How do you see persecution? According to Open Doors, 1 in 8 Christians worldwide experience persecution for their faith. That’s 1 in 8 of us whose faith can come at great cost — in some cases, even at the cost of life itself. This month, in response to this painful statistic, we will be sharing stories in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who so often live out their faith in the shadows. We pray this would shine a light in the otherwise-darkened corners of our world and connect us all to these hidden members of the body of Christ.
“We are calling for prayer for TWR Women of Hope in Central Africa. The security situation is serious as we write to you. The rebellion made its foray through coordinated attacks from the city of Bangui. Several people died, mostly in the southwest and north of the capital zone, where our prayer groups are located. Some phones don't answer calls. All activities are blocked. No news. Urgently pray for us. According to reports, children are traumatized by the detonations of heavy weapons.”
The disturbing message above was received recently by our TWR Africa office from a TWR worker in the Central African Republic. It offers support for the staggering statistic, released by Open Doors in January, that Christians in sub-Saharan Africa faced up to 30 percent higher levels of violence in 2020 than in the previous year, while other parts of the world saw a decrease in violence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has given new weapons to people who want to suppress and eradicate Christianity,” said Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland. “In Africa and Asia, Christians are being denied food aid. In Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa, Islamic militants are exploiting COVID-19 restrictions to intensify their attacks.”
The latest World Watch List has seen one more West African country, namely Nigeria, added to the top 10 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution. Four African countries – Somalia, Libya, Eritrea and Nigeria – are now among the top 10, cumulatively accounting for 40 percent of countries worldwide.
Furthermore, 17 African countries are in the Open Doors ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most extreme persecution, accounting for roughly 33 percent of countries worldwide. Of the 4,700 people who have been killed for their Christian faith, as documented in the Open Doors report, over 3,500 of them were in Nigeria.
The heartbreaking reality is that millions of Christians in Africa still face oppression and violence because of their faith. Many instances of forcible conversion by marriage indicates that, apart from faith, gender bias is still prevalent in many of these countries.
Thankfully, there is also good news to report, such as that the 2019 transitional constitution of Sudan guaranteed freedom of religion and omitted reference to Shariah, or Islamic law, as a source of national law. In addition, TWR continues to speak hope to the continent throughout these difficult times because hope knows no barriers.
In 2021, increased terrorist attacks in northern Mozambique displaced thousands of people. During this time of stress and uncertainty, TWR launched an audio program in Portuguese called Hope in Hard Times, which offers psychological and spiritual resources to help listeners deal with their trauma and look for the peace that can be found only in Jesus. It was developed in partnership with other organizations. Similarly, many new projects, initiatives and programming in other African languages are in development and added on a regular basis.
A listener from Benin, where Fongbe is a national language, recently wrote:
“I enjoy being one of the TTB [Thru the Bible] Fongbe program listeners, even though I am a new listener. I listen to TWR programs on radio and on the WhatsApp group, and these programs help me very well to be daily aware of my identity in Christ. Through many of these TTB Fongbe programs, I have been taught that I can face any situation in prayer by faith. So, two weeks ago, my daughter came back from the office with a swollen leg. It was so painful to her that she could neither lie down nor sit down.
“She was weeping and was doubled up with pain. It was a difficult situation. The Spirit of God convinced me to pray at that very time. … Then I remembered one of the of TTB Fongbe programs in which the host said that as father, I am the priest of my house. I asked my wife and my children not to be afraid. I started to pray in the name of Jesus as we were asked to do so in many programs of TTB. Miraculously, we didn’t even have to go to the hospital before she was healed. I’m very grateful to God for everything he is doing in my life through the programs of TTB Fongbe.”
* A pseudonym and stock image are used to protect the person’s privacy.