The Global Church in 2023: CT’s Top 20 International Stories


Read 20 of Christianity Today’s most popular international stories of 2023. For regions where the church suffered significant disaster or violence, we’ve added additional context from our wider coverage:

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As the war in Ukraine hit the one-year mark, only a tiny minority of Russian Christian leaders had voiced complaint publicly. The response from authorities has been uneven: Minor church figures were fined or jailed, while others continue to use their names on social media.

Others decided to flee after denouncing the conflict. In August, authorities filed charges against Yuri Sipko for publicly disseminating “knowingly false information” against the Russian military. They raided his home and temporarily detained his son. The 71-year-old former president of the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists escaped to Germany the week after.

Above, read the story of Mikhail Manzurin, a mid-20-something pastor who broke from his longtime spiritual mentor over the war.

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More than five dozen members of Shenzhen Holy Reformed Church made a permanent move to America earlier this year after failing to find long-term asylum in South Korea and Thailand, having collectively escaped from China in 2019. These “Mayflower” Christians arrived as thousands of migrants from the mainland are trying to enter the United States through various countries in Latin America, deeply disillusioned and dissatisfied with the political and economic realities of today’s China.

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Nearly 500 people died in a series of attacks on Christian villages in three north-central Nigerian states in the beginning of 2023. In June, many Christians steamed when a Muslim-Muslim president–vice president ticket won the election and Bola Ahmed Tinubu ascended into presidency. His wife, Oluremi Tinubu, served as a senator until earlier this year and is also an ordained pastor in the Redeemed Christian Church of God, one of the nation’s largest homegrown denominations with affiliated churches worldwide.

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“Ukraine’s Christians no longer see ‘the last days’ as some far-off, eschatological era sketched in Revelation,” wrote Sophia Lee from Ukraine as part of CT’s March cover story. “ ‘We live as though today is our last day,’ one of them told me, echoing a sentiment I heard from so many Ukrainians. And should they ever forget that life is a vapor, explosions and frequent blackouts return them quickly to the truth: We’re here a little while, and gone tomorrow.”

This year’s coverage of the war included the establishment of the Ukrainian Chaplaincy Service, a look at the dozens of religious buildings destroyed in Ukraine, and the country’s burgeoning Ukrainian Christian school movement, now seen as more necessary than ever by an increasing number of families.

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In April, Myanmar’s military junta sentenced the former head of the Kachin Baptist Convention to six years in prison on charges of terrorism, unlawful association, and inciting opposition. Hkalam Samson denies the charges, which international rights groups and the Kachin diaspora believe to be politically motivated.

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In August, a pastor and his congregation fought back against one of the many deadly gangs that has terrorized Haiti for the past several years. Evangelical leaders said the syncretistic pastor’s faith-driven counterattack was unwise but also empathized with the circumstances. This chronic violence in combination with the Biden administration’s shift in policy that eases immigration to the US has made it an even harder decision for those who have decided to stay.

“[This policy change] reinforces the escapism mindset that enslaves so many Haitians and kills our desire to fight for sustainable change in our country,” wrote Guenson Charlot, president of Emmaus University in Acul-du-Nord, Haiti. “It represents a golden calf alluring our most faithful believers to trust man, rather than God, to supply their needs.”

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Local Christians were among the first responders to the massive earthquake in February in Turkey and Syria that left more than 20,000 people dead and tens of thousands injured. Among the areas leveled by the disaster was Antakya, or Antioch, a place that the apostle Paul held close to his heart and whose name many churches and ministries have taken as their own. One of the highest-profile earthquake deaths was Ghana soccer player Christian Atsu, who previously played in the Premier League, scored the winning goal the night before his death, and who praised God in everything.

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After Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, Palestinian evangelicals and Messianic Jews shared astonishment, grief, and prayer for peace and justice. Days into the war, a fatal explosion hit a well-known hospital run by Anglicans—and formerly by Southern Baptists—“in the middle of one of the world’s most troubled places.” Several weeks ago, Christian leaders and municipal authorities in Bethlehem, in the West Bank, canceled all public festivities in solidarity with the suffering in Gaza due to the Israel-Hamas war.

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Thousands of Christians fled their homes in India’s eastern state of Manipur after mobs from the Meitei majority murdered dozens of the Kuki-Zo minority, many of whom are Christians. Some have attempted to build new lives in Delhi or elsewhere in the country, while others are stuck in camps. Meanwhile, Meitei Christians, many of whom also lost homes and churches, feel “overlooked and despised” by both sides.

Referencing violence in Kandhamal, Odisha, that claimed the lives of around 100 Christians in 2007 and 2008, Vijayesh Lal, general secretary of the Evangelical Fellowship of India, told CT:

“Then Manipur may be forgotten, like Kandhamal has been. But the broken lives of the victims take a long time to mend and heal. The church and NGOs have limited resources and they can only do so much. The government must compensate the victims whose homes have been lost and lives shattered. Churches must be rebuilt by the government, but will they? Many victims of Kandhamal are still waiting for their just compensation even after nearly 15 years.”





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