I am sobered in heart by recent global events involving the Body of Christ. I’ve been challenged by the Spirit of God to a place of consistent prayer concerning the modern day persecution of Christians. It has become a real issue, happening on a more regular basis, and now part of our lives as Christ’s Body in 2015.
Religious persecution against Jews and Christians has taken place throughout history, but for it to be so relevant in our modern world, feels different to us. We are not used to it, close to it, or personally touched by it, so in some way it feels like it is “new.” The troubling, random, inhumane, barbaric and vicious nature of attacks in the last year also lends to the feeling of the persecution being “new”. Actually, the recent accelerated rate of massacres, attacks, and imprisonments is startlingly new. Easy access to social media and the internet brings the stark reality of the suffering to our heart’s and homes. In a way, I am glad we are hearing about it, in spite of the human, heart breaking reactions that come with the news. We can’t rise up and make a difference, become advocates, pray effectively, and see the spreading of the gospel in it, if we are ignorant.
The increase in crimes against Christians has stepped up in the last few years. According to the secular International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of violations of religious freedom in the world today are directed against Christians. Christians in the 21rst century are the world’s most persecuted religious group.
More than 100 million Christians are being physically persecuted for their faith in Christ, church properties being destroyed, severe threats being hurled… from the Middle East, Iraq, Syria to Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt, to Sudan, Indonesia and India, to China, North Korea, Pakistan and Cambodia,..in over 60 nations. Mistreatment of Christians is quickly becoming a dramatic religious story for our time. Few in the West are familiar with it, or have little idea about what is happening. Lack of knowledge causes lack of equipping to pray effectively, and the inability to give our brothers and sisters a voice.
“Open your mouth for the speechless, In the case of all who are appointed to die. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy” Prov. 31:8-9 NKJV. To me, this means I am to open my mouth in prayer on their behalf and open my mouth to help them tell their story. Advocacy for any cause starts with awareness, and leads to education, spreading the word, receiving God- given compassion, and taking steps of action toward making a change. First action step for believers, pray fervently.
Why are Christians persecuted? Paul Marshall states, in his book, Their Blood Cries Out, “Perhaps more important than what Christians do, is who they are. We claim to belong to another Kingdom altogether, the Kingdom of God. Many Christians are therefore persecuted simply because they are Christians. Their usually peaceful and quiet beliefs stand as a rebuke to those who are corrupt, to those who cannot tolerate the presence of any view but their own, and to those who want to make their own political or religious regime the only focus of loyalty. Christians are not persecuted because they are a threat of a detriment to society, but rather because they are, silent witnesses to the power and sovereignty of God.” And, I add, that the Church of the Living God, preaching and living the gospel of the Kingdom, is a threat to the powers of darkness, who are exposed and confronted at the work of the Church and the Word of God.
MaryAlice Isleib, Executive Director