The 2022 World Watch List (WWL) released on Wednesday by Open Doors International shows that persecution against Christians continues to rise especially in Asian and African countries and that the COVID 19 pandemic has further exacerbated discrimination.
By Lisa Zengarini
2021 recorded a new significant increase of persecutions against Christians across the world, according to a new report released by Open Doors International, which for over 60 years has been supporting persecuted Christians worldwide.
Over 360 million experiencing persecution
On January 19 the non-denominational organization based in the Netherlands presented its 2022 World Watch List (WWL) which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution for their faith. The survey, covering a period from 1 October 2020 to 30 September 2021, shows that persecution continues to rise especially in Asian and African countries and that the COVID 19 pandemic has further exacerbated discrimination.
According to its findings, which have been thoroughly analyzed by the independent International Institute for Religious Freedom (IRF), over 360 million people (that is 1 out of 7 globally) endured persecution and discrimination in their country last year. Overall, 5,898 Christians were killed (up 23,8 % versus 2020), 5,110 churches were attacked or closed (up 13,8 %), 6,175 were Christians arrested without trial (up 44,3%) and 3,829 kidnapped (up 123,9%).
In the thirteenth century was established that most terrible of all the engines of the papacy—the Inquisition. The prince of darkness wrought with the leaders of the papal hierarchy. In their secret councils Satan and his angels controlled the minds of evil men, while unseen in the midst stood an angel of God, taking the fearful record of their iniquitous decrees and writing the history of deeds too horrible to appear to human eyes. “Babylon the great” was “drunken with the blood of the saints.” The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate power.
Popery had become the world’s despot. Kings and emperors bowed to the decrees of the Roman pontiff. The destinies of men, both for time and for eternity, seemed under his control. For hundreds of years the doctrines of Rome had been extensively and implicitly received, its rites reverently performed, its festivals generally observed. Its clergy were honored and liberally sustained. Never since has the Roman Church attained to greater dignity, magnificence, or power.
But “the noon of the papacy was the midnight of the world.”—J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism, b. 1, ch. 4. The Holy Scriptures were almost unknown, not only to the people, but to the priests. Like the Pharisees of old, the papal leaders hated the light which would reveal their sins. God’s law, the standard of righteousness, having been removed, they exercised power without limit, and practiced vice without restraint. Fraud, avarice, and profligacy prevailed. Men shrank from no crime by which they could gain wealth or position. The palaces of popes and prelates were scenes of the vilest debauchery. Some of the reigning pontiffs were guilty of crimes so revolting that secular rulers endeavored to depose these dignitaries of the church as monsters too vile to be tolerated. For centuries Europe had made no progress in learning, arts, or civilization. A moral and intellectual paralysis had fallen upon Christendom.
The condition of the world under the Romish power presented a fearful and striking fulfillment of the words of the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee: … seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.” Hosea 4:6, 1, 2. Such were the results of banishing the word of God. GC 59.3 – GC 60.3
Afghanistan number one
In the new report, Afghanistan ranks first as the most dangerous country for Christians, since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, overtaking North Korea. However, the situation of religious freedom under the Pyongyang regime of Kim Jong-Un has continued to worsen in the period examined and the Far East country is second in the list after ranking first for 20 years.
Four out of the first five countries recording the highest rate of anti-Christian violence are Islamic States where both political unrest and religious extremism have grown. Apart from Afghanistan, they include Somalia (3), Libia (4) and Yemen (5). They are followed by Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, India, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Sudan, Iraq and Siria.
Anti-Christian violence rising in Nigeria
Anti-Christian violence is still growing in Sub-Sahara Africa, notably in tthe Sahel region (Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali) and in Nigeria, which after entering the top ten in 2020 at number 9, has gone up to number 7 and is confirmed as the nation with the highest number of Christians killed for their faith (4.650). Violence is due mainly to armed Fulani herdsmen laying waste to several Christian villages, as well as to the Islamist Boko Haram group and a range of criminal groups who continue to kill, kidnap and rape.
Attacks increasing in India
Pakistan ranks second for anti-Christian violence, but attacks against Christians are also still growing significantly in neighbouring India, fuelled, in this case, by Hindu nationalists, as confirmed by other recent reports.
India: report highlights escalating anti-Christian attacks in Karnataka
The COVID-19 effect
Covid-19 has also legitimized increased surveillance and restrictions by authoritarian governments in countries, using the need to contain the pandemic to increase their control over Christian communities.
One of the consequences of religious violence against Christians is forced displacement. Many of the some 84 million internally displaced people and of the 26 million refugees recorded in 2021, were Christians fleeing Islamist violence in the Sahel region, Nigeria and other African nations. Also in countries like Myanmar the military crackdown in Christian-majority Chin State and Kachin, Kayah, Shan States has displaced 200,000 Christians and forced some 20,000 to flee the country.
Violence on Christian women
Open Doors has also attempted to find out more about violence against women connected with their Christian faith. Collecting exact data on the phenomenon is difficult, as many women are reluctant to speak out for cultural and social reasons. However, the organization has been able to ascertain 3,100 cases and 1,500 forced marriages in 2021. Further details on this aspect of religious persecution will be given in another report to be published in February.
Yet it was not without a terrible struggle with himself that Luther decided upon a final separation from the church. It was about this time that he wrote: “I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood. Oh, how much pain it has caused me, though I had the Scriptures on my side, to justify it to myself that I should dare to make a stand alone against the pope, and hold him forth as antichrist! What have the tribulations of my heart not been! How many times have I not asked myself with bitterness that question which was so frequent on the lips of the papists: ‘Art thou alone wise? Can everyone else be mistaken? How will it be, if, after all, it is thyself who art wrong, and who art involving in thy error so many souls, who will then be eternally damned?’ ‘Twas so I fought with myself and with Satan, till Christ, by His own infallible word, fortified my heart against these doubts.”—Martyn, pages 372, 373.
The pope had threatened Luther with excommunication if he did not recant, and the threat was now fulfilled. A new bull appeared, declaring the Reformer’s final separation from the Roman Church, denouncing him as accursed of Heaven, and including in the same condemnation all who should receive his doctrines.
The great contest had been fully entered upon.
Opposition is the lot of all whom God employs to present truths specially applicable to their time. There was a present truth in the days of Luther,—a truth at that time of special importance; there is a present truth for the church today. He who does all things according to the counsel of His will has been pleased to place men under various circumstances and to enjoin upon them duties peculiar to the times in which they live and the conditions under which they are placed. If they would prize the light given them, broader views of truth would be opened before them. But truth is no more desired by the majority today than it was by the papists who opposed Luther. There is the same disposition to accept the theories and traditions of men instead of the word of God as in former ages. Those who present the truth for this time should not expect to be received with greater favor than were earlier reformers. The great controversy between truth and error, between Christ and Satan, is to increase in intensity to the close of this world’s history.
Said Jesus to His disciples: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept My saying, they will keep yours also.” John 15:19, 20. And on the other hand our Lord declared plainly: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Luke 6:26. The spirit of the world is no more in harmony with the spirit of Christ today than in earlier times, and those who preach the word of God in its purity will be received with no greater favor now than then. The forms of opposition to the truth may change, the enmity may be less open because it is more subtle; but the same antagonism still exists and will be manifested to the end of time GC 143.1 – GC 144.1