According to the introductory lines of the Open Doors Report (2016) titled Freedom of Religion and the Persecution of Christians, ‘the persecution of Christians is getting worse –in every region in which we work –and It is getting worse fast.” The analysis of this statement shows that religious extremism is becoming worse in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Central Asia. And North Korea is the worst place to be a Christian. By far, the report indicates that the rise of Islamic extremism in sub-Saharan Africa dwarfs when compared to the violence in the Middle East. The persecution of Christians from across the world is fueled by factors such as Islamic extremism, religious nationalism, tribal antagonism, denominational protectionism, communist oppression, aggressive secularism, organized corruption, and totalitarian paranoia.
The report also indicates that Christians try to hide their faith in areas of great persecution to avoid being arrested or being dispatched to labor camps. The World Watch List (WWL) is a system designed by Open Doors USA to indicate where the Christian “faith costs the most.” Although the Church may be persecuted, it will prevail against the machinations of the enemy no matter what they plan.
Jesus encourages us when we face persecution. He says, “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well” Is the teaching of Jesus making Christians vulnerable to attacks by enemies of the faith. Why did Jesus not encourage his disciples to defend themselves against evil? The answers are logical when we consider the nature of evil minds. Here is the explanation: Jesus does not want us to escalate evil by responding to wrong with wrong. And indeed, two wrongs cannot make a right. The fundamental teaching of Jesus, therefore, is to de-escalate the rise of evil with a different approach. If someone takes your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. And if he wants you to go one mile, go two miles instead.
This is difficult to implement for any human being watching evil overwhelm them without any form of resistance. However, when we interpret it that way, we miss an important point. We as well as the enemy have the right of survival. Every human being has the right to defend himself against assault, aggression, and attack by whomever. But, if we implement the old law of an eye for an eye, then we make the world blind. The new law of Jesus is to offer the enemy a new perspective of love instead of violence. Christian teaching establishes a big difference in the world, and we can see it around us.
Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves because if we only show love to those who love us, of what benefit is that to the enemy? This command establishes the difference between the children of light and those of darkness. When you imagine the victims of Christian persecution as innocent human beings working hard for their daily living, then you can wonder why they are victimized.
God is the creator of all people good and bad. The choice to do good or evil is for every individual to make. He urges the bad to repent and the righteous to reflect on God when he says, “be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” God does not command us to initiate revenge against the wrong that comes upon us but to live at peace with our neighbors in developing a just world where the rights of individuals are upheld.
Therefore, the new law of love restricts the Christian from aggressive violation of the rights of others in the name of promoting any agenda. Instead, the Christian can pursue an aggressive implementation of the rights of others no matter their religion, race, or gender. Affinity to religious obligations that produces pain and bloodshed is far from the intention of God in creating various people where they are and how they behave. The Open Doors Report (2016) challenges us to be human in recognizing the pain of those who suffer persecution due to war, extremism, or religious intolerance. St. Paul says, “All belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.” Learn to love your neighbor; it will reward you when you are in danger. Keep praying!BACK TO LIST