Did you know that popular “resort” destinations like Brunei consider the Bible an illegal book? In fact, if a Bruneian citizen is caught with a Bible, they could serve nine years in jail. And in the Maldives, where the water is so beautiful it was used as a location in a Star Wars movie, there isn’t even a Bible published in the native language.
If you’re thinking about an international trip, it might be good to do a little research on your destination—specifically around the level of Christian persecution. Some of the most popular vacation destinations and beach paradises have extreme levels of Christian persecution just below the surface.
With that said, here are seven popular resort destinations that rank high on the 2018 World Watch List of the 50 toughest countries for Christians. On the surface, these countries might boast beautiful scenery, well-oiled tourist industries and colorful culture, but underneath there’s a secret war going on for religious freedom you should know about.
Deep in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a tropical archipelago comprised of over a thousand coral atoll islands. Its clear waters are perfect for scuba, the waves are supreme for surfing and with countless islands to visit, it’s paradise. However, there’s much more going on than sandcastles and surf. Ranking at No. 13 on the 2018 World Watch List, Christianity is not welcome. The government of the Maldives insists that the country be run according to conservative Islamic tenets and that all citizens be Muslims. In effect, there is no religious freedom, except for expatriate Christians who are only allowed to practice their faith in utmost privacy, behind closed doors and in strictly monitored settings. Because the government is currently engaged in a political struggle with opposition forces, any perceived threat (like Christianity) is quickly and harshly eradicated.
Known for luxury cities like Dubai, the Emirates are filled with resorts, high-end shopping experiences, exceptional architecture and beautiful beaches. However, being a Christian in the Emirates comes with its challenges. Ranking at No. 40 on the 2018 World Watch List, the Emirates are not friendly to Christianity. While expatriate Christian communities are relatively free to practice their faith, they also face restrictions. They are free to worship and practice their faith in private but are prohibited from expressing their faith, worshiping, preaching or praying in public. Proselytization of any sort is illegal, so Christians must exercise caution and self-restraint when interacting with Muslims. Meanwhile, converts from an Islamic background often keep their conversion secret out of fear of repercussions.
India is an explosion of culture and beauty with bright colored saris, beaming sunlight and unique foliage like the Frangipanis—a bright white exotic flower—and, of course, the Taj Mahal. But this beauty is in stark contrast to the underlying religious and nationalists tensions within the country. Ranking just outside the top 10 at No. 11, India is a powder keg of persecution. Because Hindu nationalist radicals view Christians as outsiders, they are experiencing increased persecution. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end. The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating that violence may continue to increase in the coming years.