I am a Nazarene

Apparently it’s true – Christians are the most religiously persecuted group in the world.

So writes ethics professor Paul Valley in the Independent (“Christians: The world’s most persecuted people”). He cites various secular human rights organizations,

According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.

The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.

Some of these countries . . .

the plain fact is that Christians are languishing in jail for blasphemy in Pakistan, and churches are burned and worshippers regularly slaughtered in Nigeria and Egypt, which has recently seen its worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries.

The most violent anti-Christian pogrom of the early 21st century saw as many as 500 Christians hacked to death by machete-wielding Hindu radicals in Orissa, India, with thousands more injured and 50,000 made homeless. In Burma, Chin and Karen Christians are routinely subjected to imprisonment, torture, forced labour and murder.

Persecution is increasing in China; and in North Korea a quarter of the country’s Christians live in forced labour camps after refusing to join the national cult of the state’s founder, Kim Il-Sung. Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Maldives all feature in the 10 worst places to be a Christian.

A few voices in the West are starting to speak about this,

The religious historian Rupert Shortt has written a book called Christianophobia. America’s most prominent religious journalist, John L Allen Jnr, has just published The Global War on Christians. The former chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks told the House of Lords recently that the suffering of Middle East Christians is “one of the crimes against humanity of our time”.

And a few voices are beginning to speak up about the recent eradication of Christianity in Mosul.

I’m not sharing this to whine or be a victim. This list of examples clearly illustrate that western Christians are largely exempt from this level of persecution. We’ve had it good. The current attacks on religious liberty, while disconcerting and worth speaking against, are not to be compared to being driven from your home or beheaded for professing Christ.

I share this to remind myself and Western Christians of four thoughts:

Jesus said we would face persecution
We should not be shocked by this or play the victim card when we face pressure. Don’t lose heart!

Our freedom is rare historically and geographically
Most Christians in all times have faced great challenges to simply professing and living out their faith. We have much to be thankful for.

What happens elsewhere matters
We tend to be less concerned when it doesn’t involve us. Don’t forget, “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” {1 Corinthians 12:26}

We can be a voice
A voice to God in prayer, and a voice to the world in solidarity. There has not always been political and social recourse to support the persecuted church but today we have unprecedented ability to do so. Social media, internet, and, for some, the ear of our leaders. We can, and must, let our voice be heard on the behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must raise our voice to God on their behalf.

In Iraq, the militants marked the homes of Christians with the letter “N” for “Nazarenes.” This letter has been adopted by many as a symbol of solidarity: #WeAreN. How appropriate that such a symbol should point us back to the Nazarene whose name we bear.