It seemed the entire civilized world breathed a collective sigh of relief recently when Meriam Ibrahim was finally permitted to leave Sudan. She had been sentenced to 100 lashes and death by hanging for allegedly converting to Islam from Christianity, despite her claim that she was raised by a Christian mother and therefore never renounced Islam. While we thank God for Miriam’s freedom, we grieve for the millions more still facing oppression for their faith.
Who are the most persecuted people in the world? Christians. In our own nation, it seems that every viewpoint is valued and protected except that of followers of Christ. Worldwide, the situation is worse.
According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular organization with members in 38 nations, Christians are the target of 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today. The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity states that, throughout the world, 100,000 Christians are executed every year – because they are followers of Christ. The Pew Research Center has determined that Christians face some level of discrimination in 139 of the world’s 195 countries (stats cited from the Belfast Telegraph).
But the nature of persecution in much of the world dwarfs what we in the West have to face. We may be harassed for wearing religious jewelry in the work place or praying publicly in Jesus’ name or expressing our faith on a dorm bulletin board. All the while believers elsewhere are languishing in jail, having church buildings destroyed, being hacked to death by machete-wielding radicals, or being forced to endure tortures and forced labor.
Such a reality comes as no surprise to Christians who take Jesus’ words seriously. He promised that if the world hated and persecuted Him, it would do likewise to His followers (John 15:18-20). We who know Christ must never forget the spiritual war that is raging and determine to remain firmly established upon a biblical foundation, come what may. And let us rejoice that, in the end, truth and righteousness will triumph.