Often we think of the serious persecution and martyrdom of Christians as being something primarily in the early Church times or in the Middle Ages during the Holy Wars and the Crusades. Nothing could be further from the truth, as there is evidence that there is a greater degree of persecution of Christians and believers dying for their faith today than at any time since the time of Jesus Christ. According to Prisoner Alert, a ministry of The Voice of the Martyrs, Christians are being persecuted for their faith in more than 40 nations around the world today. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith in Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. Those who boldly follow Christ—in spite of government edict or radical opposition—can face harassment, arrest, torture and even death. Yet Christians continue to meet for worship and to witness for Christ, and the church in restricted nations is growing.
Persecution by Buddhists
Sri Lanka, a small country located to the south of India, is largely Buddhist, with just one percent evangelical Christians throughout the country. The country’s constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, but Christians face persecution at the hands of militant Buddhists who do not want them in their villages and believe that all Sri Lankans should be Buddhist. According to a recent article on www.opendoorsuk.org, persecution of Christians is growing, at the hands of a group historically known for peaceful coexistence and tolerance.
Persecution by Muslims
Many Christians are systematically exterminated and Christian churches burned in predominantly Muslim countries, which have had their governments and public policies so affected by extreme and radical Islam thought that Christians and other minority religious groups such as Buddhism, Confucianism and Hindu adherents have lost their civil rights and political freedoms, whereas for centuries these various religions have existed side by side in relative harmony.
An example is in Malaysia over the question of what rights the Christian minority is entitled to, including civil rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly. This can be seen in Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, and Indonesia to some extent. Within the 10-40 window, defined as the area between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north latitude, stretching from Western Africa to Southeast Asia, the Muslim domination is growing, leading to the lessening of basic rights for Christians and other faiths.
Persecution by other Christians
The Christian Post reported recently that untold millions of Christians have been killed due to their faith and that other believers are partly to blame. The publication references information assembled by Todd M. Johnson and the late researcher David B. Barrett of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for the Study of Global Christianity. The Christian History Institute recently claimed, “Christians themselves have tortured and killed countless numbers of their own brethren during the 12th-14th century Inquisitions, during and after the 16th-17th century Reformation in Europe, and continuing today in Ireland, Eastern Europe and Africa.” In Ireland this is essentially an ongoing war between Catholics and Protestants, while in Eastern Europe and Africa the issues are more involved with ethnic and political struggles.
Global religious genocide
More than 70,000,000 Christians have been martyred for their faith since the time that Jesus walked upon the earth, according to an article in Christianity Today. The data attributed to David Barrett, claims the number of Christians killed for their faith in Nazi Germany was one million, while the number of Orthodox Christians and others murdered in Russia between 1917 and 1950 was 15 million. In China, at least 200,000 Christians and foreigners were killed in the Boxer Rebellion of 1898 to 1900. Another 700,000 were killed in communist China between 1950 and 1980. The number of Catholics killed in Mexico from the late 1800s to 1930 is estimated at 107,000, while 300,000 Christians are believed to have been killed under Idi Amin in Uganda between 1971 and 1979.
More staggering statistics on Christian persecution
1,600,000 plus – massacred by Ottoman Muslims in Turkey, Armenia in 1820s
120,000 plus – Greek Christians massacred by Turks in Smyrna in one day in 1922
600,000 plus – Sudanese Christians murdered by Islamic government in 1963
1,200,000 – Catholics and ‘underground church’ Christians died in Soviet Union in 1925
200,000 plus – Ukrainian Orthodox in Soviet Ukraine in 1927
100,000 plus – Lithuanian Christians killed by the Nazis, then Soviets from 1940-1980
450,000 plus – Yugoslav and Serbian Orthodox & others by Nazi and Soviets up to 1990s
125,000 plus – Lutheran Confessing Church, Catholics and others by humanist Nazis 1933-1945
200,000 – Christians executed during Korean War and by North Korean Communists 1950-2000
520,000 – Christian Hutus and Tutsi killed each other in Rwanda’s 1994 civil war
300,000 plus – Protestant Evangelicals killed in Colombia’s ‘La Violenza’ civil war 1948-58
Pope’s sobering message
Pope Francis stated recently that the 21st century has seen more Christians under siege for their faith than during the time of the early church.
“There are many martyrs today, in the church, many persecuted Christians,” said the pope during a mass in honor of Christian martyrs who were killed under Roman Emperor Nero. “Think of the Middle East where Christians must flee persecution, where Christians are killed. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the church today than there were in the first centuries.”
Coptic Christians protested against the killings of people during clashes in Cairo between Christian protesters and military police, in what the demonstrators say is persecution of Christians, in Los Angeles, California October 16, 2011. The demonstrators were rallying for Barack Obama’s administration to intervene.
What can we do?
Pray. Get involved in and support World Missions and World Evangelism through information available at the following sites: www.operationworld.org, www.christianhistoryinstitute.org or www.persecution.com.
Bob Woods is a senior project manager at AECOM Technical Services, as well as a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected]