This week, Open Doors USA, an advocacy group for persecuted Christians, released their annual World Watch Report. This yearly report allows observers to watch changes and trends in persecution against those who proclaim Christ. In many ways the report offers no surprising remarks, and yet in other ways the report is astounding.
Reports of persecution are often met with apathy. The cause of such apathy is often two-fold. First, for those who don’t face the possibility of such extreme circumstances they overlook the severe reality of what many across the globe face. Others though simply refuse to accept the known truth, either choosing to disregard it because it involves Christians or an unwillingness to accept these horrors actually exist. Regardless of these points, our reality includes the existence of maltreatment of dignified persons across the world and this reality is an issue that deserves more attention than we are often willing to give it.
Points to Know
Reportedly 600 million Christians were not allowed to rightly practice their religion. That high number represents about 8.5% of the world population! Those numbers are staggering for us to consider, but considering that the last several years have shown levels of increase, the scary part then is that those numbers are likely to go higher through 2017 unless something is done. Already we see that persecution impacts nearly every inhabited continent in the world. Finally, the source of persecution is found in two primary sources: opposing and oppressive governments or opposing and oppressive religions (or at times a combination of the two).
Points to Understand
My point is not to review the report here (you can read it yourself at the link below), but instead I find it important for us to consider what it reveals. As a result, we must recognize two things. First there must be an acknowledgement of reality here. We cannot deny the oppression of professing Christians around the world. Even if these numbers were inflated (which is unlikely considering all of the unreported events) the number would be high enough to warrant our attention. Not only is persecution real, but is serious. There is a violation of human right here through the prevention of religious practice and there is a violation of human dignity through the physical intimidation, torture, and death that occurs. This is not minor affliction but intense oppression with serious s consequences.
Points to Respond
Seriousness demands attention and we have before us a very serious matter. Thus we must attend to it. There is nothing spectacular in this list, but instead should be basic principles that we are engaging in regularly:
- Communicate: Communicate with God through prayer. Labor with those enduring suffering and shame by falling on your knees before the Lord. While lamenting the gravity of the situation, many forget that prayer itself is a powerful tool that requires intentional work and not passive activity.
- Educate: There are many who deny persecution and many others who simply do not understand criticalness. For us, there is a grand importance in educating those we come in contact with, teaching them about what is taking place. This means though, that we must also be educating ourselves about it. If you are not informed, you cannot inform others.
- Advocate: Finally, advocate on their behalf. While we advocate on their behalf before God while in prayer, we should also advocate on their behalf before others. Ignoring it, which is our tendency, will not change anything. Advocacy does not have to include a major letter writing campaign or large scale protests, but instead can be as simple as educating others, as mentioned above.
Each point of response requires intentionality on our parts. These are activities that require we be mindful of our love for the Lord and love for others so that we may respond in a way of compassion.
Having never been persecuted myself, I have little authority on this subject. Even knowing how to respond can escape my grasp since I have little experience with it. However, having talked with some who have endured tragic consequences for their faith, I know that are first obstacle must be to go beyond apathy towards empathy otherwise the seriousness will always be underestimated. A good place to start is with the words of Robert Nicholson who says, “There are many places on Earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be” (1).
To read the report of the World Watch List, click here.
Photo courtesy of user fusion-of-horizons and Flickr.