Worldwide Persecution of Christians

"Christians: the world's most persecuted people" [The Independent, 2014]
Countries of least religious freedom: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Burma.
See persecution map

Some Facts about Persecution of Christians

  • More Christians were martyred in the 20th century than in all other centuries combined [christianity.com]
  • It is claimed that 105,000 Christians are martyred for their faith each year [Deseret News, 2011]
  • Currently over 100 million Christians are being persecuted worldwide [Reuters, 2013]
  • 70 percent of the world's population lives in a religiously intolerant environment [Pew Forum, 2011]
  • North Korea: in 2014 it continues to be the worst country in the world for persecution
  • Nigeria: In 2010 Christians suffered terror from Muslim extremists. Whole village massacred
  • Iran: Its parliament believes Muslims who change their faith should be put to death
  • India: up to 70,000 in Orissa have been forced to flee their homes in riots against Christians
  • Indonesia: Between 2000-2002 Muslims slaughtered 10,000 Christians
  • Iraq: half of Iraq's Christians have fled the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein
  • Egypt: Under Islamist pressure, Coptic Christians are being forced from their homes
  • Syria: By 2012, most of the 80,000 Christians in Homs had been 'cleansed' from their homes
  • Europe: persecution is coming in by stealth through EU equality directives

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Why are Christians Persecuted?

Religious persecution can be defined as the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group simply because of their belief. In other words, the persecution is unwarranted. Christians have been persecuted from earliest times e.g. Acts 8.1 and believers were told to expect it:

'If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you ...' (Jn 15.20)

'All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted' (2 Tim 3.12)

Why persecution? The root cause of persecution is spiritual, not ideological. Satan hates both national Israel (the Jews) and spiritual Israel, the church. In fact, he wages war upon both Jew and believer in Christ (Rev 12.17), and since he is still ruler of this world (until Christ comes, Jn 12.31) he uses the world e.g. humanistic law in Europe, or extremists of other faiths, to carry out his aims.

Some see Satan's trump card against Jew and believer alike to be the inability to buy or sell without his mark (see the cashless society. But Jesus saw such hatred as an opportunity. Just as His undeserved death on the cross is still a powerful witness of love truth and grace today, so it will be when believers are persecuted. Jesus said:

"It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony." (Lk 21.13)

Like Christ, a person who suffers unwarranted mistreatment for their faith gives a powerful message that their belief is worth suffering for. It is solid. It is true. It is reality. This will be evidenced when believers are brought before Councils and Courts; at these times they will be given supernatural speech and wisdom which will confound their accusers (Lk 21.15).

EU Law Leads to Persecution

Persecution is happening by stealth through EU Equality Law. The EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC established a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation. This stated: "... any direct or indirect discrimination based on religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards the areas covered by this Directive should be prohibited throughout the Community". In a 2008 Directive the European Commission proposed extending protection from discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services to cover disability, age, sexual orientation and religion or belief.

Harassment was also deemed to be a form of discrimination: namely, "when unwanted conduct takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment".

In 2009, the European Commission took legal action against the UK on non-compliance with EU equality rules. Compliance is legally enforced! So now we have the UK Equality Act 2010.

The Effect

The concept of equal treatment and anti-discrimination is enshrined in the Bible. God loves justice and equality. So what's the problem? The problem is that humanistic EU law is replacing biblical morality, ethics and truth in Europe. France in particular maintains that "the EU had to remain a secular construction respective of its different traditions and religions" [Michel Barnier, French Foreign Minister 2004-2005]. Correspondingly, it is stated that there will be no reference to Europe's Christian roots in any revised EU Treaty. German chancellor Angela Merkel has said "there is not much of a chance on the prospects of God appearing in a preamble to the EU text".

This makes it difficult for Christians to work in certain occupations, such as social work, health care or B&B, where their biblical beliefs could be compromised (see examples opposite). Invariably, anti-discimination law stemming from EU Directives takes precedence over personal belief and ethics. The bishops of England, Wales and Scotland denounced the European Commission's planned Equal Treatment Directive as "wholly unacceptable" because, they said, it would force Christians to act against their consciences.

Even free speech between faiths is challenged by laws on harassment. Here it does not necessarily have to be that the harasser has a motive or an intention to harass. So it is still harassment even if the harasser does not know there is harm caused by their actions! For example, a Muslim might claim harassment (take offense, claim intimidation, feel humiliated...) by simply hearing quotes from the Bible.


EU Directives aim to eliminate discrimination and to promote equality through the sole mechanism of humanistic law. No reference is made to the absolute and transcendent moral and ethical standards found in the Bible. The result is to silence free speech, especially in the areas of sexuality and religion. In attempting to protect and improve social cohesion, these laws have enslaved and divided, and introduced persecution by stealth.

Read more at Equality Law & Ethics.

Arab Spring
Christian Winter

'Upheaval in the Islamic world looks set to pose the greatest threat to Christians in 2013' [Release International].


Four foreign Christians have been arrested on the charge 'suspicion of being missionaries' [2013]. Libyan security said 'Proselytizing is forbidden in Libya - we are a 100% Muslim country and this kind of action affects our national security'. So Islam is afraid of Christianity!


Reports suggest that up to 100,000 Christians left Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. Christian homes, businesses, buildings and cars have been attacked [2013].


Islamic fundamentalists fighting Assad have murdered Christians and attacked churches. 'We are witnessing another Arab country losing its Christian minority' [Archdeacon E. Youkhana of the Assyrian Church].

Worldwide Persecution from Islam

It is estimated that approximately 90% of all world violence has Islam on one side or the other [The Martyrs' Cry]

Persecution - Past

In its ultimate form, persecution results in martyrdom. A martyr is one who, without seeking their own death or any harm to others, is murdered or put to death for their religious faith. The word 'martyr' comes from the Greek word translated "witness". Such extreme witness is always positive in that it leads to church growth:

"We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed." [Tertullian, theologian in the early Christian church]

All faiths have martyrs: the World Christian Encyclopedia (2001) estimates that there have been some 80M Muslim martyrs, 70M Christian martyrs and 30M Hindu martyrs since the start of these faiths. The first Christian martyr was Stephen. Looking back at Christian martyrdom:

  • Most of the apostles (Philip, Matthew, Mark, Peter, Paul ...) were martyred
  • Many were martyred in the Middle Ages (Huss, Jerome, Joan of Arc ...)
  • Between 1540 and 1570 some one million Protestants were publicly put to death in various countries in Europe
  • Overall, some 50 million were martyred by the Roman Catholic Inquisition for 'heresy' between 606 AD and the middle of the 19th century:
  • Protestant reformers (More, Tyndale, Latimer, Cranmer ...) were martyred
  • Some 20 million were martyred during the 70 years of Russian atheism and communism

For more information on past persecutions, see Christian martrys.

Persecution - Today

Today we have the noble declaration of human rights enshrined in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

"Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Worldwide Persecution

Despite Article 18, there are severe human rights violations in many countries, especially in the so-called 10-40 window. Christians are persecuted across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, most of Asia (including China) and now Europe (via the European Union). Iran is one of the world's most repressive states, and those who offend Sharia law may be publicly flogged or even executed by hanging in the streets. In 2008 over 200 million Christians around the world were in danger of being tortured, persecuted, or killed for their faith.

For further information on current worldwide persecutions see:
Release International, International Christian Concern
Barnabasfund and Open Doors

Persecution by Crucifixion

Islam has used crucifixion as a form of punishment since medieval times. According to the Quran, resisting Islam is met by death, crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet (Surah 5:33). Today, the media is largely silent and politically correct on such barbaric activities, but it cannot hide the fact that it is happening in the 21st century under political Islam. It is claimed that Islamic extremists have publicly crucified two Syrian rebels in NE Syria, link and Raymond Ibrahim adds more detail. It is also claimed that jihadists are hanging the bodies of executed enemies on crosses crucifixion-style in a town in Northern Syria, link, link. Crucifixions have taken place in Aleppo, where militants said the bodies would hang for three days [Reuters], link.

Persecution in North Korea

In 2014, atheistic North Korea continues to be the number one place in the world where faith costs the most. Christians are classified as hostile and persecution is extreme: they are imprisoned in labour camps, tortured, or even killed just for owning a Bible.

North Korean leadership sees Christianity as a threat and so has total control of information coming out of the country. Nevertheless, reports have got out and have been identified and confirmed by the UN. The tortures that are happening to Christians have been described as 'absolutely inhumane'.

Persecution in China

There has been an aggressive crackdown on house churches in China [2013]. Believers are forced to call their gatherings 'patriotic' assemblies, or be sent to prison and possible torture. Government persecution of Christians rose 42% in 2012 through a plan by Beijing to eradicate unregistered house churches [China Aid, Texas]. China feels threatened by any movement that galvanizes a large sector of the population. Thank God for the bold witness of Shouwang Church in Beijing which continues to hold outdoor services as officials continue to deny them access to their building [Release International].

Persecution in Pakistan

The country's blasphemy laws are some of the strictest in the world, and the World Council of Churches (WCC) has called them "a major source of victimization and persecution" of religious minorities (Christians comprise just 1.6% of the population). The mere accusation of blasphemy is enough to spur angry mobs to violence and in March 2013 some 3,000 Muslims stormed Christian churches, torched hundreds of homes and burned hundreds of Bibles in a Christian neighbourhood of Lahore.

Quite reasonably, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) prohibits people from sending messages that are "false, fabricated, indecent or obscene". But texting "Jesus Christ" on mobile phones is also banned! Why is Jesus Christ offensive to Muslims? Are they afraid of the source of truth?

Persecution in Egypt

The Sharia-biased Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, headed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, has taken over the country from the Mubarak regime. Today, Coptic Christians are paying the increased price for regime change with their lives and property. "The reality is the persecution of Christians and other minorities inside Egypt has increased dramatically since the Morsi election" (Jerry Dykstra, director of communications at Open Doors USA).

Muslim attacks on Christians throughout Egypt follow a sequence of events: threatening leaflets, followed by attacks on Christian property, followed by the displacement of Christians. Some leaflets offer monetary rewards to Muslims who 'kill or physically attack the enemies of Allah'. When asked for help, the police, the army and the Muslim Brotherhood led government tend to 'look the other way', and little is reported on Western media (Source: Unity Coalition for Israel, 2012).

Persecution in Nigeria

On 7 March 2010 some 500 Christians were murdered in the night by rampaging Muslim gangs near the city of Jos. Some accuse the military of complicity in the killings. If you want to see reality, try and watch the following video. WARNING: it contains violent scenes:

Persecution in Germany

In August 2013 a task force of 20 police, social workers and special agents raided the home of a Christian family in Darmstadt. The four children (7-14 years) were forcibly removed from devastated parents after a court claimed that the children had "adopted the parents' opinions".

The Home School Legal Defense Association said "the sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich (a Christian couple) continued to home-school their children in defiance of a German ban on home education". The Father, Dirk Wunderlich, said "the government is trying to influence the children". It is claimed that the German government's motive is to implement a pluralistic ideology. The children were later returned on condition that they were sent to a state school.

Persecution in the UK

Persecution in the UK is happening by stealth via EU Equality Law (see opposite). It is also happening from political Islam in the UK. Consider just a few of many cases:

  • At least 1,100 UK Christians (possibly nearer to 3,000) who have converted from Islam can be protected from persecution via a secret network of 'safe houses' being set up across Britain [2014].
  • A Christian counsellor has been dismissed from Relate because he felt his obligation to give sex therapy to homosexual couples contradicted his Christian ethics.
  • A Christian minister has been removed from a community radio talk show because his statement that ‘Jesus is the only way’ offended some Muslim listeners.
  • A Christian policeman provoked unjustified anger in his local police force when he made a stand on his Christian beliefs regarding homosexuality. He was threatend with dismissal.
  • A Christian couple had to turn their hotel into a community center after they lost their income following a conversation with a Muslim woman. The Muslim accused the couple of criticizing Islam. A court found them not guilty of any offense but their bussiness suffered.
  • A teacher was suspended after offering to pray for a student. "I am amazed that a country with such a strong Christian tradition has become a country where it is hard to speak about your faith."
  • A UK court ruled against a Christian employee of British Airways after she challenged the decision by her employer to ban her from wearing a visible cross at work.
  • A judge declared it was unlawful for two Christian guesthouse owners to deny a double room to a couple in a civil partnership. The judge ruled that under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, civil partnerships must be treated in the same way as marriage.
  • After a judicial review brought by the National Secular Society (NSS) on behalf of an ex-councillor and atheist, a High Court in London banned prayers at the start of Bideford Council meetings. The ex-councillor claimed to be 'embarrassed' by the long-standing tradition of saying prayers even though he was not obliged to take part. The ban was on a technical point but is one more example of the judicial bias against Christianity.
  • A teacher from London came under under investigation because she refused to teach children that disagreeing with gay marriage is automatically homophobic. Another teacher from London was told she had broken the law because she would not use a story book about two male penguins raising a chick together. There is an urgent need for civil liberty protections for people who disagree with same-sex marriage.
  • The Association of Christian Counsellors (ACC) has bowed to pressure from the PSA (a government statutory body) to remove any therapeutic support to people with unwanted same-sex attraction. Another example of persecution by stealth!
  • A Christian occupational therapist was disciplined for praying for a Muslim colleague. The colleague expressed concerns about her health and accepted prayer. She had never complained to the therapist and had always initiated discussions about Christianity. The therapist said "There is undoubtedly a pattern of inequality of treatment of Christians and Muslims in the NHS".

UK Police State

In 2013, three Christian street preachers were arrested in the UK: "These preachers are not breaking any laws and are perfectly within their rights. The police are overreaching their authority and misapplying the law. Their actions show an increasing hostility towards Christianity" [Christian Concern]. In a similar incident, a 73 year old preacher was arrested outside Banbury Magistrates Court House simply because some people inside the building found his preaching 'offensive'. Subsequently all charges against him were dismissed by Oxford Magistrates Court, which said that he had 'no case to answer'. This is another example of unjustified police aggression against Christians.

The UK government plans new injunctions to prevent 'nuisance' and 'annoyance' and these could severely curtail street preaching and carol singing.

Sharia in the UK

Another example of persecution in the UK can be seen in the growing use of Sharia Law via Sharia Councils in the UK (clearly, this is arising from Islamic teaching and not via the EU). In Sharia we see very unequal treatment of men and women, with women severely disadvantaged compared to their equality under UK Judeo-Christian law. This could be seen as a form of persecution and is explained in the following video:

Fighting for Justice in the UK

Persecution is a violation of ones human rights as stated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. More importantly, the God of the Bible loves justice and instructs man to do justice (Mic 6.8) and to preserve justice (Isa 56.1). Cases of UK persecution have therefore been taken to court, and won! Examples of restored justice (aided by legal action from The Christian Legal Center):

  • Margaret Forrester, a Christian mental health worker was restored to work and even offered a better job, following her suspension from her NHS job for expressing her private views on abortion to colleagues.
  • a Christian nurse who was prevented from wearing her cross at work has been allowed to return to work without having to remove her cross.

Further examples of persecution in the UK can be found at Christian Concern and Christian Voice. If you are in the UK and feel you are being persecuted for your faith, contact the Christian Legal Center.

In all this, remember that Jesus said:

“Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great ...
” (Mat 5.11,12)

Persecution - Future

Is the screw tightening? It is claimed that the 20th century persecutions were the most severe in the history of the church. According to the World Christian Encyclopedia (2001), some 45.4 million Christians were martyred in the 20th century. Other statistics show martyrdoms increasing yearly, from 35,000 in 1900, to 171,000 in 2005 to an estimated 260,000 in 2008. Clearly, some of this increase will be due to population increase.

Jesus said that just before He comes again, believers would be hated and delivered up to the authorities. Some would be killed. Jesus said that an hour (a relatively brief period of time) is coming when men will kill believers in Christ because they think they are offering service to God (Jn 16.2)! This happened in the Catholic Inquisition and is happening today under Islam. On the positive side, the arrest of a believer leads to an opportunity to testify to a godless world (Lk 21.12-19).

When asked for signs of His Second Coming and the end of the age, Jesus gave His disciples a list (Mat 24):

  • False Christs (v5)
  • False prophets (v11)
  • Wars (v6)
  • Famines and earthquakes (v7)
  • Apostasy (v10)
  • Increased lawlessness (v12)
  • Worldwide preaching of the gospel (v14)

The significant point in Mat 24.9 is the hatred of Christians by all nations. That must include the 'westernised' nations (USA, Canada, Europe, Australia etc.). For instance, the EU's indirect stance against Christianity via 'equality directives' (see opposite) may be the seeds of the prophesied worldwide persecution and apostasy. There are strong indications that the EU could be the kernel of the end time World Government and that Roman Catholicism is the kernel of the end time (persecuting) apostate church. How far the true church goes through this end time scenario is a matter of prophetic interpretation. Some see the persecuted church in the suffering saints of Rev 13:

'It was given to him (the end time world dictator) to make war with the saints and to overcome them ..." (Rev 13.7)

Others see a pre-tribulation rapture i.e. removal and protection of the true church (Mat 24.37-41)(Rev 3.10) prior to the brief reign of the beast of Revelation. With this interpretation, they view the persecuted 'saints' in Rev 13 as persecuted Israel (Dan 7.21). These 'saints of the Most High' are severely persecuted for just 42 months (Dan 7.25)(Jer 30.7) under the beast of Revelation.

Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible