Blow the whistle on extreme persecution this World Cup

As excitement for the World Cup mounts Open Doors is asking supporters to remember the plight of Christians in seven of the competing team’s home countries and to pray for them.

Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Tunisia, Mexico and Columbia are all on the Open Doors World Watch List of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian. Christians in these countries are not free to live out their faith without facing persecution – whether that be rejection, isolation, denial of rights and freedom, or even violence.

Open Doors have produced Play while they play, a downloadable resource which highlights the injustice and persecution Christians face on a daily basis. Open Doors’ Emma Worrall said, “If, like me, you love football and also want to kick off about the persecution faced by millions of Christians, then this resource is perfect! Seven countries in the World Cup are places where Christians face persecution and we would love you to pray when they play!” Download it now at

Even in Russia, where the World Cup is being held, Christians face persecution. In the Muslim majority Caucasus region Christian converts must keep their faith hidden from their family. While in other areas denominations other than The Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) are seen as Western and alien and face hostility. In 2017 the state banned Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Number 10 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

The Iranian government is committed to Islam and important hardliners are very anti-Christian. House churches for believers from Muslim backgrounds have been raided and leaders given long prison sentences. That has led to many converts either moving abroad or keeping their faith a secret. The government has approved Armenian and Assyrian churches, but those who reach out to Muslims face harassment, physical abuse and imprisonment.


  • Friday 15 June 16.00 against Morocco
  • Wednesday 20 June 19.00 against Spain
  • Monday 25 June 19.00 against Portugal

Please pray:

  • For strength for Christian converts who have been disowned by their Muslim families
  • That government leaders would change their strict laws to allow for freedom of religion
  • That Christians in prison will remain strong and safe.

Saudi Arabia

Number 12 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

The government in Saudi Arabia is committed to a strict Islamic system that treats Christians as second-class citizens. Churches are not allowed. Christian migrants (from India, Philippines and Africa) who meet for worship or share their faith with Muslims may be detained and deported. Saudi believers from a Muslim background face even more pressure, including death threats, mostly from extended family and Islamic leaders. But, numbers are growing and they are sharing their faith publicly, despite the consequences.


  • Thursday 14 June 16.00 against Russia
  • Wednesday 20 June 16.00 against Uruguay
  • Monday 25 June 15.00 against Egypt

Please pray:

  • For change in the plans to reduce migrant workers many of whom are Christians
  • For new Christians as they decide whether to share their faith with relatives and Muslim Saudis
  • For those in government, the royal house, and religious police.


Number 14 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

Nigeria is split between a largely Christian south and largely Muslim north. Twelve states in the north are governed by sharia law and radical teaching is common. Believers experience discrimination, exclusion and violence from militant Islamic groups, resulting in the loss of property, land, livelihood, physical injury or death; this is spreading southwards. Converts from a Muslim background face rejection from their Muslim families and pressure to give up Christianity.


  • Saturday 16 June 20.00 against Croatia
  • Friday 22 June 16.00 against Iceland
  • Tuesday 26 June 19.00 against Argentina

Please pray:

  • For Christian women in danger of kidnap and forced marriage
  • For comfort and strength for displaced Christians in the north
  • Ask God to supply the needs of neglected Christian villages that are without water and health care.


Number 17 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

Egypt has seen a rise in violent and deadly attacks against Christians; 128 were killed last year and many others were injured. So-called Islamic State targets Christians and the government offers little protection. Muslims who convert to Christianity face enormous pressure from family and community. Official recognition of conversion is almost impossible. Building new churches is becoming more difficult and church leaders are monitored by the state.


  • Friday 15 June 13.00 against Uruguay
  • Tuesday 19 June 19.00 against Russia
  • Monday 25 June 15.00 against Saudi Arabia

Please pray:

  • For comfort and provisions for Christians who are pushed from their homes for leaving Islam
  • For Christians who have been discriminated against
  • For the leaders of Islamist groups who stir up hostility.


Number 30 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

All Tunisians are registered as Muslims, and those who decide to become Christians face persecution from militant Islamic groups, the government, and even their families and friends. Christians have been arrested, beaten and evicted by their families. It is illegal for Muslims to marry non-Muslims and no new church has been granted registration since 1956.


  • Monday 18 June 19.00 against England
  • Saturday 23 June 13.00 against Belgium
  • Thursday 28 June 19.00 against Panama

Please pray:

  • For comfort and strength for young people, rejected for their faith and facing pressure from Muslim family members
  • The church is very young; pray for those training new leaders
  • For protection against Muslim extremists who seek to harm Christians.


Number 39 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

Corruption is rife in Mexico. Christians who take a stand put themselves in immense danger. Many pastors face intimidation and death threats because they offer an alternative to gang life and won’t pay bribes or protection money. Christian converts in indigenous communities are punished for leaving tribal religions. They can be expelled from their homes, while non-traditional denominations are discriminated against.


  • Sunday 17 June 16.00 against Germany
  • Saturday 23 June 16.00 against South Korea
  • Wednesday 27 June 15.00 against Sweden

Please pray:

  • For those in gangs who kidnap, terrorise and kill Christians
  • For God’s provision and grace for Christians who are denied access to basic social services and resources
  • For protection for persecuted believers in one of the most violent countries in the world.


Number 49 on the Open Doors World Watch List.

Crime and corruption, led by criminal groups dominate Colombian life. Christians who stand against these gangs receive death threats. Many Christians are forced to pay a ‘protection tax’ against assault. Violence is particularly intense when former gang members convert to Christianity. Persecution also comes from leaders of indigenous communities who perceive Christians as wanting to impose their worldview.


  • Tuesday 19 June 13.00 against Japan
  • Sunday 24 June 19.00 against Poland
  • Thursday 28 June 15.00 against Senegal

Please pray:

  • For an end to corruption and the influence of criminal organisations
  • That Christians will stand strong and be a witness to those who threaten them
  • For those whose family members have been murdered for their faith.

Country information and prayer points are available to download as cards along with social media graphics to let your followers know that you’re praying.

Erin James

One thought on “Blow the whistle on extreme persecution this World Cup

  • 16th June 2018 at 6:08 pm

    I think people should not pressure others into being their religion. People should not be treated badly just because they want to worship in a different manner. We should encourage exchanges about topics of our faith, but not kill others because they believe differently. If we would just concentrate on feeding the hungry and helping the poor, we would make the world better together and let our relationship with God be our own . Romans 14.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.