A Pastor in Iran behind a laptop with headset for online ministry

Think of your phone. All that technology in the palm of your hand. It listens out for your voice commands, it knows where you are, it can recognise your fingerprints or even your face.

And some governments are very interested in technology like that.

Persecution is going digital. Among the trends discovered in the analysis of the data for the World Watch List 2020 is the disturbing way in which authorities are increasingly using technology like CCTV and facial recognition as a way of monitoring ‘subversive’ elements within their society.

Explore the World Watch List and how you can support your persecuted family

India (10 on the World Watch List) is pressing forward with a national facial-recognition system. While this is ostensibly to help the police, Christians and other religious minorities fear it will be used against them.

Facial tracking could lead to increased pressure and persecution of Christians who are already deeply impacted by violence—there were at least 447 verified incidents of violence and hate crimes against Christians in India in the 2020 World Watch List reporting period. There is fear that more tracking could increase these attacks.

The country has developed widespread facial recognition software and established laws requiring facial scans to purchase a phone. When taken together, these two technological advances means the government can track individuals across cities, public places and even churches where cameras are installed.

Other countries are also using technology to control their citizens and the information they can access. Russia is trialling a ‘sovereign internet’, a closed system which will filter out subversive or risky material.

The technology will not be reserved to Asia.

Clearly Iran [ranked 9] is interested in this technology, and you can imagine how, in the hands of an Islamic regime, this could be a massive tragedy for religious minorities.

A BLESSING AND A WEAPON

Digital technology has been a huge blessing to the persecuted church. It has enabled easy communication. It’s made it possible for isolated Christians to listen to Christian media or be in contact with other Christians. It’s even made it possible for pastors to store their entire library on a micro SD card.

But now that technology is being weaponised against the church. The surveillance state is turning the cameras on the Christians. Persecution is going digital.

PLEASE PRAY

Lord, thank You that You are stronger than any forces of mankind, and that no surveillance can see further or deeper than You can. We pray that You would protect Your children, and frustrate the efforts of their governments to use digital technology to persecute believers. Give strength, wisdom and joy to our brothers and sisters, and opportunities to share the good news of Jesus despite opposition. Amen.

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To Stand With Them

Open Doors’ goal is to “strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev 3:2).

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