Christian Persecution May/Jun 2018
CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION is the worst it has ever been, according to a recent study by Christian persecution watchdog Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution,” ACN reported.
Today more than 200 million Christians in 60 countries experience imprisonment, torture, and death for their faith. The nation in which Christians experience the worst treatment is North Korea, which ranked number one for the 17th year in a row on Open Doors’ most recent list of countries where Christians are persecuted.
“Christianity is not only seen as ‘opium of the people’ as is normal for all communist states; it is also seen as deeply Western and despicable. Christians try to hide their faith as far as possible to avoid arrest and being sent to a labor camp,” Open Doors reported. North Korean Christians face horrors, such as being hung on crosses over fire, forced into labor camps, crushed under steamrollers, imprisoned, herded off bridges, and trampled underfoot.
In such Middle Eastern countries as Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and Pakistan, Christians face daily torment from Muslims enforcing Islamic Sharia law, which calls for jihad (war) against non-Muslims. Christians in these countries suffer under heavy taxation, imprisonment, torture, and beheading. In Iraq and Syria, ISIS (Islamic State) has almost completely obliterated the area’s Christian population.
Christian persecution is nothing new. Though the number of believers affected is higher than ever, Christians have faced persecution since the birth of the church. Under wicked emperors Nero and Diocletian, early Christians were stoned to death, crucified, burned at the stake, torn apart by wild animals, sawn in two, skinned alive, and more.
Jesus’ words to the persecuted church in Smyrna encouraged many early believers to endure, and they continue to provide hope to persecuted Christians today: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). The crown of life is a special heavenly reward the Lord will give to those who endure persecution (Mt. 5:11–12).
Despite persecution, however, the church continues to grow. Today there are hundreds of thousands of Christian converts from Islam in Iran’s underground churches, up from only 500 in 1979; more than 60 million Protestant believers in Communist China, despite growing government hostility and destruction of churches; and more than 200,000 evangelical
Christians in Somalia, which ranks third on Open Doors’ 2018 World Watch List of countries where Christians experience the worst persecution. Such statistics enforce the truth of Jesus’ statement that even the gates of hell will not stop Him from building His church (16:18).
Although we may never understand completely why God allows His people to suffer so horribly, we can trust He loves us; knows our pain intimately since He, too, suffered by enduring the cross; and that He won’t allow us to endure any trial greater than His grace enables us to bear (1 Cor. 10:13).