“The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you…” – Jesus Christ in John 15:20
I have been thinking a lot lately about the severe persecution of the Christian Church in many parts of the world. This type of persecution is not new, as the painting above demonstrates. In fact, Christ warned believers that the world would hate them even as He was hated. One would think as our global society becomes more “enlightened” that these things would disappear. But such is obviously not the case. If anything, things have only gotten worse.
The US State Department in its International Religious Freedom Report for 2013 stated, “In 2013, the world witnessed the largest displacement of religious communities in recent memory. In almost every corner of the globe, millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others representing a range of faiths were forced from their homes on account of their religious beliefs. Out of fear or by force, entire neighborhoods are emptying of residents. Communities are disappearing from their traditional and historic homes and dispersing across the geographic map. In conflict zones, in particular, this mass displacement has become a pernicious norm. – See more at: http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/religiousfreedom/index.htm#wrapper
In October 2010, a report issued by the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) concluded that at least 75 per cent of all religious persecution was directed against Christians. It released findings showing that about 100 million Christians experienced some sort of discrimination, oppression or persecution.
If COMECE’s report was met with skepticism in some quarters, subsequent events have provided ample proof of the scale of the threat against the Church and hence in November 2012 German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared before a synod of the country’s Lutheran Church that: “Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.”
The map below shows the general severity of persecution by country.
While these findings are certainly cause for concern, they are not cause for the demise of Christ’s redemptive mission towards mankind. Christ’s church has thrived under persecution since its inception. In fact, one could argue that in the West, where the Church has experienced historically unprecedented freedom, we have seen the influence of the Church on its society decline at an alarming rate. The church in Western Europe, for example, has become almost socially irrelevant and the North American Church is rapidly following suit.
And yet, in those places where being a Christian carries a cost, the Church seemingly thrives, even if underground. What does this tell us about mankind and our relationship with our Creator? Can we be trusted to pursue real communion with God when things are going well? Or does human nature require a certain amount of turbulence to bring us to a dependence on God and to cause us to assess whether our beliefs are held firmly enough that we are willing to pay a price?
As interesting and convicting as these questions may be, they do not make the difficulties of our brothers and sisters suffering under persecution any easier. They deserve our support and our prayers.
Below are several links to organizations that exist to help persecuted believers around the world.
Voice of the Martyrs www.persecution.com
Open Door USA www.opendoorusa.org
Barnabas Fund www.barnabasfund.org