Published: 10:06 GMT Daylight Time - Friday 09 April 2010
Facing the Rising Tide: Anti-Christian Persecution across the World
On Easter Monday the Archbishop of Canterbury appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week and was asked to comment on the troubles currently being experienced by non-Western Christians. In his reply he said, “We lose sight in this country very often of just how vulnerable some of the Christian communities around the world are... Christian minorities that have in Muslim environments been part of the furniture for many, many centuries are suddenly seen, suddenly cast as Western outposts, and that makes them particularly vulnerable.” As examples he mentioned the Christians of Iraq (specifically Mosul) and Nigeria.
In recent weeks Barnabas Fund has reported on the acute sufferings of both these Christian communities. In Mosul at least fifteen Christians have been murdered since Christmas, including eight killed in the space of ten grim February days, and seven bomb attacks on Christian targets left many injured and property damaged. Over 300 Christian families fled in fear from the city. Jos, the capital of Plateau State in Nigeria, has seen three horrific incidents of large-scale anti-Christian violence in January and March, in which hundreds of people have died. Inaccurate international reporting of the first outbreak unfairly cast Christians as the aggressors, and they suffered savage “retaliation” at the hands of armed Muslim mobs.
The Archbishop’s comments are to be warmly welcomed for raising awareness of the painful difficulties faced by Christians in these three countries. But they represent only a small fraction of the places in which Christians suffer grievously for their faith. These include large parts of Africa, almost the whole of the Middle East, most of Asia and even some places in Europe. The body of Christ is stricken and bleeding across a vast area of the globe.
Moreover, the problem of persecution has worsened significantly in the last 20 years, fuelled in many parts of the world by a growing and increasingly militant Islamist movement. In the interests of international security Western governments are keen to present Islam as a moderate and peaceful religion. But this is largely wishful thinking. Injustice, oppression and violence towards non-Muslims are sanctioned, even encouraged, by the Islamic source texts, and these cruelties have dominated Muslim relations with Christians throughout history. Where Islam holds sway politically and culturally, Christian minorities often experience it as both intolerant and aggressive.
So in many Muslim-majority countries, very different in culture and separated by thousands of miles, Christians are even now facing repeated incidents of discrimination, harassment and violence. For example:
- In Egypt, Muslim mobs have been targeting Christians in various locations, destroying their property and livelihoods, burning their churches, and forcibly converting Christian women to Islam. Many Christians have been injured, and some killed.
- In Iran, a number of church leaders who are active in sharing their faith with Muslims and winning them for Christ have been arrested and imprisoned. Muslims who convert suffer harassment and discrimination, and live in fear of even worse reprisals.
- In Pakistan, the “blasphemy law” prescribes the death sentence for “defiling the name of Muhammad” and a life sentence for desecrating the Qur’an. Christians are very vulnerable to false and malicious accusations, and in some places they are being pressured to observe Islamic customs.
- In Indonesia, Islamist groups persuade local authorities and Muslim communities to help them force the closure of Christian churches, whether by legal means, intimidation or violence. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed by angry crowds.
But it is not only in Muslim-majority contexts that Christians are enduring persecution. They may be endangered by any dominant religion or ideology. For instance, Hindu-majority India has witnessed brutal and extensive instances of anti-Christian violence in recent years. Christians in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka have seen their leaders and buildings attacked, and many barely survive in desperate poverty and need. And in Communist China, churches that refuse to register with the authorities are continually harassed: their buildings are closed and their pastors imprisoned.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says,
“As the persecution of Christians has increased in recent years, the national and international media have too often ignored or even misrepresented it. But since 1993 Barnabas Fund has sought to make known the trials and needs of our suffering brothers and sisters, and to relieve their distress in whatever ways we can. Will you help us to do this, with your gifts and above all with your prayers?”
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 00-000 (General Fund).
- Give thanks for those Christian leaders who are prepared to speak out on behalf of the persecuted Church. Pray that many more Christians in the West will be made aware of the problem and moved to help.
- Pray for Christians who are currently suffering for their faith, that the Lord will give them patience and peace in their trials. Pray that they may have the grace to remain faithful to Him and forgive their persecutors.
- Pray for the media, that they may report anti-Christian persecution accurately and fairly. Pray that their reporting may help the victims rather than exposing them to the risk of further attacks.
- Pray for Western governments, that they will have a clear understanding of the causes of persecution and the will to act against it.