Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Over the last year or so, I have seen a number of stories regarding the persecution of Christians around the world. Each time I bookmarked each article with either a like, comment or screenshot in the hope of coming back to it at a future date. Well that future date is here and I've decided to turn my interest into a blog for Hosea. A little different from our usual posts; I think that it is imperative to start the year by raising an important issue.
Even before the formation of their faith, Christians have been persecuted for their beliefs in Christ. The New Testament states that both Paul, Peter and co. were beaten by Roman Authorities simply for believing in Christ. Although it may be hard to fathom, this abysmal behaviour retains its presence in the modern day. In fact, it may have even got worse.
But why is hard to fathom?
Although you may think of yourself as highly intelligent and different from the rest (you probably are btw), psychological research has shown that human behaviour is rather easy to predict . Take Albert Bandura's Social Learning Theory that states that humans learn the correct behaviour to exert through observing others. As a regular attendee of football games, I often witness this theory firsthand. Premier League games are often heated encounters with fans using all sorts of language to express their anger during the game. I'll often hear men screaming verbal abuse for the first forty minutes or so...but then after a while... I'll hear a less defined... pre-pubescent voice... as a child imitates the behaviour. And so the cycle of foul mouthed football fans continues...
Bandura's theory can go a long way to explaining worldwide problems of Racism and Female infanticide. Inherent behaviours and views that exist because of wrongful education.
So why did I find it hard to fathom that Christians were still being persecuted worldwide?
Like the child in the previous example, I had probably learned subconsciously that the majority of Christians lived in first world countries (incorrectly I should add) . This poor generalisation could be sourced back to all the media artefacts that I'd been exposed to my whole life. I'd probably learned that there was a bunch of Christians in the USA due to well publicised presence of the Bible Belt. I'd also probably learned that there were a number of Catholic and Protestant Churches in the UK due to my primary education.
Although I knew it possessed a massive following, I had no idea that Christianity exists in almost every country. As a first world Christian, I had generalised the average believer due to my education and experiences. Tell me to think of the average Christian and I'd probably describe a well dressed and happy individual that attends Church every Sunday. But the reality is that there are Christians who are persecuted daily and unable to freely worship our God. They live in countries that are not predominately associated with Christianity and they are becoming increasingly marginalised.
Where is the persecution and how bad is the situation?
Open Doors, a charity that serves persecuted Christians around the world, states that:
"Persecution of Christians is getting worse. Five years ago only one country – North Korea – was ranked in the ‘extreme’ category for its level of persecution of Christians. This year, 11 countries score enough to fit that category." (Open Doors, 2019)
Staggering statistics that need no further explanation.
The former British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stated that the "inconvenient truth is that 80% of persecuted religious believers are Christians." The inconvenience he's alluding to refers to the mismatch between the media's archetypal victim and the persecuted Christians in question. When we think of persecuted Religious believers, racist incidents towards first world Muslims spring to mind. Perhaps, that's because that type of persecution is closer to home. On top of this, I would suggest that even if the persecution of Christians was better documented, there would be little difference to the current situation. This is because organisations prefer to support mainstream causes, such as the LGBT movement, than to raise the issue of persecuted Christians.
LGBT equality is a growing and acceptable trend.
Religion is becoming increasingly frowned upon by the masses.
You'd only have to look at the negative press that Chick Fil-A received for its donations to "anti-gay" Christian charities to understand the stark difference between support of the two movements. Perhaps that's why Hunt labels the persecution of Christians as the "inconvenient truth."
I'm not saying that secular organisations don't want to help persecuted Christians.
But I am saying that they'd much rather assist more relevant and accepted causes.
After all, helping mainstream causes gains more brand loyalty from the masses. Whilst the persecution of Christians does not fit the desired profile of a noteworthy cause in the modern day. The average person is caring less and less about Religion/Faith. The pursuit of profits and political correctness combined hold most of the blame.
Furthermore, Hunt's commissioned report highlighted that Christianity faced being "wiped out" from parts of the Middle East and is at risk of complete disappearance in other areas of the world. The stats are damning in showing this. Christians in Palestine represent less than 1.5% of the population, whilst the Iraqi Christian population has fallen from 1.3 million in 2003 to less than 120,000 today.
The situation is not only bad. But it is getting progressively worse.
What is the persecution?
The persecution includes the restriction of practicing faith (worship), imprisonment, discrimination and even death. Hunt's UK commissioned report shows that the persecution of Christians is coming close to genocide.
"In the Middle East and north Africa, the report says, “forms of persecution ranging from routine discrimination in education, employment and social life up to genocidal attacks against Christian communities have led to a significant exodus of Christian believers from this region since the turn of the century." (Wintour, 2019)
The sheer volume of the persecution is unfathomable. Listed below are some of the persecution that has happened in the last few years. To gauge a better understanding on the persecution, please feel free to click the links and read some of the relevant stories. (Facebook Readers please have a look at the first few comments to find the links.)
To be honest with you, I could add 50 + more news stories to the list. That's how severe this situation has become. If you're wanting even more stories on this subject. Just type out "Christians Persecuted in..." followed by one of the countries in the infographic and you'll be amazed by the results.
The information is widely reported by media organisations.Yet nothing of real note has been done. Perhaps that's why I've named this blog post the sleeping giant.
To go through all the horrendous persecution would be impossible to do in this blog piece. However, I would like to focus on Dr Daniel Wong's testimony to illustrate the strength of persecuted Christians in the face of adversity. Although Dr Wong's story is not as recent as the stories above, it does show that the persecution of Christians has been occurring for many years.
During the cultural revolution of China in the 1960s, the Communist rule aimed to remove all Religion from China. In order to do this, red guards were sent to Christian homes to burn hymn notes, Bibles and devotional books. Dr Wong's family were directly affected by this policy. One of the most touching parts of his story alludes to the persecution and eventual death of his brother.
Dr Wong's family were forced to deny Christ in favour of Communism. All of them refused to deny Christ; but it was only his brother that was punished for his decision. A fatal beating that led to his death in a hospital bed.
Given a similar situation, would you act in a similar way?
Would you refuse to deny Christ even if it meant losing your life?
You'd only have to remember Peter and the crows of the rooster to understand that even those closest to our Saviour failed in this challenge. Thus, one can't help but admire the boldness of Christians like Dr Wong and his family. Perhaps the Wong family had been reading Revelation prior to the attacks...
10 Don’t be afraid of what will happen to you. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison. He will do this to test you. You will suffer for ten days, but be faithful, even if you have to die. If you continue to be faithful, I will give you the reward[b] of life.
The strength of persecuted Christians is admirable. As previously mentioned, I was not aware that Christianity existed in some countries such as Sudan, Syria and Pakistan. This is because they represent only a minuscule percentage of the population. Add extreme persecution into the mix and you start to wonder how they even still exist. They must be so strong and unwavering in their faith. Although their beliefs put them in significant danger; they remain firm in their faith. Contrast this with the a first world Christian and you may be left rather red faced.
Unlike our persecuted counterparts, we have the freedom to express our faith in any place we go. Despite this, we often forgo the opportunity in place of more attractive alternatives. For example, we may use tiredness, work or social gatherings as a reason to miss our communion with God. We are giving countless opportunities to freely connect with God on a daily basis but we may choose not to take any of them. In stark contrast, persecuted Christians may only possess limited chances to meet with God but are likely take every opportunity to do exactly that (Check out the Chinese Christians receiving their first Bibles below as evidence of this.)
So next time you feel lethargic in any area of your spiritual walk. Remember to remain grateful that you can practice your faith freely. It's definitely something I am going to implement!
Why have persecution levels gone up?
The UK commissioned report identifies three drivers of persecution:
1. Political failure creating a fertile ground for religious extremism.
The first point needs little explanation. The failure of a governing body fosters the creation of extremists being born out of a Religion. In turn, these Religious leaders become more powerful than the state they live in. This great power allows them to grow their following and implement their extremist ideas. Often these beliefs are centralised around hate speech towards Christians. Examples of this include Iran and Saudi Arabia.
2. A turn to religious conservatism in countries such as Algeria and Turkey.
Religious conservatism involves grounding a country's policies in faith based beliefs. The basic idea is to implement the role of faith in everyday public life. Taken at face value, this seems like a great deal for Christians. Local churches often pray for the UK authorities to be founded in Christ. However, these faith based beliefs are often founded from one type of Religion - Islam. Often, extremist forms of Islam operate within their positions of power to eradicate Christianity from the nation. For example, Saudi Arabian school textbooks “teach pupils religious hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims, including Christians and Jews”. Bandura's social learning theory being used for evil yet again.
3. Institutional weaknesses around justice, the rule of law and policing, leaving the system open to exploitation by extremists.
Again the failure of a government state allows for the implementation of radical ideals. Such environments do not possess any form of basic fairness, law or justice.
As a first world citizen, we are often exposed to media artefacts that can form what we believe to be right and wrong. Hence, the existence of being "politically correct." However, Christians know that their resource for knowing what is right and wrong comes in the form of a Bible.
Humans are presented with countless causes to support in the media. The persecution of Christians worldwide seems to be lower down on this list; given the lack of coverage and support from major organisations. Increasingly negative views on Religion in recent years could explain this.
Earlier in this blog piece, I proposed to you the question on whether you would refuse to deny Christ in exchange for your life. Whatever the answer may be, you'll most likely never be put in such a situation as a first world Christian. Thus, I encourage you to always remain grateful for the opportunity to connect with Christ without persecution.
I'd like to end the blog with another personal story.
Last month I attended a football game where an opposition player was subject to apparent racial abuse. In order to find the culprit, each seat in the stadium was investigated by lip readers. The investigation was closed this month with no evidence available that any racism took place. As an avid football fan, I know how often racism taints our beautiful game. I've personally experienced it through many years of playing football at a grassroots level. It remains a serious issue both inside and outside of football. However, I can't help but feel a sense of injustice for our persecuted brothers of Christ. After all, the racism incident was shown on the back of all the newspapers and across all of the mainstream media channels; whilst the police spent hours investigating the incident. One would be forgiven for thinking excessive manpower was used to investigate one minor racial incident. Meanwhile the degradation, death and assault of Christians worldwide receives little coverage and support. The harsh reality is that non-Christians' and the mainstream media's emotions are not evoked by the persecution of Christians worldwide. Thus, it is up to us to report and support our brothers and sisters in isolation.
Click here to help out persecuted Christians worldwide - Open Doors UK
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I really hope you have enjoyed reading it! If you have any views on the situation please feel free to engage with us by leaving a comment down below. When I started this clothing brand, I wanted each garment to empower Christians in their walk with Christ. Thus, this topic hits very close to home. Hosea is much more than just the clothing, as we seek to empower Christians and spread the good Word. Growing this channel is very important to us, so please do leave us any feedback if you have any :)
Stay Blessed and God Bless,