Archives For Christian persecution

We no longer live in a culture that is heavily influenced by Christian values and mores. Many in the culture are becoming antagonistic to Christians.

This is not the first time Christians have experienced trials and persecution. To be sure, there are variations of persecutions, and there is a spectrum. What Christians in the west experience today is persecution, but it is nothing to what Christians in other countries face: martyrdom – death because they are Christians. Even though the history of the Christian church is littered with reminders of persecution, it is new to those Christians living now. There has been a significant shift culturally in the past 25 years.

But this is the climate in which the early Christians lived and in which the proclamation of the gospel spread, resulting in the transformation of lives. This is not a time to bemoan what is, or to expect what is not. Rather, it is to live in peace as we trust in and rest upon the Lord Jesus Christ as he has overcome the world, and it is to have hope in the midst of the tribulation. I think of Jesus’ words: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

I include links to a few conferences held recently that address this important topic.

The first one I mention is the EFCA Theology Conference 2014 on the theme, Christian Faithfulness in a Changing Culture. This was an attempt to frame the issues related to our changing culture, and how we seek to live faithfully as Christians and as the church of Jesus Christ in this changing culture. Even though this conference was held in 2014, there has been much that has changed culturally since that time.

The second one is the Andrew Fuller Conference, held at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary last fall: Persecution and the Church. The topics include the following:

  • Persecution in Revelation (Tom Schreiner)
  • Persecution and Paul (Brian Vickers)
  • Roman Persecution of the Ancient Church (Bryan Litfin)
  • The Persecution of Anabaptists (Jason Duesing)
  • Baptists and Persecution in Virginia (Steve Weaver)
  • Communist Persecution of the Church, 1917-1989 (Nathan Finn)
  • Islam and the Persecuted Church in Sub-Saharan Africa (Benjamin Hegeman)

The third one is the Bethlehem Conference for Pastors 2016, just recently completed: Joy Set Before Us: Perseverance and Hope in the Day of Opposition The topics included the following:

  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 1) (Joy Rigney)
  • What Has Jerusalem to Do With America? Lessons from the Book of Acts (Part 2) (Joe Rigney)
  • The Woman from Kentucky (Don Carson)
  • Think It Not Strange: Fiery Trials and the Testimony of Christ (John Piper)
  • How Long, O Lord? Steadying Our Soul in the Midst of the Storm (Don Carson)
  • The Gift of Suffering: The Purpose and Pleasure of God in Persecution (Jason Meyer)
  • Boldness Under Threat: Speaking the Gospel with Clarity as Opposition Grows (Leonce Crump II)
  • Preaching to a Persecuted People: The Pastor as Leader, Comforter, and Guide (John Piper)
  • The Blood of the Martyrs Is Seed: Learning from Missions and for Missions (Tim Keesee)

I commend these helpful resources to you as an aid, to borrow the title of our Theology Conference, to live faithfully by the enabling and transforming power of the Holy Spirit, for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the glory of God.

Christian Persecution: A Response

Greg Strand – April 8, 2015 Leave a comment

The ISIS martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Christians is now old news. But even though that was a horrific act that shook the conscience of the world, that sort of thing occurs daily, although not necessarily of that magnitude or with that public renown. This is a “troubling trend of violence targeting Christians and other religious minorities.” According to Open Doors USA, who gives an annual update on the persecution of Christians around the world, “persecution has never been worse”: Christian Persecution Has Never Been Worse

Open Doors is committed “to helping Christians facing persecution around the world.” Kristin Wright, director of advocacy at Open Doors, was interviewed about the persecution of Christians more broadly. Specifically Wright was asked “about where Christian persecution is the worst, what Christians are facing and how people can help those suffering” during these days of the “Church’s unprecedented challenge.” I include some of the questions and responses from this interview.

Has Open Doors seen an uptick in persecution against the Church?

We certainly have. Last year—2014—will go down in history as having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era. The worst thing, though, is conditions suggest this is only going to worsen around the world in many areas where Christians face a lot of persecution.

Have you identified anything in particular that has contributed to such a dramatic increase in persecution of Christians?

Each year, Open Doors produces our World Watch List that identifies 50 countries where Christians face intense persecution because of their faith. So there are a lot of different factors that are analyzed and taken into account when we’re creating this list. But one thing we have found is that for the most recently released list for 2015, Islamic extremism is the source of persecution in 40 out of 50 of those countries. So that says something about a growing issue throughout the world today—and one that isn’t just impacting minority Christians in different countries, but impacting many minority groups.

We’ve been hearing about the atrocities committed by ISIS, and one of their intentions is to drive people away from other faiths. Has going through all this strengthened people’s resolve to follow their faith? What is the mindset for people on the ground there who have actually seen and suffered violence firsthand?

I’ve spoken to many, many refugee families coming from both Syria and Iraq, and I think that the resolve varies. It depends on the way the family has reacted to the suffering they’ve experienced. It depends on where they are in that process. They’ve lost everything, including members of their family, in many cases. And when you’re up close and personal with that kind of suffering on a daily basis, it’s easy for resolve to weaken.

I’ve also talked to many families that have held strong to their faith in the midst of persecution, and their faith is a source of comfort for them. Their faith is a source of strength. But there’s also the reality of grief and how hard it is to be a refugee, how hard it is to leave everything behind you.

Something that we talk a lot about at Open Doors is this concept of presence ministry; being present for the persecuted church, being present for people who are suffering. For some people, that means going there and visiting firsthand with refugees and hearing their stories and crying with them and praying with them. For others, that means praying just from afar, from wherever you are. Praying for peace.

Prayer is such a crucial aspect of this ministry and every time I visit with families that have fled from Iraq and Syria and different areas, and they’re always saying, “We need your prayers. We need your prayers on a daily basis.”

When asked about how Christians can become engaged, Wright listed four specific ways to help.

  • Prayer: “I think prayer is a great place to start. Our prayers can go where we cannot go, and I think that prayer is absolutely the best way to begin. Prayer is also a powerful way for us to identify with those who are suffering.”
  • Letters: “we often encourage people to write letters to persecuted Christians, and that’s a very popular way to take action” which is a “very powerful, practical way you can make a difference.”
  • Advocating: “Another way is through advocating, and so you can sign up for the advocacy newsletter.”
  • Giving: “In addition to this, the very practical things of giving to provide for education, provide for child-friendly spaces, to provide for practical shelter for families.”

What will you do? How will you respond?

Hear the Word of the Lord: “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3).

Christian Persecution: An Update

Greg Strand – April 7, 2015 Leave a comment

Open Doors, Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide, released their yearly report at the beginning of this past year. They identified the top 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution: Open Doors: Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide: Countries

The top 10 countries where Christians face persecution are the following:

  1. North Korea
  2. Somalia
  3. Iraq
  4. Syria
  5. Afghanistan
  6. Sudan
  7. Iran
  8. Pakistan
  9. Eritrea
  10. Nigeria

Open Doors also noted that although 2014 marked the height of persecution of Christians thus far in the modern day, it appears that it will get worse: “Persecution of Christians Reaches Historic Levels, Conditions Suggest Worst Is Yet To Come”

While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era, current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come. . . . Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries on the 2015 World Watch List. While persecution can take many forms, Christians throughout the world risk imprisonment, torture, rape and even death as result of their faith.

Note well: Christians are “one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” with “Islamic extremism” being “the main source of persecution” in most of the countries.

Here is how Open Doors define persecution and identify its effect.

Christian persecution is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of one’s identification with Christ. Recent examples include imprisonment, torture, beheadings, rape, and loss of home and assets.

While violent persecution is most often reported by media, nonviolent persecution is also on the rise. Violence has increased dramatically in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, but Christians in other countries are experiencing persecution in their personal lives through family, community and national spheres of life. Christians are often ostracized by family exclusion, the loss of a job or even rejection from a community.

It is more the norm than not that Christians are persecuted around the world. We in the West are not facing what the majority of our brothers and sisters are in other parts of the world. This is not to say we are not facing persecution. We are, and it is to be expected (Matt. 5:11-12; 2 Tim. 3:12). However, one must be quick to qualify that since none of us here are at the point of facing death (cf. Heb. 12:4). There is a spectrum of persecution.

How are we suffering with our brothers and sisters where they are literally shedding their blood because of their Christian faith? How do we prepare for the persecution that will increase and intensify in the days to come?

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:32-39