We say we know that, across the world, many people are dying for their faith in Jesus, but do we truly understand the scale of it? New data taken from the latest Open Doors World Watch List indicate that some 11 Christians are martyred for their faith every single day. The shockingly high death toll was taken from the top 50 countries ranked on this year’s World Watch List and demonstrates the incredible level of religious persecution that continues to plague the planet. “Today, in the 21st century, we are living in a time when persecution against Christian believers is the highest in modern history,” the persecution watchdog explained in an update.
“The Christian persecution we read about in Scripture is not a thing of the past.” Christians remain in grave danger for simply choosing to believe in Christ. In North Korea, believers are forced into underground churches, the discovery of which can result in persecution, arrest and even execution. In Afghanistan, Christianity is completely outlawed, with the country’s constitution asserting Islam as the state religion. Open Doors notes that to “convert to a faith outside Islam is tantamount to treason because it’s seen as a betrayal of family, tribe and country,” adding that “very often, there is only one possible outcome for exposed and caught Christians: death.”
Pakistan has made headlines in recent years due to the case brought against Christian mother Asia Bibi. Bibi was convicted under the country’s blasphemy laws over a decade ago, and was swiftly sentenced to death. However, last October Bibi was acquitted by the Supreme Court in a ruling that gave hope to many within the marginalized faith community. Despite her acquittal almost six months ago, Bibi is still being held at an undisclosed location in Pakistan. The head of an Irish human rights charity has personally urged the Pakistani authorities to do more to secure the release of Bibi and ensure her safe passage to Canada, where she has been granted asylum.
“On several occasions, we have made representations to your government regarding the case of Asia Bibi,” Church in Chains director, David Turner, wrote to the Pakistani Ambassador to Ireland. “Most recently, a group of our supporters gathered outside the embassy to highlight the dreadful injustice that she had suffered in that she had been declared innocent by the highest court in Pakistan and released from prison but was still not free, following the decision of the government of Pakistan to ban her from leaving the country while a review petition against her acquittal was considered by the Supreme Court,” the letter noted.
“Therefore, we cannot understand why she has been prevented from leaving Pakistan and are deeply concerned that the Pakistani army is reported to be actively involved in this denial of Ms. Bibi’s human rights. It is completely unacceptable by any criteria that an innocent Christian woman, acquitted in October 2018, upheld in January 2019, is still not free,” Turner continued. The group asked that the ambassador “convey urgently” its request made to the Pakistani government to “act immediately to ensure that Asia Bibi’s rights as an innocent person are fully upheld and that she and her husband are allowed to leave the country immediately.”