Christian “martyr” deaths double in 2013 – reported by Open Doors (Reblog)


8:12 am, January 8, 2014


* Syria tops “martyr count” with more than 2012 global total

* North Korea still most dangerous state for Christians

* Violence against Christians rising in Africa

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor (click on link for original article)

LONDON, Jan 8 (Reuters) – Reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the year before, with Syria accounting for more than the whole global total in 2012, according to an annual survey.

Open Doors, a non-denominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide, said on Wednesday it had documented 2,123 “martyr” killings, compared with 1,201 in 2012. There were 1,213 such deaths in Syria alone last year, it said.

“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other Christian groups put the annual figure as high as 8,000.

The Open Doors report placed North Korea at the top of its list of 50 most dangerous countries for Christians, a position it has held since the annual survey began 12 years ago. Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were the next four in line.

The United States-based group reported increasing violence against Christians in Africa and said radical Muslims were the main source of persecution in 36 countries on its list.

“Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church,” it said.


Christianity is the largest and most widely spread faith in the world, with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life.

It faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam, another Pew survey has reported.

Michel Varton, head of Open Doors France, told journalists in Strasbourg that failing states with civil wars or persistent internal tensions were often the most dangerous for Christians.

“In Syria, another war is thriving in the shadow of the civil war — the war against the church,” he said while presenting the Open Doors report there.

About 10 percent of Syrians are Christians. Many have become targets for Islamist rebels who see them as supporters of President Bashar al-Assad.

Nine of the 10 countries listed as dangerous for Christians are Muslim-majority states, many of them torn by conflicts with radical Islamists. Saudi Arabia is an exception but ranked sixth because of its total ban on practicing faiths other than Islam.

In the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012. Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.

The report spoke of “horrific violence often directed at Christians” in the Central African Republic but said only nine deaths were confirmed last year because “most analysts still fail to recognise the religious dimension of the conflict.”


The report had no figures for killings in North Korea but said Christians there faced “the highest imaginable pressure” and some 50,000 to 70,000 lived in political prison camps.

“The God-like worship of the rulers leaves no room for any other religion,” it said.

There was now “a strong drive to purge Christianity from Somalia,” the report added, and Islamist attacks on Iraqi Christians have been increasing in the semi-autonomous Kurdish north, formerly a relatively safe area for them.

Veerman, based near Utrecht in the Netherlands, said that killings were only the most extreme examples of persecutions. Christians also face attacks on churches and schools, discrimination, threats, sexual assaults and expulsion from countries.

Open Doors, which began in the 1950s smuggling Bibles into communist states and now works in more than 60 countries, estimated last year that about 100 million Christians around the world suffered persecution for their faith.

From the Heart of a Syrian Pastor ~ please pray.

Peanut Gallery: Please pray for the people of Syria.

“The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.” Psalm 9:9-10 (NLT)

Click here for Open Door’s original post:   FROM THE HEART OF A SYRIAN PASTOR.


Open Doors received a prayer from a pastor, one of our partners in the relief work in Syria. The prayer, which is both moving and heartbreaking, gives an insight into the suffering of those who have decided to stay in Syria.

“I weep for my country! I am so sad and speechless…

“They advise me to leave my country… to emigrate. I respond saying:

  • I’m staying… for the church of Jesus … that the message of Jesus may remain a light guiding those who are lost and afraid.
  • I’m staying… because the harvest is plentiful… and the suffering is huge… a deep wound, a sense of despair …
  • I’m staying … to follow in the footsteps of my Master who went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil.
  • I’m staying… because I’m busy… in the ministry of saving souls (or can someone like me run… Lord give me strength).
  • “O Lord, hear and answer my prayers.”

Please join in praying through these prayer points provided by Syrian Christians.

  • That the cup of war be taken away from our country, Syria.
  • That the Lord may crush the conspiracy of the evil ones and their war plans… and consider their threats.
  • That He may send the power of His Holy Spirit on His church, that it may reach out to the suffering souls who – harassed and helpless – are like sheep without a shepherd.
  • That the Lord may help us to speak with great boldness and that many wonders and signs be performed … and souls return to Christ, and there be singing and praises.
  • That the Lord may send more help – that the house of the Lord may have food to satisfy the needs of the internally displaced, hundreds of whom are without any shelter.
  • That the Lord may send more support for the wounded and the sick who are in need of surgery, medication, and healing.
  • That the Lord may send those who can help us build a center for children affected by the war and send those who can help the children who are now disabled, and have special needs.
  • That the Lord will enable us to take care of those who have lost their supporters, and help them to get back on their feet.

Father, as we join the world in reflecting on the plight of the people of Syria, ravaged by unrelenting civil war, we look on not as those who are without hope, but as those whose anchor of hope is in You, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And so we come before You on behalf of the people of Syria, especially Your church there, imploring You to take away this cup of war from them.

We call upon You to bring peace and justice in the midst of spiritual darkness, that all might know that You have done it. Protect Your church and grant them courage and opportunity to speak the truth with great boldness that a vast multitude might turn to Christ in worship and praise.

We pray that You will provide Your people with food and shelter, with medical care and healing. And we grieve over the children, wounded and traumatized by the very powers that should be protecting them. Raise up resources to provide a place of refuge, comfort, hope and healing for these children that their bodies might be sustained and their hearts kept from becoming hardened. Cause Your Spirit to breathe life into their parched souls.

In the name of Jesus, our refuge and sure defense in a world pillaged by the evil one. Amen.

Please pray for Christians in Tunisia ~ World Watch List #30

TUNISIA (Wikipedia) – World Watch List #30 (Open Doors UK)

tunisia_mapPopulation: 10.7 million (24,000 Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Republic
Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism

Under former President Ben Ali, Tunisia was a secular country in which timid expressions of Christianity were tolerated. Now, Christians face increasing persecution from the moderately Islamic government and from aggressive Salafist groups. Expat churches face few problems, but local Muslim-background believers face pressure from society, and may be questioned and beaten once their conversion is known. The secular legal system remains in place, but the government is moving towards implementing Islamic law. Despite the increasing pressure, the small indigenous church is growing slowly.

tunisialive woman 10-1PLEASE PRAY:

  • Radical Muslims are returning to the country and spreading extremist messages. Pray that their influence will not spread
  • The economy is in a bad state and unemployment is growing. Pray for wisdom for the government
  • Importation of Christian books in the Arabic language is obstructed. Ask God to protect Open Doors co-workers distributing Bibles in the country.

[For current news in Tunisia go to Tunisia Live – click here.]


Tunisian Christians experience increasing pressure at the private and family level and pressure is clearly greater for those who come to Christ from a Muslim background than for the few expat churches. The secular legal system remains in place, but this is likely to change as the country’s Islamic government is taking steps towards the implementation of Sharia (Islamic law). Although the constitution currently respects freedom of religion, importing Christian books is obstructed, national churches cannot register and local Christians are questioned and beaten once their conversion is known.

Tunisia needs a new political system; the economy is in a bad state, unemployment is growing and tourism levels have dropped. Radical Muslims are returning to the country and spreading extremist messages. The rise of Salafism is also a stressful development for many believers. With political developments looking grim and Islamic movements getting stronger, the situation of the small Christian population in the country has deteriorated and is not expected to improve. However, on a positive note, the small indigenous church seems to be growing slowly.

tunisia churchCHANGES SINCE ARAB SPRING: (Open Doors US)

Things have changed in Tunisia after the Arab Spring first erupted in this North-African country. Dictator Ben Ali is gone and the elections were held with a landslide win for the Islamists. Christians see a greater spiritual openness than ever before in the country, and see discipleship as the principal need at this moment.

The Tunisian Church has already been changing for the last fifteen years. Till the end of last century, there were only house groups of Christians active in this North-African country. Now churches choose to be visible. Last year the church especially grew outside the capital Tunis.

Tunisian Christian“Coming more to the surface seems to have strengthened the Christians,” explains an Open Doors field worker. Self-awareness grew and the level of fear went down. Now you can see during the Saturday services interested people coming in from the street, attracted by curiosity of what is going on in the churches. We see Church engaging with society. Groups of Christians meet in several smaller cities in Tunisia.” Tunisian Christians see a strong response to the gospel. “I heard of people accepting Christ while escaping teargas,” the field worker. says.

We also spoke with Raatib*, a Christian that doesn’t hide his faith. Raatib is discipling two groups of young Christians in two different cities. He travels a great distance to these places to be able to give the training to the new believers. He is using Open Doors training material. “The church needs discipleship in any way or form, it is by far the most prevalent need for the church,” he says with conviction.

Raatib* – not his real name for security reasons.

Please pray for Christians in Bhutan – World Watch List #28 (Open Doors)

BHUTAN (Wikipedia) – World Watch List #28 (Open Doors UK)

World Map showing Bhutan
World Map showing Bhutan

Population: 750,000 (20,000 Christians)
Main Religion: Mahayana Buddhism
Government: Constitutional monarchy
Source of Persecution: Religious militancy/tribal antagonism

Despite its transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy, Buddhism continues to play a dominant role in Bhutan. The constitution promotes religious tolerance, but parliament is still considering an amendment to the penal code aimed at prohibiting ‘conversion by coercion or inducement’. Christians can generally meet in private homes without government interference, but the authorities restrict the construction of non-Buddhist places of worship and the celebration of some non-Buddhist festivals. Although reports of Christians being arrested or physically harmed are decreasing, believers still face harassment.

Bhutan ChristiansPLEASE PRAY:

  • The media portrays Christians negatively. Pray for positive change in society’s attitude to Christianity
  • The church lacks trained leaders. Pray for training opportunities for pastors and church workers
  • That the transition to a more democratic rule would bring genuine change for religious minorities.

[Local Bhutanese spinning the prayer wheels at a monastery in Bumthang during a mass noviciation ceremony, as seen on a Cox & Kings holiday (]


Bhutan city streetBhutan was a Buddhist kingdom for centuries and even now, after introducing a constitutional monarchy and democracy, Buddhism plays a dominant role. The monarch is deemed to be the protector of all faiths in Bhutan, which includes Hindus and a small, albeit increasing, number of Christians. However, there is a lot of pressure on Christians from the local community, especially local administrators who deny meetings and put obstacles in the way of believers. Although the constitution of Bhutan promotes secularism and religious tolerance, it also labels Buddhism as the ‘spiritual heritage’ of the country.

Bhutan woman and childThe church in Bhutan is no longer an underground church and Christians are able to meet in private homes on Sundays, generally without interference from the authorities. Reports of Christians being arrested, physically harmed or otherwise badly treated remain on the decline but they still face harassment. The media has not helped the Christians’ case and Christianity is viewed as a religion that brings the sort of chaos and division in society that Bhutan shuns.


Karen*is a Christian teenager in Bhutan and has asked us to pray for her parents who are non-Christians. “My mom and dad are still orthodox Hindus,” she said. “Please continue praying for them.”

After finishing high school, Karen took a job at a beverage factory and moved out of her home town. She is staying at a cousin’s place at one of the border areas in southern Bhutan, where Hindu communities thrive. In her new surroundings, Karen’s newfound hope is tested.

Bhutan scenery“My uncle’s eldest son beat me when he discovered I was a Christian,” Karen says. “Please pray for him too; pray that he discovers the Lord Jesus Christ.” But Karen does not give up her faith. She continues attending the house church in her new village.

Karen’s steadiness in the faith has been evident also at work, and she was promoted as a result. “From the packaging section, I am now assigned to work at the counters. May God continue to grant me favor.”

Please continue to pray for Karen as she grows in her faith, despite the persecution that she faces.

*Karen’s real name and other details about her are withheld for her security. She is the only Christian in her family.

Please pray for Christians in Brunei – World Watch List #27

BRUNEI (Wikipedia) – World Watch List #27 (Open Doors, UK)

brunei mapPopulation: 413,000 (41,300 Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Constitutional Sultanate
Source of Persecution: Islamic extremism /tribal antagonism

Contact with Christians in other countries, the import of Bibles and the public celebration of Christmas are all banned in this Islamic nation. The monarchy is seen as the defender of the faith and Islamic law has been fully implemented since 2011. There is a programme of Islamisation for natives. Muslim-background believers can face hostility from family and community. The government recognises only three Catholic and three Anglican churches; unregistered churches are considered ‘illegal sects’ and are monitored by government officials.

Brunei womenPLEASE PRAY:

  • The level of fear among Christians is very high. Pray for courage to stand firm in the faith
  • Christian bookshops are not allowed. Pray that believers and seekers will gain access to God’s Word
  • The Sultan has announced that from 2013, Islamic religious studies will become a compulsory subject in schools. Pray that children will have the opportunity to hear the gospel.


Brunei is an Islamic nation, based on an ideology called Malay Muslim Monarchy. Islam governs all aspects of life here. By decree, contact with Christians in other countries, the import of Bibles and the public celebration of Christmas are all banned. There is a programme of Islamisation for locals, and those entering a tribal village are monitored by government spies and police. Family, friends and neighbours can become sources of hostility for Muslim-background believers.

Brunei menThe church is not able to function freely and churches are ‘spied on’ by government officials. Providing theological training is difficult and Christian bookshops are not allowed. The level of fear among Christians is very high. There are six Christian schools but they face pressure to remove Bible studies from the curriculum. Recently, the Sultan announced that from 2013 Islamic religious studies will become a compulsory subject in schools. As long as the ruling monarch perceives himself as defender of the faith and the governing authorities execute his will, the Christian minority will be neglected and discriminated against.


The Sultan of Brunei, (also known as Hassanai Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah) has an estimated net worth of $20 billion.
The Sultan of Brunei, (also known as Hassanai Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah) has an estimated net worth of $20 billion.

Brunei Darussalam, what means “Brunei, house of peace”, is a very small country on the Island of Borneo, bordering the much larger Malaysia. It is a young country as well, as it became fully independent from British rule in 1984, though its constitution was agreed on in 1959. Due to large oil and gas findings dating back as far as 1924, it is among the wealthiest nations on earth. In terms of GDP per capita, it ranks fifth worldwide and reportedly is one of only two nations without public debts.

Though Brunei is an ethnically mixed society with a large Chinese minority, approximately 2/3 of the population is Malay. The legislative council meets once a year in a strict advisory capacity, which means that politics are done largely by the Sultan and by the addresses he gives. As head of religion, the Sultan is called to protect the official religion of the country, Islam. All adherents of other religions may practice their faiths in peace and harmony, according to the constitution, but the country discourages practicing other faiths, and promotes Islam in all spheres of life. The recent announcements of the Sultan point to a stricter conservatism, as he introduced obligatory Islamic religious studies for all schools.