Helpful Primer on Persecution


Christianity percentage by country

Christianity percentage by country (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Recently, Nina Shea, was interviewed by Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review. Nina is the director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute. She is also co-author of a helpful book detailing the present state of persecution around the world:  Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.  

 

In the interview, Nina Shea points out that Christians are fleeing en masse from Iraq and Syria. And in Nigeria, Egypt, and Syria, Christians are being slaughtered by the thousands. She tells of one incident in which Christians were murdered while attending a Christian funeral. And, in another situation in Egypt, Nadia Mohammad Ali was arrested with her 5 children and sentenced to 15 years in prison for converting to Christianity.

 

The interview points out that little is being done to aid Christians. While Nina Shea (like her colleague Paul Marshall) pleads for political solutions to come forth from a so-far non-responsive Obama Administration, she is doing a favor for all Christians. All Christians are commanded to remember the persecuted as though in prison with them. My hope in posting this is that Christians will read the interview and get acquainted with the present state of persecution and, even more importantly, will begin praying for those Christians who are suffering in the name of Christ.

 

 

 

The Most Mistreated Minority in the World Is …


Crucifixion of St. Peter by Caravaggio. The ea...

Back in November, I wrote a blog post about German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in which it was noted that Merkel was taking a great deal of heat for claiming that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.  That is not a headline that sells in America, as many folks still love to decry the “moral majority” of America’s past.

Nonetheless, time is proving Merkel right.  Studies have shown that Christians are harassed more than any religion in the Pew Study Religion Persecution Christianworld.  A new collaborative work by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute covers the worldwide persecution of Christians in great detail.  The Book,  Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, is now in print.

The book demonstrates just how bad the problem is and how, particularly, Christians in the Middle East are being targeted for extinction with little concern from Americans in general and American Christians in particular. Kirsten Powers has written an article for USA Today which calls on Americans to speak out against the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Lebanon was once a majority Christian country but no longer, as Christians flee the hostility. CBS News reported in 2011 that the former president of Lebanon, Amin Gemayel complained of a “genocide” against Christians in the Middle East. “Massacres are taking place for no reason and without any justification against Christians. It is only because they are Christians.”

Christians are the most ill-treated religious minority in the world.  Without a doubt, Merkel, Powers, Shea, Gilbert, and Marshall are all speaking truth. The question for each of us is whether we will speak up with them on behalf of our brothers and sisters.  Will we do as the Lord commanded and “remember those who are ill-treated since we ourselves are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3)?

Take a prayerful look at the article from Kirsten Powers; the book from Shea, Gilbert, and Marshall; and the teachings of the New Testament and decide if you need to become an advocate for the persecuted church.

An Easter Perspective


Beyond the hollow bunnies and plastic grass, Easter is a celebration of victorious life in the resurrected Christ. Today is a Easter Rabbit Good Fridayholy day in the life of the Christian. This Friday which we too casually call “Good” is a day of remembering the atoning work of Christ on behalf of our sinful souls.

It is also a day to remember that the Christ who was opposed, arrested, beaten, mocked, spat upon, cursed, and eventually killed some 2,000 years ago yet lives and remains present with His people. Just as the Lord was persecuted when His physical visage blessed the earth, so, too, does His body still suffer persecution at the hands of unbelief.

Last year on Easter Sunday, Boko Haram—Muslim extremists in Nigeria—killed 39 Christians while they were worshiping the risen Lord Jesus.  This year, there will perhaps be other Christians targeted for murder.  Nina Shea has posted a warning from a Muslim terrorist group in Tanzania, indicating that this Easter could see more Christian persecution:

 

We thank our young men, trained in Somalia, for killing an infidel. Many more will die. We will burn homes and churches. We have not finished: at Easter, be prepared for disaster.

 

Please remember both Christ and His body this Easter season. Be sober-minded about eternity and ever joyful about the victory that is ours through the Resurrected Lord.

 “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 15

Religious Freedom: A Clash of Categories


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its annual report,  detailing the 16 countries which are of particular concern because of their stringent opposition to freedom in matters of religion.  The countries of particular concern this year are Burma, North Korea, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan (North), Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

Nina Shea, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and the director of the Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, has a helpful critique of the latest report, particularly noting the absence of Afghanistan from the countries of particular concern (CPC) list.

The work done by the USCIRF is good and surely is to be applauded. With a bloated federal government overflowing with agencies, secretaries, and czars of various sorts, it is good to know that there is at least one commission paying attention to the most basic human liberties.  The work done by the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom is even better than the USCIRF work because it is able to explain religious liberty from a single, coherent perspective.  But beyond these two entities, Christians have a steeper challenge when it comes to religious liberty.

Religious liberty, as a category, is not a biblical category; it is a political category.  This is not a criticism of religious liberty; it is a basic fact of clarification.  Talk of religious liberty is political talk.  Though Christians certainly should be on the forefront of engaging in the battle for religious liberty, Christians cannot stop there.  As a Baptist, for instance, I can boast that we Baptists have been champions of religious liberty in America. The reason, of course, is that our denomination was birthed from the pangs of religious intolerance.  Baptists were persecuted in 17th Century England and in 18th Century America (hence, Roger Miller in Rhode Island).  Danbury Baptists, of course, carried on the conversation with Thomas Jefferson which has infamously (and erroneously) led to the notion of a separation of church and state. I could go on, but the point is plain that Baptists support staunchly the concept of religious liberty.

Still, religious liberty is, technically, a political category, and Christians must keep paring down political ideals until they arrive at biblical ones.  Pushing the political square peg into its biblical round hole leads the Christian to the biblical category of persecution. Persecution is the category biblical writers use when speaking of ill treatment on account of following Jesus. Jesus speaks much about persecution.  The gospels, Paul’s letters, Peter’s writings, John’s Revelation—the New Testament is filled with instructions about and explanations of persecution, thus enabling Christians to understand it and respond to it in a manner worthy of the gospel.

To her credit, Nina Shea, in her critique of the USCIRF report, instinctively jumps to the category of persecution. In so doing, she makes this important observation:

“Christians are far from the only religious group persecuted in these countries. But, Christians are the only group persecuted in each and every one of them. This pattern has been found by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, Pew Research Center, Newsweek, and The Economist, all of which recently reported that an overwhelming majority of the religiously persecuted around the world are Christians. Globally, this persecution is experienced by all Christian faith traditions from Pentecostal and evangelical to Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox.”

Her comments lead us to an undeniable fact concerning Christian persecution: It happens everywhere. Granted, the report only lists 16 countries on its CPC list and another 9 countries on its watch list; nevertheless, Christians are persecuted in every country which appears on any list. The reason is explained by the biblical instructions on Christian persecution.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:12 what Jesus had already explained in John 15:18-25.  Anyone who is a follower of Christ will be persecuted because Christ is present with him. Even as the world hated (and thus executed) Christ when he walked among us, so, too, does the world still hate (and persecute) Christ.  There is still animus against God’s messiah. And so, there is still Christian persecution everywhere.

The USCIRF report is helpful in pointing out for us where the persecution is presently most intense, but it cannot specifically say that Christians are persecuted in all countries and in all places on account of Christ. We need the Bible to remind us of that fact.  All Christians will be persecuted on account of Christ. The USCIRF report reminds us that the persecution will sometimes be particularly intense in some places. Persecution differs from country to country in degrees of intensity but not in type of suffering. Christians suffer persecution everywhere they exist.