Christian Persecution Grows

 

Christian Persecution Grows

It has been said that more people have been killed for their Christian views during the past one hundred years as compared to the previous 1,900 years!  Christian persecution seems to be growing.

If you read the daily news, you are familiar with the fact that professing Christians around the world are facing attacks by non-Christians and are facing arrest by anti-Christian governments.  One day it could be attacks by Hindus in India that kill Christian missionaries or burn down homes of professing Christians.  It might be attacks by Muslims in Indonesia in which church buildings are burned to the ground or women are raped.  It might be governmental persecution in China against the home church movement.  In dozens of places around the world, persecution is on the rise.

Just yesterday in the local newspaper, I read an article with this title: “Iran rounds up dozens of Christians.”  The story told of about 70 Christians in Iran who were raided and taken into custody.  Although Iran claims to allow for “religious freedom,” too often this simply means traditional religions are tolerated as long as they do not seek to convert Muslims to their faith.  These persecuted Christians were rounded up because they believed in meeting in their homes rather than in established sanctuaries.  I have no idea what they believe or how they live other than the bare facts from the newspaper.

Those who monitor Christian persecution say that “Iranian authorities see the unregulated house-church gatherings as a potential breeding ground for political opposition and suspect that they may try to convert Muslims, in violation of Iran’s strict apostasy laws” (Star-Telegram, Jan. 12, 2011).  More raids may be coming.  These people who claim to be Christians may indeed try to share their faith with unbelievers, although we know little about what they believe or disbelieve.   (By the way, we use “Christian” in this article in an accommodative way to refer to those who claim to be Christians regardless of whether they have truly been born again and are saved.)

Jesus the Lord said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16; cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-48).  Evangelizing is a necessary element of following Jesus to make Him and His gospel known around the world.  This may sometimes result in persecution and suffering.  Paul wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). 

Paul warned new converts, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).  Jesus had earlier also warned, “You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).  It is not optional whether or not we proclaim the Lord Jesus. If these Iranian people were apprehended because of their obedience to Christ’s command, they could rightfully say, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). 

Notice the following accounts, taken at random, from recent news:

Afghanistan: On Jan. 3, a judge told Shoaib Assadullah that if he did not renounce Christ within one week he would face up to 20 years in prison or even be sentenced to death.

Somalia: A 17-year-old girl who converted to Christianity from Islam was shot to death recently in an apparent “honor killing” in Somalia, according to Compass Direct News.

Algeria: Four Christians were given suspended prison sentences recently for opening a place of worship without a license in the eastern region of Kabylia, Algeria, according to Asia News.

Indonesia: On Dec. 12, seven house churches were forcibly closed in West Java, Indonesia, by Muslim extremists who claimed the buildings were being used for “illegal church meetings.”

Iraq: On Nov. 22, three more believers were killed in Mosul, Iraq, according to the Assyrian International News Agency and Cable News Network.

Iran: The Assize Court of the province of Gilan, in Iran, has officially charged Pastor Youcef Nardarkhani with denying that Mohammed was a prophet.

Turkey: Young Muslims Murder Three Christians – Compass Direct News.  On April 18, five Muslims entered a Christian publishing company and killed three believers in the Southeastern province of Malatya. Two of the victims were Turkish converts from Islam and the third man was a German citizen.

(These reports came from Persecution.com and Bibletruthonline.com)

Last century there were massive arrests and murders of professing Christians in the Communist dominated countries.  This included China, Russia, Eastern Europe, North Korea, and elsewhere.  Today, it seems like the threat comes from Islamic nations.  That threat has always been present, but today it has seemingly grown in intensity.

We know that in many Muslim countries, extremely restrictive policies make it nearly impossible to practice one’s Christian faith, unless one somehow believes that he can keep his faith a secret from the authorities.  This is especially true in places like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere.  But what is a Christian to do? 

In Acts 4, the Jewish council commanded Peter and John “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus” (v. 18).  These apostles departed from the council and went to their brothers and sisters and they all prayed for boldness to “speak your word with all confidence” (v. 29).  They then went out and “began to speak the word of God with boldness” (v. 31).  The Jewish authorities again arrested the apostles—all twelve of them (5:18).  The authorities charged them, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching” (v. 28).  This is when Peter replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29).  This time the authorities beat them and again ordered them “not to speak in the name of Jesus” (v. 40).  When they were released, what did the apostles do?  They were “rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name” (v. 41).  Did they then decide to acquiesce to these Jewish leaders?  No, the record states: “Every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (v. 42).

We know that the Christian does want to obey the civil authorities, as long as doing so does not conflict with the will of God (Romans 13:1-7).  But when there is a conflict, the Christian knows that he must obey the Lord rather than any human authority (Acts 4:19-20).

What can Christians do if they are living in the forty or fifty nations dominated by radical Islam?  They are faced with a dilemma.  They know that Islam is a false religion, one that denies that Jesus was the Son of God (they say that He was Messiah but not God’s Son).  They realize that Islam denies that Jesus died on the cross for our sins (they think that perhaps Judas or another died on the cross).  They deny that Jesus was resurrected three days later (they deny that he died, thus He did was not raised).  They deny that the Word of the living God is the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative written word of God).  Islam teaches that Muhammad was God’s last and greatest prophet, whereas the Christian faith asserts that he was a false prophet who taught many false doctrines.  Islam is loyal to Muhammad who was an exceedingly violent and aggressive leader who led his followers in wars of annihilation whereas Jesus Christ said to love one’s enemies and turn the other cheek to the aggressor.  Christianity and Islam are entirely different systems; both cannot be true.  If God is true, then Jesus Christ is true. 

(Sadly and ironically, much of the Islamic opposition to Christianity is not really opposition to true Christianity but to a false religion—whether Roman Catholicism, the various Orthodox Churches, various Protestant denominations, or various cults.  It would appear that Muhammad himself opposed Christianity and the only groups he knew were Mary-worshiping and paganistic.  What would have occurred if Muhammad had been exposed to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the simplicity of life in Him?)

What can a true Christian do in a world like this?  The early Christians were persecuted under pagan Rome. 

True Christians were persecuted for many centuries under Catholic dominated Europe during the cruel Inquisition. They suffered greatly under Communism as under Hitler.  And now they are particularly persecuted under radical Islam.  All through history, those who confessed Jesus as Savior and Lord suffered to the point of death.  Even in America, the proverbial “land of freedom,” Christians are persecuted in more subtle ways.  Perhaps you lose your job.  Maybe you are hounded by educational authorities for wanting to home school your children.  Perhaps you are passed over for a job you applied for.  Maybe you are ridiculed by others because of your unconventional Christian ways.  Even in these ways, Christians may be persecuted.

We would encourage you to read—verse by verse—and maybe even memorize 1 Peter 4:12-19.  Every verse in this section will instruct you how to respond to the persecution that will inevitably come your way if you are faithful to the Lord Jesus and His way of life.  Among other admonitions, Peter says, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name” (v. 16).  Let us also pray for any Christians or even unsaved people who claim to be Christians living in other lands.  Quite frankly, the majority of countries in this world are not positive to true Christianity and the radical stand that Jesus calls us to take.  Many countries are quite hostile to the Christian faith.  Let’s pray for others who must face the blunt force of Satanic persecution in this fallen world and let’s look forward to the glorious future when our faithful stand for Jesus will be rewarded!

Remember that Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33).

Richard Hollerman

 

 


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