Every now and then, an event rouses Americans from their apathy concerning worldwide persecution of Christians. Iran’s planned execution of a pastor for refusing to renounce his faith is one such event. Yet, though this pastor’s situation has grabbed headlines, it’s not unique – nor rare.
A whopping 105,000 Christians are killed each year for their faith, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. That’s one Christian martyred every five minutes. It’s a “worldwide emergency,” the OSCE says – a massacre that must be stopped. Yet, Christian persecution is only escalating.
More Christians died for their faith in the 20th Century than in all the 19 previous centuries combined. And now, the 21st Century is on track to eclipse even that. In just the past month, Muslim extremists killed more than 100 Christians in Nigeria’s Plateau state. And, in Somalia, a Christian was decapitated.
Jesus predicted the world would hate His followers as it first hated Him. And truly, Christians have become the most hated religious group in the world. A 2010 study on religious freedom found that 75 out of every 100 people killed due to religious hatred are Christian.
Even in Western countries, this troubling trend is gaining momentum. Best-selling books charge that “religion (especially Christianity) poisons everything.” Gay rights groups label Christians bigots for opposing homosexuality. Even the Department of Homeland Security lists believing in “End Times” prophesies and opposing abortion as characteristics of domestic terrorists! Remember, in Nazi Germany, the first step to exterminating Jews was demonizing them.
So, what should Christians do? Jesus said, “Take heart. I have overcome the world.” He endured the cross for the joy set before Him. So, too, we must keep an eternal perspective – and, in the words of the Apostle Paul – “strengthen (our) feeble arms and weak knees.”