2018 World Watch List
The normalcy of persecution
A Nepali brother looks into unreached areas on Mission: Nepal 2017. Nepal vaulted to 25th on the 2018 World Watch List after having been unmentioned a year ago. This is because of the passage of anti-conversion laws. Pray for the boldness of the world’s fastest-growing church to continue in spite of opposition.
The annual release of Open Doors’ World Watch List of persecuted nations was made on Jan. 10. The announcement of the 50 hardest places to be a Christian is usually associated with a collective groan or gasp, and a feeling of pity for people in those places or relief that we don’t live in the North Koreas, Afghanistans and Somalias of the world.
But our mindset and often our prayers for persecuted people may be wrong.
“If we pray for the end of persecution, the only way God can stop it is to stop people from coming to Christ,” says Nik Rikpen, who served in Somalia and wrote about the persecuted church in The Insanity of God. “People coming to Christ is the No. 1 reason for persecution.”
Our goal – and we pray the goal of the World Watch List – is not to stop persecution, but to make it count.
Let our brothers and sisters in Christ, let those who have been honored by God to be like Jesus (Matthew 10:22), not suffer or die in vain.
A believer in Africa imprisoned since 2004 for his faith implores you to pray “not that we should be free from this persecution, but that we will stand up boldly under it and proclaim Christ as we should.”
May our voices become a chorus lifting the church to be bold and take a stand in the face of persecution. Pray for brothers and sisters from Climbing For Christ living and serving in Pakistan (ranked fifth behind North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan on the 2018 list), India (11th), Saudi Arabia (12th), Nigeria (14th), Uzbekistan (16th), Malaysia (23rd), Myanmar (24th), Nepal (25th), Turkey (31st), Kenya (32nd), Indonesia (38th), Mexico (39th), Bangladesh (41st), and China (43rd).
The complete 2018 World Watch List
1. North Korea (#1 last year; source of persecution: communist and post-communist oppression)
2. Afghanistan (#3; Islamic oppression)
3. Somalia (#2; Islamic oppression)
4. Sudan (#5; Islamic oppression)
5. Pakistan (#4; Islamic oppression)
6. Eritrea (#10; dictatorial paranoia)
7. Libya (#11; Islamic oppression)
8. Iraq (#8; Islamic oppression)
9. Yemen (#9; Islamic oppression)
10. Iran (#7; Islamic oppression)
11. India (#15; religious nationalism)
Very high persecution
12. Saudi Arabia (#14; Islamic oppression)
13. Maldives (#13; Islamic oppression)
14. Nigeria (#12; Islamic oppression)
15. Syria (#6; Islamic oppression)
16. Uzbekistan (#16; dictatorial paranoia)
17. Egypt (#21; Islamic oppression)
18. Vietnam (#17; communist and post-communist oppression)
19. Turkmenistan (#19; dictatorial paranoia)
20. Laos (#24; communist and post-communist oppression)
21. Jordan (#27; Islamic oppression)
22. Tajikistan (#35; dictatorial paranoia)
23. Malaysia (#31; Islamic oppression)
24. Myanmar (#28; religious nationalism)
25. Nepal (unranked; religious nationalism)
26. Brunei (#25; Islamic oppression)
27. Qatar (#20; Islamic oppression)
28. Kazakhstan (#43; dictatorial paranoia)
29. Ethiopia (#22; Islamic oppression)
30. Tunisia (#29; Islamic oppression)
31. Turkey (#37; Islamic oppression)
32. Kenya (#18; Islamic oppression)
33. Bhutan (#30; religious nationalism)
34. Kuwait (#38; Islamic oppression)
35. Central African Republic (#34; Islamic oppression)
36. Palestinian Territories (#23; Islamic oppression)
37. Mali (#32; Islamic oppression)
38. Indonesia (#46; Islamic oppression)
39. Mexico (#41; organized crime and corruption)
40. United Arab Emirates (#44; Islamic oppression)
41. Bangladesh (#26; Islamic oppression)
42. Algeria (#36; Islamic oppression)
43. China (#39; communist and post-communist oppression)
44. Sri Lanka (#45; religious nationalism)
45. Azerbaijan (unranked; dictatorial paranoia)
46. Oman (#49; Islamic oppression)
47. Mauritania (#47; Islamic oppression)
48. Bahrain (#48; Islamic oppression)
49. Colombia (#50; organized crime and corruption)
50. Djibouti (#40; Islamic oppression)
The trends in Christian persecution, according to Open Doors, are 1. The spread of radical Islam; 2. The rise of religious nationalism, and 3. Intense persecution in Central Asia.
Nik Ripken reminds us that, while persecution is “normal” by Biblical standards, it is neither good nor bad. “Persecution is normal,” he says. “If you’re not willing to suffer for Jesus, you need to speak into it. Fear is the No. 1 thing Satan will use.
“If someone wants to be persecuted, take them to a counselor,” he adds. “We don’t run away from or to persecution.”
But, as followers of Jesus, “we have chosen the side of the crucified, not the crucifiers.”
“You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 10:22 (NIV)
Posted: Jan. 10, 2018
 Spoken at the 2017 Finishing the Task Conference at Saddleback Church in Mission Viejo, CA, USA.
 Quoted in The Live/Dead Journal (Salubris Resources, 2012)