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Christians under Persecution

Monday, 4 August 2014  | Frank Reale

In recent months a number of cases of Christian persecution have been reported in the media: the abduction of Christian school girls in Nigeria, the sentencing to death of a pregnant woman in Sudan because of her refusal to recant her Christian faith, and the persecution of Copts in Egypt and Chaldeans and Assyrians in Iraq and Syria. These are just a few of the thousands of cases of persecution being perpetrated against Christians in many parts of the world ranging from Africa to the Middle East, Central Asia, South East Asia and the Far East. About 80% of all religious persecution is against Christians, but the Western secular media seems to ignore it, except for extreme cases. It is only through the publications of Christian organisations such as Barnabas Fund and Open Doors that some idea of the enormity of the extent and severity of this persecution can be gauged.

Why is the Western media so uninterested in the subject of Christian persecution? One reason could be that the West is now in the so-called post-Christian era and world views have been 'secularised'. Christians are seen to be odd, backward looking, and out of touch with modern thinking. The activities of Christians generally, let alone the misadventures of those in remote far flung places such as the Middle East, are of little interest to members of the general public as they have no impact on their lives. The Press sells to an audience; and if there is no audience, it does not sell.

The sad fact is that even committed Christians seem to be uninterested in the persecution of their brothers and sisters in Christ in countries less fortunate than their own. This is partly due to the fact that they are simply not aware of it due to their mainstream media sources. But I feel there are deeper reasons. Even Christian newspapers and newsletters, apart from a few specialised publications, pay scant attention to the subject. And I suspect it is for the same reason that the secular media largely ignores it. There is no real interest in it. We Christians in the West seem to be in a comfortable state, focusing our spirituality on pursuing our own wellbeing or seeking relief from our personal or local problems, and showing little connectivity and empathy with our suffering fellow Christians far away from own borders.

Does this attitude conform with Scripture? Clearly it does not. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the interconnection of all believers as parts of the one body, the corporate Christ: ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it’. In Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus sets out his disciples' obligations towards one another – feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison. In Hebrews 10:32-34, the author describes the persecution undergone by the early Christians. We see how they sympathised with one another and were even prepared to suffer loss to help and uphold each other.

It was with these thoughts in mind that I came to see that we, the Christian Church in a truly blessed Western nation, should take a more proactive role in alleviating the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in other countries. The issue is not only one of compassion: there are the issues of justice and human rights as well. Our own society in Australia is stable, equitable, prosperous, and free. These characteristics are in large measure attributable to our Christian heritage, the main pillars of which are justice, compassion and freedom, all based on the solid bedrock of God's revealed truth. Whatever is not built on these truths will crumble and fall like so many 'isms' who come and gone before: Communism, Marxism, and Fascism. These three pillars, embedded in the biblical story, are vital for the wellbeing of society. Without the pillar of justice, through which wrongdoing is punished and good is rewarded, there cannot be social cohesion. Without the pillar of compassion, there would be little public good – hospitals, orphanages, care for the aged and the poor, and education for all both rich and poor. Without freedom, there cannot be a free exchange of ideas, authentically embraced religious belief, voluntary association and free movement, all of which contribute not only to the amenity of society but also to its economic prosperity and advancement.

If we believe that justice is one of the main pillars underpinning the wellbeing of nations, should we not be doing our utmost to ensure that our distant brothers and sisters, who share our Judeo-Christian beliefs, also be partaking of the cup of justice? Shouldn't we also be advocating on their behalf to our nation's leaders? And indeed, our concern should be not only for Christians, but also for those of other faiths who suffer persecution and injustice. If we ignore them and concern ourselves with our wellbeing only, where is our integrity? Where is our compassion?

This year, Australia does have a window of opportunity to act in integrity, in accordance with our core national values, to raise these issues of justice and human rights on the international stage. This year, Australia will hold the Chair of the United Nations Security Council and will also host the G20 Summit. Both of these present opportunities for Australia to take a leadership role on these issues, to heighten world attention to them, and to urge international remedial action to be taken. The time has come for the West to not turn a blind eye to gross injustice, to not cross to the other side of the road like the ‘righteous’ in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but to speak out boldly, and be prepared to suffer economic loss, if necessary, for the sake of integrity and justice. Christians Under Persecution (CUP) is an advocacy group set up to accelerate this process, to gather together both mainline and ethnic Churches, and so present a unified Christian voice, and by means of concerted prayer, petitions, and deputation, to urge our Federal government to take up this challenge.

For more information on CUP, for monthly prayer bulletins on topical persecution and to participate in the on-line petition, visit www.facebook.com/christiansunderpersecution.


Ian Ridgway
September 10, 2014, 3:08PM
Thank you for this article, Frank.

Your analysis of the situation is about right I fear. Often specific persecution of Christians is hidden in the main-stream media behind euphemisms such as 'minorities' rather than saying the more confronting word 'Christian'.
Alasdair Livingston
October 7, 2014, 11:55AM
Ian has hit the nail on the head. When persecution of minorities is under discussion, the word "Christian" falls out of the vocabulary. To take one example: when the plight of the Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar (Burma) was revealed, all sorts of commentators joined the chorus of (very proper) condemnation, the Dalai Lama among them. But for twenty years the largely Christian tribes in eastern Burma (Kachin, Chin and Karen) were ravaged by the Burmese army, their villages torched, their women raped, their men forced to work as porters, and populations chased into the forest. Where was the Dalai Lama, and where were all the other compassionate people, then?

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