Are Christians being persecuted?
Jesus himself was persecuted cruelly, and warned his followers to expect the same. He was unjustly accused, and subjected to violence and degrading execution. The New Testament describes the persecution endured by his followers in the years that followed – imprisonment, flogging, seizure of property and death.
The persecution facing Christians is among the largest human rights violation issues in today’s world. It is estimated that 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. (The statistics on this page bring together the research of the Christian charities Release International, The Barnabas Fund and the World Evangelical Alliance.)
The most common forms of persecution of Christians are violence against people and property, exclusion from education and employment, and removal of access to housing, Bibles or food and water. This kind of persecution occurs in countries where Christians form a minority of the population or in countries where the government regards any religion as a threat to their authority.
It is tragically true that there have been incidents where Christians have fought back or initiated violence against those of other religions. The vast majority of Christians and their leaders deplore this. It is completely contrary to the teaching of Jesus.
In the UK there is no apparent direct persecution of Christians. However, there has been a rise in an aggressive kind of secularism which is intolerant of Christianity. Some Christians sense that their ideas, symbols and activities are being marginalised. As evidence of this they draw attention, for instance, to Christian images relating to Christmas being replaced with symbols of winter by some city councils. In some situations Christians have found the implications of their beliefs to be unacceptable to their employers.
On UK television, Christians long to see themselves portrayed as normal and reasonable. It is not uncommon for Christian characters to be presented in drama as narrow-minded or hiding evil intentions behind a show of religion. While this does not constitute persecution, it fosters an attitude of mistrust in which prejudice can thrive.
What the Bible says about it
An extract from the Bible:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Where to find it:
About these words:
Jesus spoke these words to a crowd at the start of his public teaching about the nature of God’s Kingdom. It is part of his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’.
And they said...
Michel Gove, minister in the 2010-2015 Government:
The contrast between the Christianity I see our culture belittle nightly and the Christianity I see our country benefit from daily could not be greater.
Dr Taj Hargey, imam of the Summertown (Oxford) Islamic Congregation:
Christianity is under siege in this country. Britain’s national religion has never been so marginalised and derided by the public institutions that should be defending it.
Jonathan Wynne-Jones, journalist, writing in the Daily Telegraph:
Once faith has been made to look ridiculous, the attempts of believers to rebut the criticism will be met with deaf ears. And then the line between ridicule and persecution becomes even thinner.
Corrie Ten Boom, 1901-1983, Dutch Christian imprisoned by Nazis for hiding Jews, on coming face to face with her concentration camp guard after the war:
Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him … Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness … And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on [God’s]. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives along with the command, the love itself.