Lions in the arena and burning at the stake may not be the standard fare for Christian martyrdom these days, but be assured that persecution of the church is still occurring. Even more alarming, the levels of persecution are currently at levels some believe equal the great persecution that occurred under the Roman Empire. Persecution in America is not something the church faces in the same way the church in predominantly Muslim or Communist countries do. Consequently, it is not a topic that frequents our conversation at weekly gatherings. But with the up-tick in persecution and outright martyrdom of brothers and sisters around the world even mainstream media is picking up on the situation.
Persecution may range in severity from mere harassment to gruesome torture and execution. The estimated numbers are upwards of 100 million victims worldwide. According to Pew Forum the Middle East is now 4% Christian whereas a century ago it was 20% Christian. The Gospel for Asia claims there are 14,000 Christians martyred each year. With churches being blown up in Pakistan, Coptic Christians in Egypt having their businesses’ destroyed and Iranian’s being beaten for taking communion certain voices are being raised for measures to be taken to stop this trend.
However it may not be as simple as instituting governmental sanctions against countries responsible for violent actions against the church. Such actions may result in stronger retaliation against the Christians there. Or a new governmental structure may be installed that would do nothing to right the situation. Careful thought and attention must be given to the situation. But while the answer may be complex, there are things that can be done to aid those who are suffering.
The simplest thing that can be done is to support the persecuted church is to join together in prayer. A prime example of this occurred Sunday Nov. 3, 2013. The National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted shines a light on the scope of what occurs in the global church and focuses on bringing unity to the body of Christ. For those who are willing to take a step further, monetary gifts or volunteering time to bring awareness to others who are shielded by the comfort of the Western church. Finally, for those truly broken for the suffering of their brothers and sisters, they may show the greatest element of solidarity by going and joining them in their home countries and see first-hand what they experience on a daily basis.
By being more aware of what is actually occurring in the far reaches of the Christian community, we can more appropriately take action for properly supporting and serving the global body of Christ. For more information on Christian persecution you can check out the links below.
For an extreme example of what one local Southern California pastor is doing for the cause click here.