In the book of Mark in the Bible it shows that Jesus was persecuted in many forms; rejection, threats, mockery and being arrested, this ended up as death. Persecution of Christians isn’t just something you need to look back in history to find.
There are many parts of the world where religious freedom is restricted and practising Christianity is not only disallowed but is actively persecuted today.
Despite risk of death, many Christians chose to stay in countries where they are likely to experience persecution. There are many reasons for this, some stay to be ‘a witness’ to those who don’t believe, others think that because the early Christian church was persecuted, they are also willing to undergo persecution. Other Christians pray for the persecuted church, for Christians globally who are forced to worship in secret, or hide their faith due to the risks to their lives.
Key quotes from the Bible which relate to persecution can inspire Christians to struggle on and not give up:
Acts 14: 22 “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.
1 Peter 4:16 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
2 Corinthians 12: 10 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
A charity called Open Doors works for Christians who are persecuted around the world. A short 4 minute video gives you an inkling to what it is like to have your freedom of religion and worship denied. The charity can be studied for GCSE when looking at how Christians practice their faith. For example they will provide advice and support to Christians who have been victims of disaster; and speak on behalf of Christians to help raise awareness of the situation they are in.
Open Doors researches a Watch List each year to educate people about countries where Christians are persecuted. Here are some of their key world findings:
- North Korea (1) tops the World Watch List for the 18th year in a row. Despite its ranking in the top slot it did free three Korean-American Christians from a North Korean prison.
- Persecution of Christians is getting worse. Five years ago only one country – North Korea – was ranked in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. This year, 11 countries score enough to fit that category.
- China (27) has risen 16 places in the list after new Regulations for Religious Affairs came into force in February 2018. Chinese churches have been pressured to fly the national flag higher than the cross and sing the national anthem before services. A focus on prohibiting children and youth from hearing religious teaching has seen nursery and Sunday schools closed down, summer camps banned, and churches forced to place signs at the entrance forbidding anyone under 18 to enter.
- India (10) has entered the top ten for the first time. The BJP-led government continues to promote an extremist militant Hindu agenda.
- In Turkey (26) President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been stirring up ultra-nationalistic sentiment for some time and this has caused added difficulties for Christians in Turkey, especially Evangelicals.
- Islamic extremists are active in Egypt (16) which has the Middle East’s largest population of Christians: the Copts, estimated at about 10% of the close to 100 million population. Islamic State in Sinai continued their threat to ‘wipe out’ the Copts by terrorising the community with targeted murders of respected local leaders such as doctors and vets. Other Islamist groups bombed churches and killed a bus-load of pilgrims on the same road twice within 18 months. Copts’ pleas for government protection have largely fallen on deaf ears, though some killers and attackers have been convicted.
- The two places where Christians suffer the most violence are Nigeria (12) and Pakistan (5)
A longer more detailed read linked to persecution can be found by the BBC in their report on Asia Bibi who is the Christian in Pakistan who was on death row for a decade for blasphemy. It is an incredible story of how a woman’s imprisonment and later release created such violence and protest in Pakistan.