Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

World Changers on Mission: Part 2 of 4

If you got out a world map, would you be able to place your finger on the country of Nepal? What about Bangladesh? Or what about the small country of Bhutan, which is the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined. Like most Americans, I feel geographically challenged with countries half way around the world, which explains why I also feel disconnected from what’s going on in that region. Ethnos Asia Ministries (EAM) changed my perspective through the stories told by underground Christian pastors from each of the countries in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia (ARNA).

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I’ve been a Christian for almost a decade, heard accounts of Christian persecution, and attributed most of the horror stories to radical ISIS followers. What I learned was the ugliness of Christian persecution is wielded by Satan’s grip on the hearts and minds of government leaders and citizens who live in fear. At the EAM conference, stories unfolded of the struggles and successes in bringing the Gospel to the unreached tribes. My learning curve is steep, and my words limited, so in the interest of only starting the conversation, I will share a few points about each ARNA country with the hopes that your heart would be stirred by the Holy Spirit to learn more and act on God’s calling.

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Photos, names, dates, and specifics are limited to protect the identities and work of those pastors and missionaries who are acting as the Lord’s hands and feet in the Access Restricted Nations of Asia

East Asia

China: Socialist Republic—1.3 billion people—50% don’t identify with any religion

  • Christianity still growing despite the government’s control; the middle class has a strong spiritual hunger for the Lord
  • Anyone preaching the Gospel without a government license can be fined $1500 US and a property owner, where underground house church services are held, can be fined $3000 US
  • Facial recognition cameras are installed in all churches so pastors cannot leave the country

North Korea: Socialist Republic—25 million people—99% atheists

  • Rampant poverty and 80% of children are undernourished
  • Christians considered hostile elements in society with the government as the primary driver of persecution
  • Freedom of religion and its ceremonies are constitutionally guaranteed but are government restricted. Only 4 government-sanctioned churches exist and are used as a showcase for foreigners

Himalayan Region

Bhutan: Constitutional Monarchy—0.7 million people—75% Buddhist

  • Wangchuk dynasty has ruled Bhutan for over a century and only allowed its first tourists in 1974
  • Bhutanese Christians face loss of citizenship, free education, health care, employment and access to utilities. Despite harassment and beatings, groups of believers are increasing
  • Buddhism, animism, and mysticism have dominated the country since the 7th century with a non-Buddhist typically practicing Hinduism

Nepal: Parliamentary Republic—29 million people—80% Hindu

  • Over 125 languages spoken among 125 ethnic groups/castes
  • Christian population small but growing with each of the 75 districts having a church plant
  • Fastest growing Christian population in the Himalayan region
  • Religious freedom is allowed under Nepalese law, but restrictions are imposed on non-Hindu groups in which Christians can be fined and imprisoned for sharing their faith

Northeast India: Parliamentary Republic—45 million people—55% Hindu

  • Many young people are moving to mainland India for study and work
  • No opposition to spreading the Gospel but experiencing a general spiritual decline
  • The three major Christian denominations are Baptists, Catholics, and Presbyterians

Indian Subcontinent

Afghanistan: Islamic Republic—34 million people—99% Muslim

  • Widespread child marriage and serious drug problems with the country growing 90% of the world’s opium producing poppies
  • Blasphemy is punishable by death for males over 18 and girls over 16 years and conversion of Islam can be punishable by death
  • Majority of Muslim’s are Sunni (80%) and Shia (15%) with limited numbers of Christians
  • Most Afghans live in poverty with little employment, so those who fight for the Taliban do so for wages

Bangladesh: Parliamentary Republic—159 million people—90% Muslim

  • Country is quite secular although culturally the citizens observe Muslim festivals like Ramadan and take the pilgrimage to Mecca
  • The constitution permits freedom of religion but conversion, openly sharing the Gospel, and criticizing Islam is not allowed
  • Bawm tribe celebrated 100 years of Christianity in 2018

Maldives: Presidential Republic—0.3 million people—99% Muslim

  • Has one of the highest divorce rates in the world with rising crime, gang activity, child abuse, and pervasive drug use
  • While some freedoms have expanded through democracy, Islam is the official and only religion
  • Traditional belief in spirits combined with Islam leave many citizens trapped in fear and no access to the Gospel in these isolated islands
  • Visitors can bring their Bible and practice religion at home but cannot invite a Maldives citizen to join

Pakistan: Constitutional Republic—207 million people—96% Muslim

  • Most heroin-addicted country in the world
  • Has the most notorious blasphemy laws against Christians and is the center of the unevangelized world
  • Despite constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, this is the world’s most persecuted nation for Christians
  • Most women have never been to school and children are arranged to be married at 7. Wives see their husbands on their wedding night and can be returned because of their skin color

Sri Lanka: Constitutional Republic—2 million—70% Buddhist

  • Significant increases in alcoholism, suicide, violence, and rape
  • Converts from Buddhism and Hinduism suffer the most discrimination in the form of harassment, discrimination, and marginalization from family and community
  • Converting a Muslim to Christianity can invoke capital punishment

Indo-China

Cambodia: Constitutional Monarchy—16 million—97% Buddhist

  • Rapid adoption to the Western lifestyle of materialism in the city and rampant drug use
  • Freedom to worship and preach the Gospel with young people comprising 80% of the church members
  • Islam is perceived as gentle because Islamic militancy has not yet influenced Muslims in the country

Laos: Socialist Republic—7 million people—65% Buddhist

  • Run by the communist party and led by eleven people
  • Thai culture has a heavy influence because of similar language
  • Government-approved Lao National church plants numbered 100 in 2018 and hundreds more of underground churches
  • Buddhism is considered a Lao religion and Christians need government permit to celebrate any Christian festival

Myanmar: Constitutional Republic—55 million people—90% Buddhist

  • Drug production second to Afghanistan; opium and methamphetamine are widespread
  • Many churches have buildings but fail to reach out to surrounding areas
  • Rohingya, refugee community, are Muslim minority of 1 million not recognized as citizens
  • Infighting for Buddhist positions between older and young monks

Thailand: Constitutional Republic—68 million people—95% Buddhist

  • Thai, Buddhism, and nationality tightly intertwined which hinders the conversation to Christianity
  • Monks receive special status and government benefits

Vietnam: Socialist Republic—97 million people—no faith declaration

  • Persecution is not as intense as it has been in previous years
  • Buddhism is still the predominant religions along with Cao Dai and Hoa Hao

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What Now?

Pray! Across these 15 Asian countries, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Muslim are keeping their citizens in spiritual darkness by squeezing tighter around their minds, hearts, and souls. Pray for the people of these nations who live in fear and ignorance, that they may hear the Gospel and know the love of Jesus. Pray that Christians will be invited and willingly go into these countries to share the Gospel. Pray for spiritual revival and the Holy Spirit to sweep through these Asian countries. Pray that the lives of Christians will shine in contrast to the hatred and prejudice of extremists and draw people towards Christ.

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To learn more about how Ethnos Asia Ministries, their mission, vision, and goals visit www.ethnosasia.org


About the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional coach with an extensive background in leadership, premarital/marriage, finances, and ministry. She serves in the local and global mission fields and has a heart to help others be the best version of themselves. You can contact Sandra at shinecrossings@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Christian Persecuted Countries of Asia: Update in the Region

  1. Great article and a summary of the many countries with their different religions and persecution of Christian and Christianity. We should appreciate our freedom here, but unfortunately we often do not appreciate what we have until we do not have it. It is so important to pray for those countries and the Christians who are there and ask God what he wants us to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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