulani militants and other armed extremist groups have conducted raids on Christian communities, killing, maiming, kidnapping, sexually assaulting and burning down houses and churches.

Hostility toward Christ is the underlying trend that drives persecution.

There are over 360 million persecuted Christians in the world.

The list is a sombre reminder that violence against Christians is not diminishing but growing.

We estimate there are over 360 million persecuted Christians in the world, and while Open Doors is serving millions of them, there are millions more who need our support.

So, what can one person do to help Christians who are suffering persecution?

1.    Pray. It’s easy to forget the suffering of others when we are dealing with our own daily challenges, but it is our responsibility to pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Christ. Make it a regular part of your prayer life, and include the names of countries facing hardship in your regular prayer plans.

2.    Learn. Show you care about your neighbours in other countries. Stay informed about the conditions of fellow believers, like Nehemiah who learned about the circumstances of the Jewish people and became burdened to do something about their suffering.

3.    Support. Embrace every Christian that is persecuted in your spiritual family, just as you care for the needs of your physical family. Keep praying. Keep giving. Keep inquiring. Keep your heart soft and open towards those who are dealing with increased violence and persecution.

The information from the World Watch list 2023 can be disturbing, but it shouldn’t be discouraging.

Among the violence and oppression are incredible stories of hope, resilience and God’s faithfulness.

I am truly encouraged by the bravery of the brothers and sisters who I meet – who show me their bullet wounds, the scars and their stories of tragic loss, but they still have the hope that only Jesus can give.

The Cross has given us hope, no matter what circumstances we are facing.

As Easter approaches, remember the gift Jesus gave us and the hope set before us, that we can draw on even in the most challenging times, and the light of salvation found in the name of Jesus Christ alone.

Dan Ole Shani, based in the Netherlands, has been the CEO of Open Doors International for the last five years.