The Persecuted Church – The Age of Intolerance: The War on Religion

As many of you know, November is generally the time when we set aside time to remember, pray for, and publicize the plight of the persecuted church.

Do watch this video introduced by Baroness Berridge!

On the subject of religious persecution, religion journalist Barney Zwartz has a great piece on The Age about Age of Intolerance: The War on Religion.

This is how it begins:

As Christian villager Asia Bibi languished in a Pakistani jail awaiting death by hanging for drinking water from a Muslim cup, two suicide bombers killed 85 worshippers in a Peshawar church. For Egypt’s Copts, who risk having the small cross-tattoos many wear on their wrists burnt off with acid by militant Muslims, the Arab Spring has been wintry. In August it got worse: Muslim Brotherhood supporters, blaming them for the army’s removal of president Mohamed Mursi, attacked more than 100 Christian sites – 42 churches were razed. In Somalia, al-Shabab, which slaughtered scores of people at a Kenyan shopping mall in September, has reportedly vowed to kill every Somali Christian. For Egypt’s Copts, who risk having the small cross-tattoos many wear on their wrists burnt off with acid by militant Muslims, the Arab Spring has been wintry. In northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has butchered thousands of Christians, as well as Muslims they consider inadequately ideological – such as those seeking an education. Four of every five acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians, according to the Germany-based International Society for Human Rights. The secular US think tank the Pew Forum says Christians face harassment or oppression in 139 nations, nearly three-quarters of all the countries on earth.

I particularly liked this comment as to why Christian persecutions get relatively little media air time:

Secularists also tend to think of Christians as the oppressor, not the oppressed. When they picture persecution, they turn to history: the crusades, the Inquisition, Europe’s savage 17th century religious wars, and colonial exploitation. But, as John Allen observes: ”Today we do not live on the pages of a Dan Brown potboiler, in which Christians are dispatching mad assassins to settle historical scores. Instead, they’re the ones fleeing assassins others have dispatched.”

Its a fairly balanced article. Zwartz knows that persecution can be a nebulous term  when used indiscriminately. That said, everyone might not agree with the sentiment of Liz Kendal that “Christians will face jail and other sanctions if they do not toe the fast-changing secular line on such issues as condoning homosexuality and same-sex marriage” or with Catholic Cardinal George Pell who believes that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.” Regardless, Zwartz draws attention to a growing trend of persecution against Christians in many countries and the resounding silence that seems to follow.

Darren Carlson also has a good post at TGC on the topic.

  • Dorfl

    I particularly liked this comment as to why Christian persecutions get relatively little media air time; [...]

    I have another hypothesis on why people tend to reflexively dismiss talk about persecution of Christians. It’s because of statements like this:

    Christians will face jail and other sanctions if they do not toe the
    fast-changing secular line on such issues as condoning homosexuality and
    same-sex marriage.

    I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.

    We have come to expect that any complaint about Christian persecution will turn out to mean “I got criticised! Somebody criticised me!! This has to stop, before it ends in Christian death camps!!!”. This means that more and more people immediately go “Oh god, not this nonsense again!” and shut their ears every time they hear about persecution of Christians. This means that the Christians who are genuinely being persecuted get very little attention, since their cries for help are drowned out by a lot of self-pitying histrionics.

    It’s a lot like the story about the boy who cried wolf, except it’s another – completely innocent – boy who gets eaten once people have learnt to ignore the sound of anyone crying wolf.

    • Jakeithus

      In my opinion, it’s a combination of the 2 points. Christians in the West do no favours to Christians elsewhere when they overreact and label any sort of opposition as persecution.

      There is also truth to the idea that for many people, they cannot move beyond their limiting mental boxes that identify Christianity as oppressor, when that is far from the case in most places around the world today.

  • Paul

    Yes Barney’s essay was excellent except for the inclusion of the ridiculous quote from Robert George predicting that he and other Christians will become martyrs.
    As a counterpoint to George please check out the essay by the truth-telling author Chris Hedges titled The Radical Christian Right and the War on Government. It could be said that George is a “spiritual” god-father to some sections of the religious right, especially those that congregate around the First Things nexus.

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