World Watch List 2022

Open Doors released the World Watch List 2022, a resource developed “to track and measure the extent of persecution in the world.” Open Doors has been tracking religious persecution of Christians since the 1970s and their approach to the work is well-informed and reliable. Religious persecution affects many religious groups and not just Christians. Still, there has been widespread recognition over the past few years that religious persecution of Christians is on the rise globally.

You can see an infographic of the list below and can read the entire report here.

Here are a few highlights within the overall trends on this year’s list:

  • The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in the reporting period of the World Watch List 2022 are, in order: Afghanistan, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Eritrea, Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran, and India.
  • Afghanistan is now in the #1 position, displacing North Korea, which held that position for the past decade and more
  • In just the last year, there have been:
    • Over 360 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination
    • 5,898 Christians killed for their faith
    • 5,110 churches and other Christian buildings attacked
    • 6,175 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned
  • • 3,829 Christians abducted

The Weekend Wanderer: 23 October 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


125694“How Might the COVID-19 Crisis Reshape our Churches for Good?” – Kyuboem Lee in Christianity Today: “In March 2020, as the American public only began to grasp the growing scope of the global pandemic, we suddenly went into a shutdown. Churches could no longer meet in person; many scrambled to find ways to broadcast their Sunday services online instead. Initially, many of us thought (wishfully, as it turned out) that the shutdown would last a few weeks and we would return to normal. But the shutdown dragged out for months and months. Many churches were unable to meet in person for more than a year. Pastors began wondering out loud to me if their churches would survive financially. They fretted about their buildings, sitting empty week after week. They were concerned about giving amid sudden job losses and economic downturn. They worried about a drop-off in online service attendance. There was much cause for deep anxiety, and the pandemic’s long-term impact on churches may be felt for years to come. But I don’t believe that the pandemic is a crisis we simply need to recover from. Instead, the crisis of the pandemic and its aftereffects presents an opportunity to reshape the church in transformative ways. It offers us a moment of clarity to perceive our need for reinvention for the sake of our mission.”


womanlightingcandleembed“Responding to Persecution: Where Western Christians would stand and fight, Eastern Christians have learned to endure – or flee” – Luma Simms in Plough: “In 2007, my friend Ishraq was an Iraqi biologist working in quality control in a government agency testing products coming into the country for contaminants – food products and plants, anything meant for consumption or planting – a job she had studied and worked hard to attain, a job she loved. Her husband, Luay, owned a car dealership. Although other Christians were leaving Iraq after the chaos that engulfed the country after the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein, they didn’t want to leave their homeland. With the increase in crime and the abduction of Christians, they thought it best to sell the dealership and wait it out until things settled back down. One rainy day as Luay got ready to drive Ishraq to work, two cars pulled up in front of them. Men got out and snatched Luay. As they dragged him through the mud, she grabbed hold of his leg, shrieking. One of the kidnappers disentangled her from Luay and flung her off. ‘I lost my mind, I was screaming like a crazy woman, I was screaming for someone to come help us,’ she remembers. The men shoved Luay into one of their cars and left. A minute later a police officer came driving by and stopped when he heard her crying. He got out and stood over her as she lay shaking on the ground. When she told him what had happened, it became clear he knew who the kidnappers were. ‘He gave me his card and told me that when the kidnappers called me to ask for ransom money, to let him know and he’ll see what he can do. I told him, “What you can do is get in the car and go after them right now.” The policeman left and I just sat there in the mud on the side of the street wailing.'”


imrs.php“You’re a different person when you travel. Here’s why, and how to transform yourself at home.” – Jen Rose Smith in The Washington Post: “Every so often, I pack a bag for a solo trip that lasts as long as I can manage. The lifelong habit has weathered career changes, a pandemic and marriage. ‘Where is your husband?’ people ask. ‘Why are you here alone?’ ‘He’s at home,’ I say, perhaps while splashing through leech-filled mudholes in Borneo. ‘Because I like traveling by myself.’ I’m after more than sightseeing. Family, home and work are magnetic poles in my life; at times, I need to consult my personal compass away from the strong pull that they exert. When I leave familiar things behind, I look at the world with fresh eyes. Strange foods become new favorites. Curiosity surges. I am a different person when I travel. In her book, Getting Away from It All: Vacations and Identity, sociologist Karen Stein sheds light on the reasons that travelers, whether they’re going it alone or with friends, might feel different when on the road. She argues that travel is a chance to try out alternate identities — a temporary respite from ourselves.”


main-v00-81-1536x1024“China crackdown on Apple store hits holy book apps, Audible” – Matt O’brien at Religion News Service: “Amazon’s audiobook service Audible and phone apps for reading the holy books of Islam and Christianity have disappeared from the Apple store in mainland China, the latest examples of the impact of the country’s tightened rules for internet firms. Audible said Friday that it removed its app from the Apple store in mainland China last month ‘due to permit requirements.’ The makers of apps for reading and listening to the Quran and Bible say their apps have also been removed from Apple’s China-based store at the government’s request. Apple didn’t return requests for comment Friday. A spokesperson for China’s embassy in the U.S. declined to speak about specific app removals but said the Chinese government has ‘always encouraged and supported the development of the Internet.’ ‘At the same time, the development of the Internet in China must also comply with Chinese laws and regulations,’ said an emailed statement from Liu Pengyu. China’s government has long sought to control the flow of information online, but is increasingly stepping up its enforcement of the internet sector in other ways, making it hard to determine the causes for a particular app’s removal.”


29russellmooreembeddove“Integrity and the Future of the Church” – Russell Moore in Plough Quarterly: “Something was happening at the Vatican; I cannot remember if the issue was another sexual abuse cover-up or a contentious synod meeting. But I do remember seeing a woman I knew to be a serious Roman Catholic post on her social media an old music video, with no commentary. The video, R.E.M.’s 1991 song ‘Losing My Religion,’ prompted friends to ask if she had lost her faith. She responded that she hadn’t, but was afraid that she was losing her church. No wonder her friends were concerned. The song, after all, has entered popular culture as the soundtrack to almost any story of an ex-Catholic or an ‘ex-vangelical.’…In light of the current crisis of religion – seen perhaps most starkly in my own American evangelical subculture – I’m not sure that these are entirely different things. Perhaps ‘losing religion’ now is about both interpretations of the song, if not as much about intellect and argumentation as about grief, betrayal, and anger.”


John Coltrane

“Coltrane’s New ‘Love Supreme'” – Adam Shatz in The New York Review: “At a press conference in Tokyo in July 1966, a Japanese jazz critic asked John Coltrane what he would like to be in ten years. “I would like to be a saint,” he replied. Coltrane, who died the following July of liver cancer, at forty, reportedly laughed when he said this; but among his followers, he was already considered a spiritual leader, even a prophet. His reputation rested not merely on his musicianship, but on the example he set, the self-renunciation and good works required of every saint. Unlike the alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, who launched the bebop revolution with the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, Coltrane was not a fully formed virtuoso when he first emerged, but rather a committed and tireless student of the horn—a hardworking man who arrived at his sound through a practice regime of almost excruciating discipline. “He practiced like a man with no talent,” his friend the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson remembered. The saxophonist Archie Shepp, one of Coltrane’s many protégés, exaggerated only slightly when he remarked that he never saw him take the sax from his mouth. The trumpeter Miles Davis, in whose mid-Fifties quintet Coltrane first rose to prominence, made the same observation, though more in exasperation than worship.”


Music: John Coltrane, “A Love Supreme, Pt IV – Psalm (Live),” A Love Supreme – Live in Seattle.

The Weekend Wanderer: 26 June 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Wang Yi“Concerns Grow Over the Health of Imprisoned ERCC Pastor” – From International Christian Concern: “Concerns over the health of the imprisoned pastor of the banned Early Rain Covenant Church (ERCC) are growing. Pastor Wang Yi has been in police custody since December 14, 2018. Wang Yi, the pastor and founder of ERCC, was detained by the police in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan, the southwestern Chinese province where ERCC is located. He was arrested alongside dozens of members of his church on suspicion of ‘incitement to subvert state power.’ Pastor Wang was found guilty of this charge by the Chengdu Intermediate People’s Court. In December of 2019, he was sentenced to nine years in jail. In addition, authorities placed his family and the other members of his church who were detained under house arrest.”


AAPI mental health Verma“Churches Should Help Normalize Mental Health for Asian Americans” –  Prasanta Verma in Sojourners: “Last month, Chicago-based writer Liuan Huska tweeted that she “can’t write or talk about getting a massage without feeling retraumatized” by the Atlanta spa murders in March that left eight people dead — six of them Asian women. Huska is Chinese American and her mother is a massage therapist. With the documented rise in violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, fueled at least in part by racist rhetoric blaming Chinese people for the COVID-19 pandemic, Huska is not alone in feeling race-based trauma. Recent polling found that one-third of Asian adults in the U.S. fear physical attacks and threats, and more than half the Asian American women interviewed in a separate poll conducted by National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, reported experiencing incidents of hate in the past two years. A recent report by Stop AAPI Hate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Asian American Psychological Association found that Asian Americans who have experienced racism are more stressed by anti-Asian hate than the pandemic. Further, it found that 1 in 5 Asian Americans who have experienced racism show signs of racial trauma. But unlike Huska, who has been able to process her grief with friends, family, and a professional, many Asian Americans have been unable to share the trauma they are feeling. While 18 percent of the general U.S. population seeks mental health services only 8.6 percent of Asian Americans do so. This discrepancy is especially stark when compared to white U.S. citizens, who access mental health services at three times the rate of Asian Americans.”


Eternity in Our HeartsEternity in Our Heart: How Art Makes Us Long for Home” – Kelly Kruse in Ekstasis Magazine: “As a child and young adult, I thought that I was homesick for beauty itself. Like many artists, I was aware of a sort of insatiable hunger in me for the beautiful at an early age. I grew up in northwest Iowa, near a place called the Loess Hills, named for its glacially deposited bluffs of humus-rich yellow soil. The sunsets in those bluffs brought about some of my first experiences of transient beauty, too rich to savor all at once, a feast that disappears before it can be finished….Sehnsucht is a German word for a particular kind of longing that I have heard described as a homesickness for a place you’ve never been. You may ask, but how could we be homesick if we haven ’t been there? This is a good question, and it’s also part of the secret.”


OBS-Trees“Practices of Place” – Matt Busby in The Intersection Journal: “Onion Bottom is a place in Chattanooga. Most people who live in Chattanooga have never heard of it, and those who have would argue that it isn’t much of a place. To be honest, there is probably at least some truth to that. There aren’t any houses in Onion Bottom, and most of the lots are vacant industrial land bisected by railroads….Onion Bottom is also the home of our church, Mission Chattanooga. I wanted to begin with a rich description of our neighborhood because I believe that one of the only ways to overcome this gap between mission as evangelism and mission as social action is in the embodied presence of the church in a place.”


Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

“Social Media, Identity, and the Church” – Tim Keller in Life in the Gospel: “Recently I was in a Zoom forum of journalists and academics who were discussing the increasing polarization of American culture. At one point a male speaker said, ‘If I wanted to invent a public forum that would undermine civil discourse and lead to social division, I couldn’t do a better job than to create Twitter.’ A respected woman journalist, who had been working for nearly a year to understand how social media worked, agreed with him. I believe they are right. But I don’t see social media going away, either, because it has enormous benefits, too. It is also deeply embedded in the psyches especially of the young. So Christians can’t ignore it, and most of all we need to begin to understand it. One book that will be useful for that purpose is Breaking the Social Media Prism: How to Make Our Platforms Less Polarizing by Chris Bail (Princeton, 2021). This is not a religious book—it is a work of social science. (Bail is professor of sociology at Duke University.) But its findings can be significant for how Christians conduct themselves and consume social media. And, indeed, many of his final principles for “a way forward” align with Christian ethics. Here’s what we can learn from the book.”


CROP_a and b“From Here to Utopia: What religion can teach the Left” – David Albertson and Jason Blakely in Commonweal: “Utopian thinkers have often been motivated by Christian faith. The last century alone includes William Morris, G. K. Chesterton, Karl Barth, Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Cornel West…But too often Catholic political identity is limited to issues, ideology, and religious affiliation in survey polls. Equally important is the slow ethical formation of the self through the various practices of the Catholic faith, especially liturgies and other rituals that actually do the labor of constituting social belonging between individuals….The Left needs to learn how to introduce what James K. A. Smith has termed ‘cultural liturgies.’ Liturgies in this sense are cultural practices that shape our desires toward a highest good. Smith is ultimately concerned with Christian sacraments, readings, prayers, ascetic acts, charitable works, celebrations, and holy days. But he also draws attention to the way that other liturgies are offered to us by consumer capitalism that condition the heart to seek a rival highest good.”


Music: Jpk. (feat. Dominik Ray), “life thoughts.”

The Weekend Wanderer: 12 June 2021

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like. Disclaimer: I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.


Oran“Pastor of church ordered to close receives suspended sentence and fine in Algeria” – From Evangelical News – Europe: “Less than a week after a a court in Algeria ordered pastor Rachid Seighir’s church to close, a judge in handed him a one-year suspended sentence and a fine for “shaking the faith” of Muslims with Christian literature at his bookstore, sources said. Pastor Seighir’s Oratoire Church building in the city of Oran was one of three ordered to be sealed in western Algeria’s Oran Province on Wednesday (June 2). On Sunday (June 6) he and bookstore salesman Nouh Hamimi were sentenced to one-year suspended sentences and a fine of 200,000 dinars (US$1,494) in a ruling on their appeal of a prior sentence of two years in prison and a fine of 500,000 dinars (US$3,745).”


N T Wright“Anti-Racism in the Church” – NT Wright wrote this originally in The Spectator in March and it was reposted here: “Douglas Murray complains that the C of E has embraced the ‘new religion’ of anti-racism (‘The C of E’s new religion’, 20 March). But the truth, which neither he nor the church seems to have realised, is that the ‘anti-racist’ agenda is a secular attempt to plug a long-standing gap in western Christianity. The answer is to recover the full message, not to bolt on new ideologies. The earliest Christian writings insist that in the Messiah ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek’. The book of Revelation envisages Jesus’s followers as an uncountable family from every nation, tribe, people and language. At the climax of his greatest letter, St Paul urges Christians to ‘welcome one another’ across all social and ethnic barriers, insisting that the church will thereby function as the advance sign of God’s coming renewal of all creation.”


Christian Smith - next generation“Youth Pastors and Parents Cross Wires on the Core Purpose of Church” – Lyman Stone interviews sociologist Christian Smith in Christianity Today: “How religious mothers and fathers balance their children’s growing autonomy with robust discipleship is the topic of a new book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, by Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and Amy Adamczyk, professor of sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York (CUNY).”


Multicultural friends group using smartphone with coffee at university college break - People hands addicted by mobile smart phone - Technology concept with connected trendy millennials - Filter image

“The Questions Concerning Technology” – L. M. Sacasas in The Convivial Society email newsletter: “I then went on to produce a set of 41 questions that I drafted with a view to helping us draw out the moral or ethical implications of our tools. The post proved popular at the time and I received a few notes from developers and programmers who had found the questions useful enough to print out post in their workspaces….This is not, of course, an exhaustive set of questions, nor do I claim any unique profundity for them. I do hope, however, that they are useful, wherever we happen to find ourselves in relation to technological artifacts and systems. At one point, I had considered doing something a bit more with these, possibly expanding on each briefly to explain the underlying logic and providing some concrete illustrative examples or cases. Who knows, may be that would be a good occasional series for the newsletter. Feel free to let me know what you think about that.”


Ten Commandments for Tech“Ten Commandments for Tech” – Continuing the technology theme, here is Amy Crouch in Comment: “Our tech devices are designed to make life easier, but maybe ease isn’t what we need. They’re designed to captivate us, but maybe we need time to look up and around. Silicon Valley’s technologies promised a revolution in speed and convenience, and they certainly delivered. Yet it’s starting to look like those were the wrong promises. 24/7 communication and distraction haven’t relieved us from stress, boredom, or loneliness. As our lives become increasingly mediated by algorithms and machines, tech designers need to rethink those promises. The following “ten commandments” suggest a way of designing that is centred not on ease or distraction, but flourishing. Perhaps we don’t need greater convenience in our communities and callings. Perhaps instead we need help to venture further on the straight-and-narrow path of righteousness.”


Arrival“Arrival and Annihilation: Cinematic Reimaginings of the Resurrection of the Body” – Here is Jon Coutts writing in The Other Journal about two science fiction movies and their reapproaching of what resurrection means: “When we think of the so-called afterlife, we cannot help but use our imaginations. As a young child in church, I imagined an unending hymn-sing or an eternity spent floating suspended in the clouds. To me, the thought of ceaseless heaven was terrifying. And since then, I’ve received no help from the idealized projections of near-death-experience literature or from popular renditions like The Good Place. Even in its light-heartedness, the NBC sitcom could find no better ending than a get-out-of-the-afterlife-free option that’s triggered once perpetual self-satisfaction wears into infinite tedium.”


Music: Bill Evans, “Peace Piece,” from Everybody Digs