A tide of oppression has been rising. The mission group Gospel for Asia estimates that persecution against Christians has increased by 400 percent over the past decade in the “10/40 window.”



A tide of oppression has been rising. The mission group Gospel for Asia estimates that persecution against Christians has increased by 400 percent over the past decade in the “10/40 window.”

The 10/40 window describes a geographical area stretching between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude in the Eastern hemisphere, from North Africa across almost all of Asia. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s population lives in this region.

Violence and oppression against Christians continues to increase even though many of the nations in the 10/40 window avow religious freedom. In Iran, for example, the constitution upholds religious liberty, but pastors have been arrested for blasphemy and sentenced to death.

In September, in a high profile case of religious persecution, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was acquitted of blasphemy charges by an Iranian court, although he was found guilty of evangelizing Muslims and sentenced to three years imprisonment (the time he served while awaiting trial).

Nadarkhani’s case echoes the earlier case of Haik Hovsepian, an Assembly of God pastor who served a congregation in suburban Tehran. In 1993, Hovsepian refused to comply with a decree compelling churches to register congregants with the government and requiring them to refuse membership to Muslims and former Muslims.

In 1994 Hovsepian led a campaign to free Mehdi Dibaj, a Muslim convert to Christianity who had been imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to death. Public outcry from around the world led to Dibaj’s release, four days before his scheduled execution. But Hovsepian himself was abducted and murdered just three days later.

Since that time, persecution around the world has increased. This past September a 14-year-old Christian girl was abducted from a stationery shop in a town near Cairo, converted to Islam and married to a Muslim man. A fundamentalist group claims that the girl freely chose to convert and be married, even though Egyptian law forbids girls under the age of 18 to marry. It is reported that the same fundamentalist group is lobbying to reduce the legal age for marriage to 9.

This week in Pakistan pastor Karma Patras was arrested and taken into custody on charges of blasphemy after answering questions about the Muslim feast of Eid -al- Adha from a Christian perspective.

On Nov. 2 charges were filed against an Uzbek pastor for leading “a religious extremist” group. He is currently in neighboring Kazakhstan. If the supreme court there forces him to return home, he will face a five- to 15-year prison sentence. He has appealed to a lower court for asylum, but all records of his appeal have vanished.

On Sunday, Nov. 4, a pastor was killed in Kenya when extremists threw an explosive device into the church he served. Eleven people were injured, some seriously.

For Christians living within the 10/40 window, the threat of death, loss of civil rights and the destruction of property is an everyday reality. Other religious groups have also suffered, but Christians currently bear the brunt of persecution.

What can you do? Research the problem. A good place to start is at www.persecution.com. You can pray. Consider attending a church that observes the International Day of Prayer on the second Sunday in November. You can write letters to religious prisoners (addresses are available from the Voice of the Martyrs). You can also support one of the many groups working with the persecuted around the world.   Shayne Looper is the pastor at Lockwood Community Church in Michigan. He can be reached at salooper@frontier.com.