Spotlight on persecution

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by Steve DuPlessie

Did you know that each month 322 Christians are martyred for their faith?

Each month 214 Christian churches and ministry bases such as schools and hospitals are destroyed?

Each month 722 forms of violence — beatings, torture, confinement, etc. — are committed against Christians because of their faith? (Source: OpenDoorsUSA.org)

Christian persecution is any hostility experienced from the world as a result of one’s identification as a Christian. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and employment, and even death are just a few examples of the persecution they experience on a daily basis.

A Complex Reality…

A persecution situation presents a complex reality. It is not always clear if and to which extent pressure felt by Christians or even violence against them is directly related to them being Christian. Sometimes, just living in a chaotic world creates substantial amounts of suffering for Christians and others alike. Other times, suffering results from antipathy, hatred or it could simply be ‘double vulnerability’ of Christians in a problematic context, and will be called persecution. The latter is what the World Watch List (WWL) published by Open Doors USA tries to monitor and capture.

Persecution Defined…

Persecution is when Christians and their communities experience specific pressure and/or violence in a situation of ‘brokenness’ that are related to persecution dynamics prevalent in their environments and are forcing them to comply with the drivers of these dynamics. The WWL methodology regroups these dynamics in three different impulses, fueling eight different persecution engines and being driven by specific actors or drivers of persecution. The diagram shows the relation between ‘brokenness’, impulses, persecution engines and the related drive for exclusive power.

According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many of these people are Christians). Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

Societies & Governments…

Not surprisingly, violent Islamic extremists (in effect, non-government actors) are currently the most active in persecuting Christians. But some countries such as North Korea persecute Christians as a matter of official policy.  In this totalitarian communist state, Christians are forced to hide their faith completely from government authorities, neighbors and often even their own spouses and children. Due to ever-present surveillance, many pray with eyes open, and gathering for praise or fellowship is practically impossible. Worship of the ruling Kim family is mandated for all citizens, and those who don’t comply (including Christians) are arrested, imprisoned, tortured or killed. Entire Christian families are imprisoned in hard labor camps, where unknown numbers die each year from torture, beatings, overexertion and starvation. Those who attempt to flee to South Korea through China risk execution or life imprisonment, and those who stay behind often fare no better.

You Can Pray…

Sometimes it seems hopeless and we feel helpless. But we can pray. Because the New Testament was written to persecuted believers, it is filled with examples of how to pray for our brothers and sisters under attack. Here are 5 examples just from Ephesians:

  • Please pray persecuted believers would know the hope God gives (Ephesians 1:18).
  • Pray the Holy Spirit would strengthen them (Ephesians 3:16).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would know how much God loves them (Ephesians 3:17)
  • Pray they would know how to share the gospel (Ephesians 6:19).
  • Please pray persecuted believers would fearlessly tell others about Jesus (Ephesians 6:20).

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