‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33b)
Islamic extremism threatens Middle East Christians
As the Western world reeled from the Islamist attacks in Paris in January, our 2015 World Watch List revealed that Islamic extremism has been devastating for Christians around the world in the past year – it’s a major factor for 18 out of the top 20 countries.
The Middle East is a region of particular concern, with Iraq and Syria taking positions three and four following the rise of Islamic State. Only 300,000 Christians are left in Iraq, down from 1.2 million in 1990. Over 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the conflict broke out in 2011; 200,000 Christians fled the country in 2014 alone.
Lisa Pearce, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland, visited an Iraqi refugee camp in November, where one desperate mother told her: ‘I haven’t seen my daughter since IS took her. I cried and shouted at them – what could they want with a three-year-old? She’s just a child.’
Beyond the Middle East, one of the biggest trends is the rise in persecution in countries where it has not historically been an issue – in parts of Asia, Latin America, and especially sub-Saharan Africa.
Even Christian-majority states are experiencing unprecedented levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence; Nigeria has moved up from number 14 to number 10, and Kenya is the highest climbing country on the entire list, at number 19.
‘I am convinced that what happens in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa in the next three years will define the future of Christianity as we know it. We can’t afford to sleep-walk through these critical days,’ says Lisa. ‘The church is experiencing persecution on an unprecedented scale. Time is running out.’
- for comfort for all who suffer at the hands of Islamic extremism, including the thousands of refugees who are suffering in Syria and Iraq
- for an end to violence in Nigeria and Kenya, and protection for Christians there
- for wisdom for the international community as they attempt to tackle Islamic extremism in its various forms and engage with the issue of religious freedom.
Used with permission of Open Doors UK & Ireland.