The 2019 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s most dangerous to follow Jesus includes many places where Southeast Christian Church partners live and work.
In the last four years, Southeast’s giving in areas with unreached people has doubled.
According to Southeast Missions Ministry leader Charlie Vittitow, support will continue to increase.
“As we look at opportunities to join God in His mission to take the Gospel to the world, at Southeast we put a special emphasis on the least-reached nations of the world,” he said. “The 10/40 Window is the area where 95 percent of the least-reached people groups of the world reside. Reaching these nations requires new strategies and a deeper level of partnership with our brothers and sisters from closed-culture nations.”
At Southeast, 20 percent of every dollar given to the church is allocated for missions.
It’s far too dangerous for partners in at-risk countries to tell their stories or show their faces, but remarkable things are happening behind closed doors.
In every country, a remnant follows Jesus in spite of persecution, prison and death.
According to Open Doors, a missions organization that serves persecuted Christians, one in nine Christians around the world suffers high levels of persecution. That translates to 245 million people. In 2018, about 11 people a day, a total of 4,136 Christians, were killed for their faith. Another 2,625 were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and put in prison.
For 18 consecutive years, North Korea has been the most difficult place for Christians. Before World War II, missionaries were active throughout the country and a fifth of the population described themselves as Christians.
A remnant remains.
Some believe 3,000 to 5,000 Christians follow Jesus in secret. The British group Aid to the Church in Need believes some 50,000 Christians may currently be in prison camps where they are tortured and enslaved. Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports documented cases of believers being burned alive, crushed by steamrollers, herded off bridges and trampled underfoot.
Afghanistan is second on the list of most dangerous countries to follow Jesus. Most Afghans have never heard the Gospel or met a single Christian. Owning a Bible is forbidden, and isolated believers worship in secret. Even then, God is on the move. In Afghanistan, Southeast partners with a nonprofit that meets needs, provides wood and coal for Afghan families as well as a clinic, a school and job training.
If you become a Christian in Somalia, which is No. 3 on the list, you may not live long. Conversion leads to public execution. Some believe there may be 100 secret believers in Somalia—though the Catholic bishop of Mogadishu said it is “not possible to be a Christian in Somalia.”
Some of the 1 million famine relief meals packed at Southeast are on their way to Somalia for needy women and children.
Pray for believers in Libya and Pakistan (Nos. 4 and 5). In spite of executions, Open Doors estimates there are 1,500 believers in Christ from a Muslim background in Libya. In Pakistan, any-one accused of desecrating the Quran receives a life sentence in prison. Insulting Mohammed means a death sentence. Christians fear false charges.
Christians have no rights in Sudan, sixth on the list. Churches have been burned and bulldozed. Christians face discrimination and pressure. More than 1.4 million have fled their homes be-cause of ongoing violence.
Southeast’s partner in Africa, Life in Abundance, works in Sudan and Eritrea, a country that suffers with raids on churches and hundreds of Christians imprisoned in horrible conditions. No one knows how many there are or if they are still alive.
Yemen and Iran are Nos. 8 and 9 on the World Watch List. This year Southeast is supporting a new partner active in this volatile part of the world.
India takes the No. 10 spot. There Southeast partners with a ministry that plants churches.
Work continues with refugees in Greece and Italy. Most are from countries closed to the Gospel.
In Central Africa, one of the most dangerous places to be a believer, Southeast partners with a ministry that reaches Muslim clerics.
The church partners with LIA in Egypt, Ethiopia and Kenya. Partners work with believers in Myanmar, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and more.
“We believe everyone should have the chance to hear the Gospel before they die,” said Ben Thornley, who works in Missions Ministry.
By the numbers:
>Total people groups: 16,591
>Total unreached people groups: 6,741
>Total population of unreached people groups: 3.14 billion people
>Percentage of world population defined as unreached: 42.2 percent