Having just come out of the holiday season, many of you will likely remember recent rhetoric surrounding a certain conflict—one that some have called the “war on Christmas.” For those of you who aren’t aware or haven’t heard the news, some Christians felt they could not wish others “Merry Christmas” or were feeling disrespected when some would wish them “Happy holidays” instead of their preferred “Merry Christmas.”
Perhaps for perspective we should instead read Open Door’s 2018 World Watch List.
Just this past Wednesday, the organization released their annual report, which ranks the 50 countries where Christians face the most severe persecution. Among the worst of the worst were North Korea and Afghanistan, which claimed the first and second spots, respectively.
According to the list, the two were nearly tied. Pakistan scored highest in terms of incidents of church or church building attacks, abductions, and forced marriages. The rise of intense persecution in central Asian countries, as well as Hindu and Buddhist nationalism in other parts of the continent, were also noted by the report.
But we mustn’t overlook another important facet of the report—one that gives us a picture of the kinds of persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ experience on a day-to-day basis: during this most recent reporting period, Open Doors found that 3,066 Christians were killed, 1,252 abducted, 1,020 raped or sexually harassed, and 793 churches attacked because of their expressed faith in Christ.
Persecution isn’t something we just read about in history books. It’s unfortunately alive and well—a tragic, yet very real, occurrence for many Christians around the world today.
What Persecution Is
The persecution of Christians happens more frequently and with greater severity than we’d prefer to imagine in our sheltered western world.
God promises us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” And we can and will experience pushback at times. But Christians around the world are experiencing life-threatening persecution. The reality and depth of this suffering should upset our sheltered hearts and minds.
As someone who has personally held the hands (in places I cannot name) and sat in the presence of people who’ve lost everything—and I mean everything—because of their faith in Christ, their pain is all the more real.
But as a member of the Wheaton College community, I’ve also seen the ways our local community recently been exposed to the evils of Christian persecution. Andrew Brunson, an alumnus of the college working as a pastor in Turkey, was imprisoned by that government in 2016. He remains in prison to this day. The false accusations officials provided to justify his imprisonment there was an attempt to mask the real truth: persecution is growing in Turkey.
What Persecution Is Not
In consideration of the plight of Brunson and thousands of believers around the world, those of us in the U.S. must recognize something: the occasional discomfort we feel as believers here in the States is wholly undeserving of the term ‘persecution’ as we use it today.
Our lives here as Christians, in comparison to those of believers living in the aforementioned countries, are comfortable. Some of us have certainly been treated poorly or unfairly because of our faith—I get that. But truthfully, today, the term persecution must be reserved for our brothers and sisters whose lives and livelihoods are constantly placed on the line for the sake of their allegiance to Christ.
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Source: Christianity Today