More than 340 million Christians live in places with very high or extreme levels of persecution, according to Open Doors’ 2021 World Watch List.

Since these believers are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we thought it might be helpful to hear from the church and those close to them in 11 different countries on how God is working—and how you can pray for them.

Countries that have been ranked in World Watch List’s top 20 in its 2020 and 2021 lists are represented here. They appear in order of how they are ranked on the current list.

North Korea

We praise God:

  • for the descendants of believers in North Korea who have kept their faith despite the relentless persecution there since 1945.
  • for building underground churches and allowing the gospel to be shared in North Korea even though all churches there were destroyed by Communist oppression.
  • for helping North Koreans, who are thoroughly disconnected from the outside world, to nevertheless translate, print, and share the Bible.

We pray:

  • that the sin of idolatry that deifies the leader in North Korea will cease so that all North Koreans can serve the true God.
  • that the sins of violating and repressing human rights will be stopped so that North Koreans can enjoy and worship the God who created all of us in his image.
  • that vital foodstuffs and other basic necessities are provided to North Koreans who continue to suffer from hunger and frigid winter weather so they can at least maintain their minimal standard of living.

Submitted by Peter Lee, executive director, Cornerstone Ministries International

Pakistan

We praise God:

  • for the numbers of students training in the seminaries and Bible colleges.
  • for the many agencies discipling people in the faith.
  • for boldness in witness by many Christians.

We pray:

  • for current seminary and Bible college students to become good pastors and evangelists in the future.
  • for the continuing danger posed by the blasphemy laws.
  • for the systemic discrimination faced by Christians in employment, education, and society.
  • for Muslim-background believers who face particular dangers if their identities become known.

Submitted by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue

Iran

We praise God:

  • for the number of Iranians coming to Christ. In the beginning of 2020, Iran Alive Ministries (IAM) sensed that Iranians were even more open to the gospel, so we dedicated the month of May to evangelism. During that month, we not only aired more evangelistic programs, but we also taught our viewers how to evangelize. The number of registered salvations jumped from 20–50 per week to over 500 salvations per week. This went on for months and now fluctuates between 300 and 400 per week. The best news is that two-thirds of those who came to Christ did so not through our programs but through the personal witness of those whom we trained to evangelize.

We pray:

  • for the safety of the people in our network. Two of our Bible distributors (a male and a female) inside Iran were arrested in the last few months. Because of their arrests, the lives of others in the network are in danger. If they are tortured and give out names, the rest of the network will be arrested as well.

Submitted by Hormoz Shariat, founder, Iran Alive Ministries

Nigeria

We praise God:

  • for his strength and grace that have kept our brethren in northern Nigeria going in their service and faith in God despite intense persecution.
  • for providing help and succor for Christians who have been displaced by terrorism in northeast Nigeria.
  • for his intervention in many cases where kidnapped Christian leaders (some with their spouses) have been successfully rescued.
  • for providing many opportunities for the church of God to keep marching on during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many believers experienced revival in their Christian lives from attending virtual meetings. Cities were locked down, but the Word of God could not be locked down as record numbers of souls came to Christ during the ongoing pandemic! Hallelujah!
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We pray:

  • that the Lord will raise help for the church of God in northern Nigeria to be rebuilt. Many places of worship are lying in ruins, and we pray for God's divine and miraculous restoration.
  • that the Lord will arrest and convert the kingpins who are unleashing terror and spearheading the persecutions of Christians in Nigeria. Lord, let them have the same experience that Saul (Paul) had on the way to Damascus.

Submitted by Ronke Mosuro, ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and lecturer at the Lead City University in Ibadan, Nigeria

India

We praise God:

  • for the way the church was and is able to reach out to cater to the needs of the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic. From nationwide efforts to the local church in the grassroots, all reached out in compassion to alleviate the sufferings of their neighbors.
  • for the unity efforts going on in the church in India. The coming together of the National United Christian Forum comprised of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Churches in India, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India is a big step forward in promoting unity and cooperation among churches in India.
  • for church leaders’ ability to take care of their congregations using tools that have helped them take the church online. We praise God for giving the church resources that have helped in pastoral care, preaching, and teaching, thus keeping the church in India vibrant even during the lockdown.

We pray:

  • for the church in India to be a major voice for peace, justice, equality, and harmony in the nation. Pray that the church would keep on not only speaking but also intervening on behalf of the marginalized and the oppressed. Pray that the church in India would live the values of the kingdom of God and bless and transform the nation.
  • for the church in India as persecution and opposition grow, nurtured by the ideology of religious nationalism and extremism. Pray that the church would stand steadfast and in faith, continuing to reach out in love even to those that oppose and persecute.
  • for the church in India to be able to effectively train leaders to meet the need of a growing church so that both the church and the nation would be blessed. Pray for grassroots discipleship and leadership movements in different parts of India that the Lord continues to work through them to produce commendable people who engage in society with compassion and love to bring about transformation.

Submitted by VijayeshLal, the Delhi-based general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India

Iraq

We praise God:

  • that Christianity is still present and that the government is trying with all its might to consolidate and strengthen this presence.
  • that the Baptist church reached many poor or displaced families from Mosul or the Nineveh Plains and from a variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds with food and relief aid.
  • that evangelical churches in Kurdistan have received official legal status.

We pray:

  • for the government to be strengthened. In fact, the weakness of the government in Baghdad and its inability to extend its influence over important facilities in the country lead to the existence of many behaviors that—although far from persecution—make Christians feel unequal.
  • for political and security stability in the country. That Christians can feel safe returning to their villages and cities from which they were displaced since 2014. Many of them are still in Baghdad and other areas of Kurdistan.
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  • for the official registration of evangelical churches—including our own—as the failure to register these churches hinders their normal functioning as well as their service.

Submitted by Ara Badalian, senior pastor of the National Evangelical Baptist Church in Baghdad

We praise God:

  • that evangelical churches helped the local government distribute food and medicine despite the quarantine.
  • that in the midst of the persecution and pandemic, many started looking for answers in the Bible. Now we have Bibles in the Bahdinan Kurdish language.

We pray:

  • for the completion of the Bible in Kurdish language and the translation of some exegesis and discipleship books to help believers understand the Bible more clearly.

Submitted by Ashty Bahro, pastor of Evangelical Apostles Church and director of the relief organization, Zalal Life, based in Duhok, Kurdistan.

Saudi Arabia

We praise God:

  • for the continuing/developing openness politically/culturally/religiously and that old-school clerics have been marginalized and replaced with those who encourage liberal thinking.
  • for the new connections between the youth and the foreigners that have helped to increase tolerance and appreciation for other cultures, Christians, and Jesus.

We pray

  • for more caretakers for the Muslim-background believers who want to show God’s love practically. We pray that they will continue to grow in God as we witness to his care for their life and comfort.
  • for church unity that witnesses by showing a beautiful life for others to see and an understanding and synergy toward the needs of the “inquiring” and Muslim-background believers.

I. Hanna, church leader, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

Egypt

We praise God:

  • for his support to our economy that has been affected by COVID-19.
  • for his protection over our churches against many terroristic attempts and for the efforts that President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is doing to promote citizenship and equality.
  • that although our churches have been closed due to the pandemic, Christian faith is strengthened and Christians are seeking God like never before.

We pray:

  • for God to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has caused the death of some leaders and pastors in our churches.
  • for peace to prevail in the Middle East, especially with all the changes taking place in the United States and Europe.
  • for peace and protection for Egypt, specifically in confronting terrorism and extremism.

Submitted by Andrea Zaki Stephanous, general director, Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services

China

We praise God:

  • for online prayer meetings and joint missional events that have brought incredible vibrancy to the Chinese churches. COVID-19 has led us to give attention to the needs of the world like never before. We praise God for the growing fervent prayers and unity for missions through online meetings.
  • for the growing hunger for the truth and for the sense of belonging in the body of Christ. New churches have been planted every week in various forms across the country in the past year.
  • for the growing Christian witness through social services during the pandemic. More and more churches are stepping out to make an impact through faith-based NGOs.

We pray:

  • for Christian students facing more surveillance and inspections than ever. Campus evangelism has become almost impossible under digital totalitarianism. Pray for perseverance and growth of Christian students, as they are the future.
  • for foreign workers who have led ministries among the minorities over the years. As more and more are expelled from the country, pray for mature and culturally sensitive workers to grow and be sent from the majority Han churches to fill in the gap and continue the work.
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  • that as God answered our prayers and China first recovered from the pandemic, we pray that it will be a blessing to all nations, not a curse.

Submitted by a church leader in Shanghai

Vietnam

We praise God:

  • that there have been significant efforts and progress in building relationships and mutual understanding between the government and the Christian community.
  • that Christians have been proactive and bold in meeting the physical and spiritual needs of their community. In 2020 we saw greater cooperation between local authorities and churches in providing relief to areas in central Vietnam hit by severe flooding.
  • that evangelism continues to take place through personal relationships, in the workplace, on church premises, and through street performances.

We pray:

  • for policies and laws on religion to be implemented with a greater emphasis on religious freedom (as opposed to control), especially in rural and mountainous areas of the country.
  • for greater unity and cooperation between churches so that they have a stronger presence in public life.
  • for more resources for church leadership training, which was negatively impacted by the pandemic, and that they would attract greater numbers of younger Christians.

Submitted by the Institute for Global Engagement

Uzbekistan

We praise God:

  • that the first-ever evangelical church in Karakalpakstan has been registered by the government in 2020. This releases a lot of stress from the ministers and their family members because in Uzbekistan an unregistered religious activity is punishable according to the law.

We pray:

  • for more Christian brothers and sisters in our country to have access to theological education.
  • for the many people, especially women, who are experiencing enormous psychological pressure due to the COVID-19 lockdown. A lot of people lost their jobs, and families struggle financially. We pray that God will provide the opportunities for the families to make ends meet.

Submitted by a women’s ministries’ leader in Uzbekistan

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