Open Doors: 7 World Watch List countries that might surprise you
There are some countries on Open Door's World Watch List that might make you do a double take. Maybe the country is a tourist destination, known more for its sparkling beaches or incredible natural wonders than its treatment of believers. Or maybe the country is made up of Christians as its majority religion—how could such a place have a problem with Christian persecution?
Here are some of the places that might surprise you—and drive you to pray for them:
World Watch List Rank: 14
Why its rank might surprise you: This small island nation in the Indian Ocean boasts some of the most beautiful beachfronts and resorts in the world. Crystal-clear, turquoise water and a year-round summer temperature make this a desirable tourist destination for more than a million tourists each year. The Maldives’ islands are so beautiful they were even used to create a beach planet in a Star Wars movie!
Why it’s on the list: Behind the incredible resorts and tourist paradise lies a dark reality: a society and government run by a restrictive and dangerous form of Islamic extremism. Christians who live in the nation must be completely secret, or they risk having their citizenship stripped and being prosecuted under Shariah Law. Even foreign workers must be careful about practicing their faith, and must do so behind closed doors since there are no public churches in the Maldives. The country is so closed that there isn’t even a fully translated Bible into the official language of the Maldives.
How you can pray: Lord, I pray you would open the hearts of the leaders of the Maldives. Let secret Christians worship freely, and help them to feel the prayers of their brothers and sisters around the world. Amen.
World Watch List Rank: 27
Why its rank might surprise you: Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, with vast amounts of natural gas and petroleum fueling their economy. It’s an economic powerhouse, crowned by the sparkling capital city of Doha, and has become a leading financial center in the Middle East. The country also made a splash by winning their bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, pledging to build numerous stadiums and hotels to put on the biggest sporting event in the world.
Why it’s on the list: While foreign workers can worship publicly in designated zones, anyone who converts from Islam is at risk of being charged with apostasy and convicted of a crime. Additionally, conversion to Christianity in Qatar can mean a risk of violence and expulsion from both family and community. Islam is viewed as the only legitimate faith, so the pressure is high for people to continue in their Muslim beliefs.
How you can pray: God, we ask that you would be with Christians in Qatar who must hide their faith. Help Christians who convert from Islam to find a community and to know You have them in Your hand.
World Watch List Rank: 32
Why its rank might surprise you: Nepal is known throughout the world for its incredible natural scenery. Eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world are in Nepal, including Mount Everest. It’s long been seen as a backpacker’s paradise, with natural beauty and hiking providing incredible sights and experiences for outdoor enthusiasts.
Why it’s on the list: In the last five years, Hindu nationalists have risen in the government, passing numerous laws that have upheld Hinduism as the official religion of Nepal, and making it increasingly difficult for Christians and other religious minorities to freely worship. A new constitution passed in 2015 limits freedom of religion, and an anti-conversion law makes it possible for Christians to be falsely accused of converting someone. Christians have also been beaten and driven from their homes and villages in Nepal.
How you can pray: Dear Lord, we ask you to help Christians in Nepal stand strong even as their community oppresses and discriminates against them. Ease their burdens and give them peace.
Click here to see the four other surprising countries on the list.