Easter and the Continued Persecution of Christians
It is Easter Sunday and for many Christians, this represents the highlight of their faith when Jesus Christ rose from the dead to conquer death and sin, opening the gates of Heaven to us all
After this moment, the apostles with the help of the Holy Spirit gain the courage to preach the good news to the world as they move from hiding into the open. Most of the apostles suffered as a result along with other Christians, martyrdom and even today, Christians worldwide are suffering for their faith.
Every five minutes today, a Christian is being martyred for their faith and it may be that more Christians have been murdered for their faith since 1900 than all of the previous centuries since the time of Christ. Christians are the most persecuted faith in the world today, and according to a report, it is estimated that 200 million Christians are oppressed based on their faith in 50 countries.
The biggest threat to Christians is in the Middle East, in its biblical homeland where many Christians are facing extermination. Over the past century, between one half and two thirds of Christians have either left the region or been killed and with the rise of radical jihadists in many Middle East countries, much of the persecution is even government sanctioned or ignored by government. The recent attack on the Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday is one example of what many Christians deal with.
In 1990, over 1.2 million Christians resided in Iraq but by the end of 2003 and the first Iraq war, there were fewer than 500,000 and now this number has been reduced to fewer than 200,000. Many of Iraq’s Sunnis and Shiites may be divided on many issues but not on their hatred for Christians. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the ongoing violence inside Iraq and the rise of ISIS, “well mark the end of its Yazidi and Christian communities."
In Syria, more than 50 percent of the country’s Christians may have fled as refugees and in Iran, Iranians are by definition Muslim which makes all Christian activity illegal, and the government imprisons Christians for apostasy.
In Pakistan, Mob violence remains constant threats to Christians due to blasphemy laws which can lead to the death penalty and in the Sudan, President Omar Bashir demolished churches and kills Christians with no regards. The Nigerian Islamic terror group Boko Haram has been trying to eliminate Christians from the Muslim North and as part of these efforts, they have massacred 2000 Christians and kidnapped 200 girls from the town Chibok.
In China crosses are removed from public view and churches have been destroyed. The North Korean government has imprisoned tens of thousands of Christians in labor camps because of their faith. For Christians, North Korea is one of the most dangerous places and Christians are the bottom of society lists.
For many Americans, martyrdom is something that happened in the distant past but today, Christians still face the proverbial lions on a daily basis and religious persecution is an everyday reality. For Americans, religious freedom is a natural right but throughout much of the world, basic freedoms that we take for granted don’t exist and you can be punished for excising those rights. For Christians, Christ died for our sins and his resurrection conquered sin but for many Christians over the past 20 plus centuries, celebrating this day and their faith can still lead to imprisonment and death.