When I first became a Christian (late 60s, early 70s) I was drawn to stories of Christians in other countries who were persecuted for their faith. I avidly read the Jesus Freaks books and wondered if it ever came to that, would I be strong enough to stand up for Jesus?
The thought filled me with dread. Reading further I learnt about others:
· Richard Wurmbrand (1909 – 2001) in Romania: a Jewish atheist who became a Christian and suffered 14 torturous years in prison for his faith. He started the work of Voice of the Martyrs to aid the persecuted church
· Oscar Romero (1917 – 1980) in South America: Archbishop of San Salvador, spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture, and was himself assassinated while conducting Mass
· Brother Andrew (b. 1928) from the Netherlands, smuggling Bibles into Eastern Europe and China. He established the Open Doors ministry
Surprisingly, none of that put me off being a Christian and I have intermittently prayed for the persecuted church ever since.
Around the world there is abuse and persecution of Christians. But most of the world simply doesn’t hear about this, or if they hear, they often don’t believe, thinking that it’s exaggerated. Media chooses what it will report, and persecution of Christians doesn’t seem to be newsworthy.
More recently I have become aware of “Christian Faith and Freedom” an interdenominational human rights ministry, and a member of the Australian Coalition for the Persecuted Church. Their mandate is to ‘alert governments to the plight of persecuted Christians; advocate and defend freedom to proclaim and practice the Christian faith, and to pray, to speak up for and help those suffering persecution’. This is the source of some of the material below.
In February this year, a Pakistani Christian man was severely beaten by seven Muslim men because he rinsed himself off after working in the field in a tube well belonging to the landlord. They claimed that by doing so he made the whole field unclean. The man died three days later – his injuries were so severe.
But the perpetrators of the beating and torture were granted pre-release bail and held by police for a short period before their release. International Christian Concern has called for the authorities to provide the man’s family with justice, and to ensure that similar incidents do not occur in future.
Violence erupted in West Papua (Indonesia) in September last year as a peaceful student protest against racist abuse was infiltrated by provocateurs. 33 people were killed and more than 65 seriously wounded. The Indonesian government has been urged to provide international observers and accredited media with access to West Papua and Papua.
This is needed if military and militia violence and incitement, human rights, and the humanitarian crisis are to be monitored and addressed. It is also both urgent and imperative if truth is to be determined, abusers held to account, and the genocide of an indigenous, mostly Christian people averted.
The impact of COVID-19 on persecution of Christians
Christians have always faced persecution in many parts of the world. Think Indonesia, where Muslims killed Christians and burnt down churches. The same thing has happened in Egypt and other places, not just Islamic countries.
The disruptions experienced because of the COVID-19 pandemic in many parts of the world have actually opened the door to further abuse and discrimination against Christians.
In India some years ago, Christian missionaries were killed by Hindus. Today, the Indian government is providing food to poor and needy families affected by Covid-19, but in some areas the food is distributed by local Hindu extremist groups. These groups prevent Christians from accessing the food. One pastor was told to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ in order to receive anything.
In many parts of the world the pandemic is already disrupting humanitarian aid distribution and any fragile peace is at risk. There is information that ISIS is encouraging taking advantage of disruptions to normal life because the standard security measures that keep the group in check are becoming overloaded.
Counter terrorist operations will be curtailed as military personnel are needed to respond to manage the COVID-19 threat. Jihadist groups are always ready to exploit any weakness or distraction caused by the pandemic.
Understand what’s happening
There’s a battle going on between the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of the enemy. We should not despair at the events on the global stage. To that end, we should take up the advice Paul gives in Ephesians chapter 6, verse 18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
We need to be diligent in prayer and part of that is not being ignorant of events in the world.
Elizabeth Kendal’s Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin http://rlprayerbulletin.blogspot.com/ provides well researched weekly news – the background to prayer points vital to persecuted Christians in dangerous parts of the world.
A prophetic word was received some weeks ago from a company of prophets in Canberra: “Under persecution, my people focus on me, focus on their work for the Kingdom, and they thrive as their life is in me, because reality is in the spirit realm in the Kingdom”.
Many persecuted Christians would attest to the truth of that statement. Are we willing to believe it for ourselves, should it come to that?
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science and theology under her belt. Aira is a panellist for Young Writers and indulges in reading, bushwalking, volunteering at a nature reserve and learning to play clarinet. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html