“Throughout the world, men and women are spreading the Gospel, mobilising and multiplying disciples, and planting new churches to carry the fullness of Jesus into every part of the world,” says Harvesters Regional Director for Asia, “And they are doing this in the face of increasing and intensifying persecution.”
The number of countries within Asia where Christians experience oppression is growing. It has become a “hotspot for persecution,” says the Regional Director, “taking over the honours from the Middle East.”
Open Doors, a Christian charity involved in supporting the Persecuted Church, recently released a 2021 ranking of the 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. Of that 50, nearly 30 were Asian countries. 20 Of them are Central and Eastern Asian nations.
The situation for Christians has become frightening – and often life-threatening – in countries such as China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia and Indonesia. India is in the top 10 most persecuted nations in the world for Christians. Open Doors released a figure of 4,761 Christians who were killed for faith-related reasons last year. Our brothers and sisters in these regions of the world need our prayers.
Examples of Persecution in Some Southeast Asian Countries
Southeast Asia is also home to the majority of the world’s Muslim believers. More Muslims live in South Asia than in the Middle East and North Africa combined. This territory has recently seen an alarming rise in Islamic extremism. “Pockets of Islamic state affiliated groups in places like Mindanao in the Philippines and Aceh in Indonesia are gaining ground and expanding their territory,” explains Harvesters Regional Director.
In the Philippines, there are concerns that Islamist militant groups in Mindanao could get a boost from former members of sympathizers who may have been among the more than 10,000 prisoners released by the government in response to the spread of the coronavirus through the country’s prison system.
In Indonesia, the province of Aceh is governed by Shariah law which prohibits the building of any new church. Of course, as Christians, we know that the Church is the Body of Christ and not a building. But this is still a significant worry to any Christians who wish to group together to worship God and study the Bible.
Additionally, for the last five years Malaysia has banned the printing and distribution of the Bible in the local language, Malay. As Christians we believe that the Bible is sufficient to provide us with the knowledge we need for salvation and right living. We hold fast to the teaching that it should be read daily and studied regularly. It is essential to us. To not be able to access it in our local language would be devastating. This is the current reality for many Malaysians.
Also happening in Malaysia is the criminalisation of “attempting to leave the religion of Islam” or “claiming to be a non-Muslim”. A huge threat for any Christian in that nation; as well as a hindrance to sharing the Gospel.
The Church is Alive
Logically, upon hearing stories of anti-Christian laws, persecution, opposition, attacks and oppression, it could be assumed that, ultimately, the Christian religion would fade out. However, the Church of Christ carries Holy Spirit presence and power! From a little more than 62 million Christians in East and Southeast Asia in 1970, by 2020 the number of faithful believers had grown to more than 200 million.
Our Harvesters connections are active even though there’s huge personal risk. They are just so passionate about sharing the Gospel with their neighbours and relatives! We praise God for this victory while recognising the very real pain for many of our brothers and sisters in Asia. We join with them in prayer.
We Must Pray
Some prayer points:
- Pray for Christians in Asia who risk rejection from their families and social circles as well as from their homes by declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord. Many risk their very lives.
- Pray for strength, persistence, resilience and peace.
- Pray that believers will gain access to the Word of God.
- Pray that Christians are able to support and encourage one another in these countries.
- Pray for the hearts of people of the Muslim faith.
- Pray for protection against Islamic extremists in the Philippines and Indonesia.
- Thank God for the growth of the Church in Asia over the last 50 years. Pray that it continues.
Please visit our Harvesters Prayer Wall for updated requests from the field.
Subscribe to receive stories from the field including our monthly Prayer Guide here.