If you are thinking about the purchase of an appropriate Christmas gift, let me recommend ‘The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution’ by John L. Allen, published by Image Books, October 2013. Not for the faint hearted, Allen’s book meticulously documents a mere fraction of the persecution that takes place and, most crucially analyses the reasons behind it.
The International Society for Human Rights recently stated that 80 per cent of religious discrimination in the world is against Christians.
Since the time of Christ, historians have estimated that there have been 70 million Christian martyrs, with more than half of that figure, 45 million, losing their lives in the 20th century. In the 21st century, it is estimated that more than 100,000 Christians have been brutally murdered each year between 2000 and 2010, and the slaughter continues today.
From North Korea in the Far East, through the Middle East and across the north and some central parts of the African continent, in more than 60 individual countries, there has never been a more dangerous time in history to be a Christian. These victims of persecution are the martyrs of the 21st century.
According to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary's 2001 research tome, ‘World Christian Trends’, martyrs are defined as "believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility”.
Meanwhile in the West, as this tragedy of apocalyptic proportions unfolds, the media remains by and large silent. Indeed organisations such as the BBC have gone out of their way to question and undermine the figures produced by reputable academic and religious organisations i.e. the Vatican. Sadly even some Christian ‘watch’ organisations spend time disputing each other’s figures as the atrocities continue.
Today, most of the violence visited upon Christians in the cradle of the faith in the Middle East is carried out by Muslim extremists for sectarian and political reasons. In recent years this has spread across North Africa.
Meanwhile to our national shame, most of our mealy-mouthed politicians and other community leaders fail to speak up on behalf of the persecuted.
Today, I found out by chance that the church worldwide has designated the month of November as a time for all Christians to remember and pray for the persecuted church, through the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).
Today, instead of moaning about our ‘lot’ from the comfort of our armchairs in Scotland, we should be on our faces before the Living God lifting up those who daily put their lives on the line for the sake of Christ.
These ordinary people are the real heroes of the faith!!