A few months ago, I came across an article that brought to my attention the horrible persecution happening in Africa and specifically Nigeria. I originally thought that any killings happening in Africa were caused by government control of citizens or from conflicts based on land ownership. Many questions began to form in my mind. Why are so many Christians being targeted? Why was this happening but not really being talked about?
During my search for more information, I found a group called Open Doors. The main purpose of this non-profit organization is to help persecuted Christians by making sure they have Bibles to continue growing in faith with the Word of God, create programs for the betterment of women and children and restoring faith communities. Open Doors defines Christian persecution as, “any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian. This can include hostile attitudes, words and actions toward Christians”. For over sixty years they have compiled information from over sixty countries, through volunteer associates, to better reach those Christians who are persecuted.
How is the information put together?
Open Doors has created a World Watch List ranking the top fifty countries that persecute Christians. The information that has been gathered is separated into six categories: private, family, community, national, church, violence. Violence is the easiest persecution to identify. All the other categories are more personal and need daily observation to determine how Christian life is affected. A questionnaire is filled out with evidence collected during a certain time frame. Each questionnaire is cross referenced by an external expert. Variables are accounted for, such as the frequency of persecution or if the persecution is greater in only one part of a country. The categories are given a score out of 16.667. The IIRF (International Institute for Religious Freedom) audits all the information that Open Doors has gathered and gives approval before it can be incorporated into the score. After the categories are added up the countries are ranked. Open Doors does caution that the “rankings must always be viewed in conjunction with the corresponding country Persecution Dynamics which explain the particularities of the persecution situation”. The only importance to Open Doors for displaying these rankings is to show the world the reality of what is happening to Christians.
Why is this persecution happening?
According to the information that Open Doors has collected, there are fourteen African countries currently in the top fifty list. The source of Christian persecution for all these countries is coming from Islamic oppression. This is a more recent occurrence. As evidence, an article that the pew research center published in 2010 shows that Muslims and Christians were tolerant and mostly accepting of each other in the sub-Saharan African countries. In terms of persecution the article only mentioned that “there is little evidence in the survey findings to indicate that either Christianity or Islam is growing in sub-Saharan Africa at the expense of the other”. We know for sure that the current persecution started happening within the last nine years. One theory that Open Doors has for the Islamic oppression of Christians is that Islamic extremists have been defeated, for the most part, in the Middle East and have traveled mostly to the sub-Saharan countries and have been continuing their terrorism there.
How to help.
If you are interested in helping through Open Doors, the persecuted Christians biggest request is prayer. Open Doors has many prayer options on their app and website. Other options include: volunteering, advocating and donating.
Islamic oppression has not been quelled, it has only been redirected.