My first awareness of Christian persecution was in the 1951 movie Quo Vadis. Filmed in MGM Technicolor, the movie was based on an 1896 novel of the same title by Henryk Sienkiewicz.
One of my sisters and I saw that movie together. She was 11 and I was eight. We probably had other schoolmates with us, but I don’t recall that detail. The movie featured actors and actresses (that’s what we called female actors in those days) whose names meant nothing to me at the time. The list included Robert Taylor, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov and Sophia Loren.
My primary recollection from that movie is the shock of seeing the portrayal of early Christians defenselessly and brutally attacked by roaring, raging lions in an arena, most likely the Roman Colosseum. That unthinkable act was ordered by Nero, who became Emperor of Rome at age 17 and held that title from 54 to 68 A.D. It was during his rule that Rome burned (64 A.D.) and that the stage was set for the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem (70 A.D.).
Christian persecution continues today. According to Open Doors – “Serving persecuted Christians worldwide” (https://www.opendoorsusa.org/persecution/about-persecution) “Christians are the most persecuted religious group worldwide. An average of at least 180 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith.” See End Note below.
At least four thoughts come to mind:
- Deep concern and heartfelt prayer for Christians living under persecution.
- Thankfulness for the blessing of living in a country relatively free from that scourge.
- Encouragement for all who read these words to exercise the privilege and responsibility of electing leaders at every level who take seriously the growing threat of Christian persecution and its undeniable consequences in the world, including our own country.
- All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. (Edmund Burke)
End Note (From Open Doors — “Serving persecuted Christians worldwide”)
What is Christian Persecution?
Christian Persecution is any hostility, experienced from the world, as a result of one’s identification with Christ. From verbal harassment to hostile feelings, attitudes and actions, believers in areas with severe religious restrictions pay a heavy price for their faith. Beatings, physical torture, confinement, isolation, rape, severe punishment, imprisonment, slavery, discrimination in education and in employment, and even death are just few examples they experience on the daily basis.
According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions. Many of these people are Christians. Also, according to the United States Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in the person of Jesus Christ.
Where Christian Persecution Is Worst
In the United States, it’s easy for believers to take for granted the rights they so regularly enjoy. From praying and worshiping in public to attending Sunday worship services, practice of one’s faith is generally accepted in America.
But this isn’t the case in many nations such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali, Syria, etc. in which religion, itself, is banned or where one faith system is permitted and touted, with all others being continually denigrated. The persecution is so severe in many localities that Christians are systematically targeted and mistreated because of their religious beliefs. According to The Pew Research Center, The Economist, Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world.
A Ranking of 50 Countries Where Christians Are Most Persecuted
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Central African Rep.
- Myanmar (Burma)
- Sri Lanka
- Palestinian Territories
- United Arab Emirates