COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)– The senior pastor of a Sri Lankan evangelical congregation says he has forgiven the suspected Islamic militants who bombed his church on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people. Pastor Roshan Mahesan of the Zion Church in Sri Lanka’s eastern city of Batticaloa also thanked those offering prayer and support.
“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you,” he said in a video message obtained by BosNewsLife.
The explosion at Zion Church reportedly occurred during the Easter morning service, leaving 28 people dead and more than 70 seriously injured. It was one of eight attacks, some of which targeted three hotels and two other churches in the Asian nation, killing hundreds of people. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating who was responsible.
However, “No matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pastor Mahesan added. “Jesus Christ on the Cross, he said: ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say, for the Lord: ‘forgive these people.”
The pastor spoke before news emerged Saturday, April 27, that militants linked to Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by local security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery: 15 bodies, including six children.
ISLAMIST GROUPS BANNED
As part of the security operation, Sri Lanka’s president banned two Islamist groups suspected of involvement in the suicide bombings on churches and hotels that left more than 250 people dead, many of them devoted Christians.
The National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim groups were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in published remarks. Both are believed to be inspired by organizations such as Islamic State who seek to establish states based on strict Islamic law.
Amid the bloodshed, Pastor Mahesen said in his video message that he wanted to “take this opportunity to thank every church around the world, every believer, every person is known to me and unknown to me who has contacted me, calling me, sending messages of condolences, and then words of encouragement.”
In the video shared by Sri Lankan Christian group ‘The Life’ he pledged that his congregation would “stand and continue what the Lord has purposed in our life and we are ready, and we will continue to fulfill the mission the Lord has given us.”
Pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, who leads a Sri Lankan church uniting Tamil and Sinhalese Christians and founded ‘The Life’ group, spoke with Pastor Mahesan earlier this week while he was visiting Britain.
SHOCKING THE WORLD
“These atrocious attacks have shocked the world, the violence has impacted my friends and family, and many in the Sri Lankan community in the UK know people who have died,” she said in remarks sent to BosNewsLife.
“If only we can hear Pastor Roshan Mahesan’s words and respond with forgiveness instead of hate. Jesus Christ calls us to love even those who persecute us, and what is more powerful than to choose to love in the circumstances such as these. Let’s forgive, stand together and build the kingdom of God. Don’t give up.”
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents millions of evangelical Christians, agrees. Its director, Steve Clifford, told BosNewsLife in a statement that he had joined a Sri Lankan prayer gathering earlier this week following the attacks. “I am mourning with my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in Christ as they bury loved ones, as church communities are shaken by the violence inflicted on them and as others live in fear that the same might strike them.”
Yet, he remained hopeful. “Pastor Roshan offers love and forgiveness that can only come from knowing that we are forgiven by Jesus. I will continue to pray for him and all the believers in Sri Lanka, that they will know hope in Jesus that overcomes all fear.”
Sri Lanka’s worst attack against Christians in years shattered the tense calm that the Buddhist-majority country has seen since a 26-year civil war with mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago. Authorities have already warned of more attacks against churches and other religious centers, prompting Catholic churches to postpone Mass.
President Sirisena and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have faced intense criticism after it emerged that India had repeatedly given warnings of the possibility of attacks. Both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have said intelligence was not shared with them. Commentators say those remarks underscore rifts at the top of the government and raised questions about its ability to deal with the security crisis.
CHRISTIANS INCREASINGLY TARGETED
The political turmoil added to concerns among Christians who make up over 7 percent of the country’s 23 million people.
Besides the latest bombings, there were already 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against minority Christians, said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian groups.
In 2019, the NCEASL so far recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
The attacks were linked to extremists of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic communities
Christian advocacy and relief group Open Doors says persecution of Christians impacts especially those from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds. They are treated “as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks,” the group noted.
“Believers from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as a conversion is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity.”
Additionally, most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, “so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism,” Open Doors said. Before the Easter Sunday bombings, several churches in rural areas were already attacked or closed, and Christians were assaulted, the group added. Rights activists and the Christian community now fear more attacks in Sri Lanka.
Note from our Prayer Director, Blaine Scogin and the Persecution Watch/VOP Prayer warrior team
My Brothers and Sisters, the greatest Injustice ever done to a man was done to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men nailed him to the cross for no crime he had ever committed. And yet the most powerful words that Jesus ever uttered from the cross were Father forgive them for they know not what they do. ( Lk. 23:34 ).
Jesus exemplified what he taught in The Sermon on the Mount. In his discourse, Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ( Mat. 5:44 ). Obviously such a love for enemies cannot be manifested in the flesh. When in our anger we cry out retribution against those who have wronged us. The Spirit inside of us says forgive them. Only he can work out that transformational love that comes out of a fruit born through Christ living in us.
Where Jihad teaches hate and Islam says kill the infidel, Jesus teaches love your enemy.
In the next few days Ramadan will start where Muslims will seek their god through prayer and fasting. Let us pray that during this time of Ramadan that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who bore their sin, will appear, even in dreams and visions, and direct Muslims to the true and living God. Let us pray that Muslims will receive him who is love. That they will welcome Christ to live in their hearts who will show them a much better way than Jihad would teach. Pray their eyes will be opened that Jesus came to love them and to die for their sins and bring the fruit of the Spirit. That which we would know as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; would flow out of their hearts.
Indeed let that be true of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that the fruit of his Spirit would flow from our own hearts by the presence of our Lord through his Holy Spirit in us. Pray also for strengthening of every believers faith, come what may, that we will continue to remain in Christ alone.
(Morning Star News) – Christians in Sri Lanka have never seen such a large-scale attack on them as the one that hit three churches and three hotels on Easter Sunday (April 21), killing at least 290 people, they said.
“I don’t have words to express my pain,” a teary-eyed Eranda Weththasinghe told Morning Star News from Negombo, a predominantly Christian area north of Colombo where 104 worshippers died in a suicide bomb blast at St. Sebastian’s Church. “Tomorrow is going to be the mass funeral service, we only want prayers. We lost so many people.”
Weththasinghe said he lost several friends in the explosion that he witnessed, which the Sri Lankan government blamed on a local Islamic extremist group, the National Thowheed Jamaath. Officials said the small, obscure group could not have carried out the coordinated attacks without international accomplices.
“The smell of flesh is all around me,” Weththasinghe said. “We are a peace-loving community in this small city, we had never hurt anyone, but we don’t know from where this amount of hate is coming. This city has become a grave with blood and bodies lying around.”
Weththasinghe, who helped with rescue efforts after the blast, said some of his friends are still missing.
“Since the past three years, we don’t know why, but we see an extremist’s mindset developing among the Muslims,” he told Morning Star News. “I know many good Muslims, but there are also a lot who hate us, and they have never been so before. It is in these three years that we see a difference.”
While Christians in Sri Lanka have suffered at the hands of radical Buddhists and, increasingly, hard-line Hindus, attacks by Muslim extremists have been rare. Muslims account for 9.7 percent of Sri Lanka’s population of about 22 million, which is 70 Buddhist, 12.6 percent Hindu and 7.6 percent Christian, according to the country’s 2012 census.
Shyami Sirivardene, also a resident of Negombo, told Morning Star News that Negombo and parts of Colombo where the blasts took place are predominantly Christian areas.
“Negombo is fondly called the ‘little Rome,’ with shrines and ancient churches,” Sirivardene said. “We can’t say who is behind the attacks, but the locals suspect it to be the plot of Islamic extremists. The attacks have been planned to affect the Christian community; since the churches in these areas date back to 19th century, people flock in huge numbers to attend the Mass on Easter and Christmas.”
Residents in neighboring areas close to the church buildings join the previous Saturday Easter vigil service, and Christians come from distant areas to attend the Easter morning service, she said.
“They have been targeted,” she said. “Colombo to Negombo and surrounding towns and suburbs is hardly a half an hour drive using the highway, and most Christians prefer to travel by bus or drive on their own using another route, which takes about an hour or more depending on traffic. People are very furious and scared. The busy toll road from Colombo to Negombo connecting the airport somewhere in the midst is empty today.”
A government spokesman told media that police found 87 bomb detonators at the main bus station in Colombo, the capital.
Sirivardene added that the luxury restaurants targeted at the three bombed hotels serve special Easter buffets that attract foreigners, including those from the United States and Europe.
Besides St. Sebastian’s in Negombo, also attacked by suicide bombers were St. Anthony’s Shrine (a large Catholic church in the Kochchikade area of Colombo), and Zion Church in Batticaloa, in the eastern part of the country. Suicide bombers also detonated explosives in Colombo at the Shangri-La Hotel, the ground-floor Taprobane restaurant at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel and at the Kingsbury Hotel.
The suicide bomber blasts also reportedly wounded at least 500 people.
Biraj Patnaik, South Asia director for human rights group Amnesty International, told The Washington Post that the scale of the attacks were “shocking and unprecedented.” They were the worst in Colombo since 1996, when rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam detonated explosives at Sri Lanka’s central bank that killed nearly 100 people.
Sri Lankan police attempted to defuse another explosive substance found in a vehicle parked near St. Anthony’s Shrine, which was exploded without causing damage. Suspicious objects such as bags and boxes discovered in Kotahena and Pettah caused two more explosions.
“We have been asked to stay indoors, and tomorrow [April 23] would be the national mourning day,” said Sirivardene of Negombo. “There would be a mass funeral service for all the bodies collected so far.”
Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said a foreign network was likely involved with the local Islamist group that carried out the attacks. The group’s name, National Thowheed Jamaath, roughly translates as the National Monotheism Organization.
He reportedly called on Police Inspector General Pujith Jayasundara to resign, as security agencies had received a report warning of attacks by the group against churches and hotels 10 days before.
A police memo reportedly issued in Sinhalese 10 days before the attack, entitled, “INFORMATION OF AN ALLEGED PLAN ATTACK” and stamped on April 11, said foreign intelligence officials suspected imminent attacks by the National Thowheeth Jamaath against non-Muslims. It instructed all police to be extra vigilant and cautious in monitoring locations under their jurisdiction. It is signed by Deputy Inspector General Priyalal Dissanayake.
Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wikremesinghe told media he did not know about the letter, saying, “Neither I nor any ministers were kept informed.”
President Maithripala Sirisena controls Sri Lanka’s security agencies, but since he tried to oust Wickremesinghe in an Oct. 26 coup, the prime minister has not been invited to security council meetings, a parliamentarian told The Washington Post.
Police have reportedly arrested 21 people in connection with the bombings. Three police officers were reportedly killed in a raid on a house where suspects were hiding.
In his Easter address, Pope Francis called the bombings “horrendous.” In his Easter Monday sermon today, he appealed for help for the people of Sri Lanka.
“I hope that everyone condemns these terrorist acts, inhuman acts, never justifiable,” he said.
Yousef A. al-Othaimeen, head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which represents 57 predominantly Muslim nations, “strongly condemned” the “cowardly attacks [on] innocent worshipers and civilians.”
Bishops Dhiloraj Canagasabey and Keerthisiri Fernando of Colombo, along with the Kurunagala Church of Ceylon, issued a joint statement condemning Sunday’s attacks.
“We call on the government to institute quick action to investigate thoroughly these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice, to ensure the safety of places of religious worship and to prevent any individuals or group taking the law into their hands or provoking acts of intimidation or violence against any community or group,” their statement said. “We ask for the continued support of all security and emergency services in ensuring public peace and in providing care for the affected; the motives of those twisted and warped minds who planned and executed such appalling acts could very well be to destabilize the country and to cause damage to the unity and harmony of our nation.”
Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.
Photo 1: Sri Lankan Christians mourn (Angel TV Youtube)
Photo 2: Security memo issued 10 days before April 21 attacks warning of possible suicide bombing by Islamic extremist group National Thowheed Jamaath. (Twitter, Sri Lankan Ministry of Telecommunication)
(Voice of the Persecuted) During a press conference, the Sri Lankan Health Minister, Rajitha Senaratne confirmed that the suicide bombers in the Easter attacks were carried out by Sri Lankan citizens associated with a local Jihadi terror group, National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), with the help of an international network. The death toll has risen to 290, with over 500 injured.
There are reports of more bombs found near the airport and bus station. Please continue to pray.
(Voice of the Persecuted) It is with a heavy heart to report on Resurrection Sunday that a massacre has taken place targeting Christians who were attending worship services at St. Anthony’s Church in Colombo, St. Sebastian’s Church in Negombo and Zion Church, in Batticaloa in Sri Lanka. At the time of this report, the latest update from police claim that at least 207 were killed and at least 450-500 injured in 8 explosions by suicide bombers at the churches, Shangri-La, Cinnamon Grand and Kingsbury hotels. Viewer Warning: below video content graphic
The majority of casualties are Christians and the death toll and numbers injured are expected to rise. Earlier, the government said they suspected the suicide bombings were carried out by one group. Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera said,
The bombings are not the doings of a fanatical individual. It’s obviously a highly coordinated attempt to create murder, mayhem and anarchy in the country.
The Defence Minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said seven people have been arrested in connection with the attacks. Three police officers were killed in an explosion during a raid pertaining to the attacks.
The government has temporarily blocked social media sites to prevent false news that’s spreading on social media sites. Officials claim the ban will be lifted when their investigations are concluded.
Please remember the injured and families of victims in your prayers, today. Continue to pray for persecuted believers worldwide.
UPDATE: 9:19 p.m. EST
Sri Lankan Defence Minister described the bombings as a terrorist attack by religious extremists, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility. — Thirteen people have been arrested.
News outlet Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported it had seen documents showing that Sri Lanka’s police chief Pujuth Jayasundara issued an intelligence alert to top officers 10 days ago, warning that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches”.
“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ [National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka] is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” the alert said, according to AFP.Mr Wickremesinghe said there was not an adequate response and there needed to be an inquiry into how the information was used.
Read full abc.net.au report here
UPDATE: 4-22-2019 Sri Lanka officals: Islamic militants targeted Churches and Hotels
(Morning Star News) – Police in Sri Lanka arrested a Christian who reported a Buddhist mob’s threat on his life, according to an advocacy group in the island country.
In Nattandiya, in Sri Lanka’s North Western Province, six area Buddhists on Jan. 26 threatened to attack the Christian if he refused to stop inviting a pastor to lead Bible studies at his house, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) reported.
The next day (Jan. 27), the Christian (name withheld for security reasons) filed a complaint about the threat on his life at the Marawila police station, in Puttalam District. This upset the six Buddhists, and with others they formed a mob on Jan. 29 that headed toward his house with intent to assault him, the NCEASL reported.
Before they could get near his house, a friend notified the Christian of their approach and tried to stop them, resulting in a fight in which one of the Buddhists was injured and received hospital treatment, a source said.
“Exact details are not known, however, his injury was not very serious,” the source told Morning Star News.
The Christian was not present at the fight, but the injured Buddhist filed an assault complaint against him, the source said. Police arrested the Christian, who remained in custody at this writing.
Violence and Harassment
Violence and harassment against Christians have been persistent in Sri Lanka, where the population is about 70 percent Buddhist and 13 percent Hindu, with attacks by Hindus on the upswing.
In Western Province’s Kalutara District, officers last month summoned a pastor of the New Covenant Life Centre at Millaniya to the Millaniya police station after a temple monk and several villagers complained that he was leading worship without official permission, according to the NCEASL.
The station chief ordered the pastor to stop religious activities until he received approval from the local divisional secretary, even though such approval is not required, a source said.
In the country’s Eastern Province, unidentified motorcyclists on Jan. 12 disrupted the worship service of Gethsemane Gospel Church in Kurumanveli, Batticaloa District, NCEASL reported.
Shouting obscenities, the mob called for the pastor to come out of the church building. He refused and later filed a police complaint at the Kalawanchikudi police station. Police investigated but told the pastor to settle the matter, and he reached an undisclosed agreement with the instigators.
Cases of intimidation, discrimination, threats, violence, false allegations, legal challenges, demands for church closures, police inaction and demonstrations persist in Sri Lanka but are rarely reported in mainstream media. The NCEASL recorded six cases against Christians since the beginning of January – three threats, two cases of discrimination and one false allegation. In January 2018, the alliance recorded eight cases, and five cases in January 2017.
In 2018, NCEASL reported a total of 86 cases of violence against Christians in Sri Lanka, compared with 93 incidents in 2017, 80 incidents in 2016 and 90 in 2015. The highest number of incidents recorded in 2018 came under the category of threats against Christians, with 20 cases, according to NCEASL figures.
This was followed by 19 incidents of violence; 14 of intimidation; 12 each of discrimination and demands for closure of worship places; three of false allegations; two each of police inaction and registration of cases against Christians; and one each in the categories of legal challenges and demonstrations.
Sri Lanka ranked 46th on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch Listing of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, from its previous rank of 44th.
Buddhists have carried out a campaign against evangelicals and churches in Sri Lanka warning them to cease their religious activities in majority Buddhist villages.
Ravana Balaya, a radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalist organization, visited more than 20 evangelical prayer services from July 15 to 19 in Polonnaruwa and told pastors to stop holding services and cease trying to convert Buddhists and Hindus, according to the Venerable Ittekande Saddhatissa Thero, General Secretary of Ravana Balaya.
“We have gotten hundreds of complaints from Buddhists and Hindus that evangelical pastors convert Buddhists to their religion and offer gifts and money to them,” he said. “If the evangelical churches fail to stop their mission, we will take legal action against their prayer centers.”
Thero said that 20 monks and Hindu priests were part of the campaign. “Some of the pastors agreed with us to remove their prayer centers from Buddhist villages, but some opposed the suggestion.”
In the past year, about 60 churches and evangelical prayer centers have been targeted. 120 had been attacked in 2013, according to the National Christian Evangelical Alliance (NCCA). “Many pastors have been beaten and threatened to halt their prayer meetings,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, General Secretary of NCCA. “People have logged complaints in police stations but it is very rare that culprits are identified,” he said. “Many of the mobs who have attacked prayer gatherings have been led by Buddhist monks,” said Yogarajah, adding that monks have faced no legal repercussions for these acts of violence.
The government launched a special police unit in April to address the rising religious tensions between Christians, Muslims and the Buddhist majority. Pastor O.S. Fernando, president of the Pastors’ Fellowship Group in Polonnruwa, denied allegations that evangelical groups had offered money or gifts to converts or potential converts. “We never convert by force [or] put up new houses to attract the faithful. It’s their own decision,” he said. At least some of the tension has resulted from misunderstandings. “While a pastor was putting up a new house, Buddhists monks had misunderstood that it was a new prayer center and so they lodged a complaint,” he said. “Over 150 people came with Buddhist monks to stop construction of the new building.” “Now the pastor has been given police security,” he said, but added that “many pastors fear to work in the area now.”
In two other incidents, Christians were taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries by a violent mob.
A pastor was knocked unconscious in a raid on his home on 12 May. His family and four other Christians were also attacked. In a meeting with the police about an incident when the four had been threatened for holding a prayer meeting in their home.
While waiting for the police, about 150 people surrounded the house and began shouting at them. 40 people broke through the security fence around the property; attacked the pastor’s van, forced their way into the house and attacking those inside.
When the police arrived ten minutes after the mob dispersed and took the Christians to the police station, held them for seven hours. No attempt was made to apprehend the offenders.
Christians filed a case against their attackers, and a magistrate subsequently reprimanded the police and ordered them to arrest the perpetrators.
In a separate incident, five monks and 20 youth stormed a prayer gathering at the home of a Christian family in Waththegama, Kandy district, on 15 May. Two strangers arrived and requested prayer, but was later found the mob had sent the pair as a set-up.
While a Christian was praying for them, the assailants burst in and attacked the Christians. They dragged the Christian to the Buddhist temple, and drenched her with water subjecting her to a verbal and physical assault. One attacker choked her, threatening to kill her and warning her not to return to the village. A case was later filed against her for unethical conversions.
The Constitution accords Buddhism the “foremost place” and commits the Government to protecting it, but does not recognize it as the state religion. The Constitution also provides for the right of members of other religious groups to freely practice their religious beliefs.
While the Government publicly endorses religious freedom, in practice, minorities such as Christians and Muslims are subjected to violence.
UN experts asked Sri Lankan government to take urgent steps to stop frequent racial and faith-based hatred and violence against Muslim and Christian communities by hardline Buddhist groups.
UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief Heiner Bielefeldt said.
“Impunity and inadequate response from the police and judicial authorities aimed at protecting the lives, physical security, the property and places of worship of these communities may encourage further attacks and a risk of spiralling violence.”
Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Rita Izsk said,
“The Government must end the violence and put in place urgent protective measures to ensure the personal security of all individuals belonging to religious minority communities living in the country.”
The Special Rapporteur on extra judicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, called on authorities to take urgent and firm measures to bring the perpetrators of killings to justice, and ensure the immediate adoption of robust protective measures.
Hate statements by Buddhist extremist groups have contributed to spread a climate of fear among Sinhala Buddhists, who constitute the majority population in Sri Lanka, and resentment towards minorities.
Jan 12, Hikkaduwa: A group of extremist Buddhist monks and laymen attacked two Christian religious centers today in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka’s tourist city in the south.
Buddhist Organizations in Hikkaduwa staged a protest in the area against Christian prayer centers operating in the region.
The monk-led mob resisted the police and destroyed the property hurling stones at the two prayer centers. The mob broke doors, windows and burnt religious signs and books.
Local media videoed the violence and broadcast in the evening news on TV channels.
The residents of these religious places were threatened and the police temporarily closed the main Galle Road as residents entered the Galle Road passing the Hikkaduwa town.
The Buddhist monks that led the protest said that the administrative authorities had ordered the prayer centers withdrawn.
However, the pastors in charge of these centers said they were registered duly and the eviction order is illegal.
The rising religious intolerance from extremist Buddhist monks-led organizations in Sri Lanka has raised alarms among the moderate public and if authorities fail to take adequate measures to curtail the violence the actions of thes extremist groups would have serious consequences, civil society leaders warn.
An annual survey reported cases of Christians killed for their faith around the world doubled in 2013 from the previous year. Syria had the highest number of deaths, more than the entire global total in 2012. In the list of killings, Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year after 791 in 2012. Pakistan was third with 88, up from 15 in 2012. Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths after 19 the previous year.
“This is a very minimal count based on what has been reported in the media and we can confirm,” said Frans Veerman, head of research for Open Doors. Estimates by other groups put the figure as high as 8,000.
Christianity is the largest religion in the world with 2.2 billion followers, or 32 percent of the world population, according to a survey by the U.S.-based Pew Forum on religion and Public Life. But they are also the most persecuted.
Open Doors published the 2014 World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution. You can view the list here. Woefully, persecution is increasing in many of the countries on the list.
For the twelfth consecutive time, North Korea retained they’re spot as the most difficult country in the world to be a Christian. Christians found with Bibles or Christian related material are at risk of execution or life in the prison camps. Many have been separated from their loved ones never to be heard from again. Solely for their faith in Jesus Christ, up to 70,000 Christians have been imprisoned.
Somalia ranks behind North Korea and is now #2 on the list. Converts are policed and for fear of persecution, must secretly worship ‘undergound’ keeping their faith hidden. They are also under attack by extremists of al-Shabaab, a terrorists group trying to force Sharia law in the country.
Violence against Christians in Syria has seriously increased moving them from #36 in 2012 to #3 on this year’s list. The report claims more Christians have been martyred(at least 1213) in Syria than any other country.
The cause of persecution against Christians in 36 of the 50 countries on the list, is said to be from Islamic extremism.
This year, Central African Republic #16, Sri Lanka #29 and Bangladesh #48 have all been added to the list. Violence in these nations surged against Christians. Extremism and the advancement of Sharia law again relating to the increase.
Open Doors says,
Though these facts and figures are absolutely devestating, we know that our hope is in Christ and that He his faithful to hear the prayers of His people, says.
Islamist extremism is the worst persecutor of the worldwide church.
Your prayers and VOICE for persecuted Christians are needed more than ever. Inform others, ask you pastor to pray weekly with the church for our Christian family suffering for their faith in Christ.
Thank you for your prayers and interest in those being persecuted!