SUPPORTING CHRISTIANS IN THE WORLD’S MOST HOSTILE PLACES

Eighteen countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) feature in the 2024 World Watch List [1] that highlights the 50 most difficult places in the world for Christians. SAT-7 is strengthening believers across the region as they face persecution and oppression, through discipleship programs on satellite TV and social media, and by offering prayer and pastoral support. 

Nine countries in the MENA are in the top 16 of the list, which is produced annually by Open Doors: Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, and Afghanistan are all in the top 10, with Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and Iraq not far behind. Persecution in these countries takes many forms legal restrictions, physical violence, psychological pressure, or social ostracism – and citizens of these nations have also endured major crises in recent years. Last year alone, natural disasters rocked Libya and Syria; war continued in Yemen; government forces clashed with protestors in Iran; and Taliban edicts continued to wreak havoc in Afghanistan.

NORTH AFRICA 

In third place, Libya is the highest-ranked MENA country on the World Watch List. Militias rule over much of the country, and there are no safe places for Christians. In March 2023, six Libyan Christians were sentenced to death for sharing their faith. It is not known what has happened to them. Despite the dangers, Libyans are finding Jesus and choosing to follow Him. I want to repent and have a relationship with God. I want to know Jesus,” said SAT-7 viewer Mahdi from Libya, before praying with our Viewer Support team. I accept Jesus and I hope He accepts my repentance. I can’t tell you how relieved I feel after praying with you. 

Bordering Libya to the south-east, Sudan is also becoming an increasingly hostile place for Christians. Up two places to tenth in the World Watch List, the country has been in the grip of a civil war since April 2023, and progress made towards religious freedom a few years earlier – which included abolishing the death penalty for apostasy – has been undone. At least 165 churches have been closed, and others have been destroyed in the fighting. But there are over two million Christians in Sudan, and many of them continue to walk in faith.  

“In times of pain and difficulty, I find strong support from the mighty hands of our Lord,” said Elham, a female SAT-7 viewer from Sudan. “At a time when everyone is abandoning us, our Lord is present… I request that you pray for my Sudanese brothers and sisters. May God grant them heavenly blessings and peace of mind for all of their losses.”

In Algeria, which rose four places on the World Watch List, the authorities have closed 43 of the country’s 47 Protestant churches,[2] and church leaders have been threatened with prosecution. The closures are, understandably, having an impact on Algerian believers. “I got baptised in my church,” said Fatima, an Algerian SAT-7 viewer. “But life is becoming harder after churches were closed down. I learned so much from your teachings. I can see my life changing… I am growing in faith… I now know how to pray and read the Bible. I am thankful to God for SAT-7.”

SAT-7 ARABIC’s program Home Church From Algeria, formerly My Church In Algeria, which broadcasts church services for viewers to join at home, is one of the programs helping people like Fatima. “Fellowship and being a member of a local church is badly needed,” commented the program producer. “It is important for spiritual wellbeing to attend church, and we offer that through this program for those who cannot attend church.”

In Morocco, which has risen five places to 24th on the World Watch List, believers risk arrest as well as government interrogations if they publicly practise their faith. Unable to get permission to gather in church buildings, Christians meet secretly in house churches.“I decided to follow Christ a few years ago,” said Hany, a man from Morocco.But it’s difficult to share my faith where I live. My family comes from a different background. It is extremely difficult for me… I’m on my own. 
 
SAT-7 programs like Parables of Jesusmade by Moroccans, for Moroccans help isolated viewers like Hany grow in their faith by unpacking Bible stories. One pastor from a house church in Marrakesh told SAT-7 how grateful he was for our ministry, which is helping them to grow the Church in the country. “Things are changing,” he told us, “and SAT-7 makes such an impact on people here.”

PERSIAN WORLD

There is ongoing persecution in the Persian-speaking world, with many Christians fleeing Iran and Afghanistan in recent years. The regaining of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2021 has been disastrous for Christians and also for women in the country. Sogand, a woman from Afghanistan, shared with SAT-7 that she found “the way of Christianity the most acceptable and logical” of the world’s faiths. But she could not share this discovery with others in Afghanistan because “living in a country like Afghanistan and speaking about another religion is like condemning yourself to death”.

In Iran, the authorities frequently arrest and imprison Christians, particularly those who are active in the house-church movement. Feriyal, a Christian living in Iran, recently wrote to us after taking part in a Zoom teaching group for Farsi speakers. “Thank you for the teaching that enables us to live out God’s Word,” he said. “I can testify that as a result I am able to more deeply worship the Lord.” Other SAT-7 discipleship initiatives for Persian speakers include Church4Afghanistan and Church4Kids, dynamic Christian gatherings on social media. “Church4Kids helped me to know God and His Son Jesus Christ, and to come to faith,” said one young girl from Iran named Ava. “When I was going through hard days, He gave me peace.”

Christians in different parts of the MENA are going through many trials, but God is powerfully at work in the region, as the testimonies sent to SAT-7 show. Please continue to pray that SAT-7’s programs will strengthen the Church in the MENA and that people will continue to discover God’s great love.

[1] 2024 World Watch List   
[2] Algerian Christians will face persecution this Christmas | The Spectator

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