As part of a series of posts on Knowing your Brother, that is, appreciating the global state of Christianity, I want to address the very difficult issue of persecution.
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. – 2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Persecution can be broadly defined as any hostility from the world as a result of being identified as a Christian. It can range from verbal abuse and emotional hostility, legal and social discrimination, governmental harassment to imprisonment, torture and death, all of which happen today. Persecution has been a part of the historic Christian experience beginning with Jesus and his earliest followers as attested in the New Testament and other ancient sources. In early Christianity it was mostly sporadic and disorganized but throughout history the phenomenon has never disappeared. In the modern world it occurs frequently and it has never been worse before in all of Church history. I would like to provide a few highlights from a Christianity Today report on Open Doors, a leading Christian NGO on the issue of persecution, annual global survey and ranking of Christian persecution, as well as information from other sources as indicated.
First of all, Christians are not the only group to suffer religious persecution. Over 75% of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions and in recent years religious rights violations have been on the rise. Christians bear the brunt of religious persecution receiving about 60-80% of it. Part of the reason for this extraordinarily high number is Christianity is the largest religion in the world today. The numbers of Christians are growing at a healthy rate and they have never been more numerous or geographically widespread.
The findings and trends noted by Open Doors are stark:
- Persecution rose globally again for the third year in a row, indicating how volatile the situation has become and 2016 was the worst year yet in 25 years of the organization collecting data.
- Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution.
- The killings of Christians were more geographically dispersed than in most time periods studied.
- Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict in 35 out of the 50 countries on the 2017 list.
- Ethnic nationalism is fast becoming a major driver of persecution. “While this took an anti-establishment form in the West, in Asia it took an anti-minorities form, fueled by dramatic religious nationalism and government insecurity. It is common—and easy—for tottering governments to gain quick support by scapegoating Christians.”
- The total number of persecution incidents in the top 50 most dangerous countries increased, revealing the persecution of Christians worldwide as a rising trend.
- North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian (for 14 straight years).
- The most violent: Pakistan, which rose to No. 4 on the list for a level of violence “exceeding even northern Nigeria.”
- Asia is a new center of concern, with persecution rising sharply in Bangladesh, Laos, and Bhutan, and Sri Lanka joining the list for the first time.
- There is a genocide of Christians going on in the Middle East mainly driven by the Islamic State. It is the worst organized act of persecution seen in all of Church history.
Focus on Africa
- 16 out of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted are in Africa. They are Somalia (2), Sudan (5), Eritrea (10), Libya (11), Nigeria (12), Kenya (18), Egypt (21), Ethiopia (22), Tunisia (29), Mali (32), Tanzania (33), Central African Republic (34), Algeria (36), Djibouti (40), Comoros (42) and Mauritania (47.) Nigeria which is our closest neighbour ranks just outside the top 10 countries while Mauritania and Mali are also in West Africa.
- The killings of Christians in Nigeria saw an increase of more than 62 percent.
- The worst increase: Mali, which moved up the most places on the list from No. 44 to No. 32.
- The top 10 nations over the 25-year span are: 1. North Korea (no. 1 from 2002 – 2017); 2. Saudi Arabia (no. 1 from 1993 – 1995; 1998 – 2001); 3. Iran; 4. Somalia (1996 – 1997); 5. Afghanistan; 6. Maldives; 7. Yemen; 8. Sudan; 9. Vietnam; 10. China.
Being a Christian in Ghana is a great privilege. In many parts of the world, some very close by, it is very tough to be a follower of Jesus. Through conversation and observation, I realise we really do not understand the many blessed advantages we enjoy and we sadly take them for granted. For those who live in similar places, I want you to be thankful for the freedom to follow the Messiah and to remember that not all our siblings have the same experience. It is our responsibility to support them in prayer and action. For brothers and sisters who inhabit less fortunate circumstances who perchance come across this article, I want them to know that they are not forgotten by the family on earth and definitely not by our father in heaven.
 https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/?keyword=religious%20persecution&b&g&191771529070&1t2&c&651754314&34498428362&gclid=CjwKEAjwsLTJBRCvibaW9bGLtUESJAC4wKw1vw3FbidFE7NAYyVA9RP7P_saKTQeALY3JIcO2ZivjBoCKPTw_wcB, 1452h, 12/07/17.