Equality, tolerance; freedom of thought, speech and faith—these are values central to us. We stand for justice, we want to be a voice for the underdog, we long for these values to be extended to everyone, right?
Not entirely. There’s a group we’ve forgotten. Because of who they are, every year 150,000 of them are put to death. They’re harassed in 139 (nearly three-quarters of the world’s) nations. 80% of all religious discrimination is directed against them, though they make up only 30% of the world’s population.
I’m talking about Christians. And I fear I may have suddenly lost your interest. Particularly if the word “Christian” calls to mind rich, western caucasians or errors and injustices from our colonial past.
“In the West, the sun of Christendom has set. We’re in the middle of a perplexing identity shift.”
And these mental pictures are precisely the problem. We like to measure our sophistication by how cutting-edge our perspectives are—but this picture of Christianity as a white religion? Yeah, it’s a few hundred years out of date.
Christianity is Middle-Eastern in origin. Its epicentre was in Syria for 500 years, and for almost a millennium afterwards it was more dominant in Asia and Africa than the West. Today around 80% of Christians are from developing nations. Picture dark skin, a foreign language and subsistence living: that’s more like it.
And in the West, the sun of Christendom has set. We’re in the middle of a perplexing identity shift. It’s a post-Christian world where all faiths are apparently created equal. All except Christianity. That one’s less equal because it used to have power, and therefore has sins to atone for. So followers of Jesus are fair game for ridicule.
Christianity is a Middle-Eastern religion. Picture dark skin, a foreign language and subsistence living.
But this isn’t about me or other white believers weary with the world’s verbal insults. The biggest losers in this contradictory narrative are the voiceless.
The 500 Christians in Orissa slaughtered by Hindu nationalists. The 40 Egyptian congregations whose churches were razed by Islamists. The 85 killed by terrorists in the Peshawar church bombing in Pakistan. The 100,000 North Korean believers still in forced labour camps.
“What is currently taking place constitutes nothing less than global a war on Christians; possibly the greatest human rights challenge of our time.”
The Nigerian school girls. The Kenyan university students. Lines of marching martyrs dressed in orange. Countless millions more, whose suffering wasn’t sensational enough to raise an editor’s eyebrow. The nameless one whose life will be taken in the next five minutes, and according to the statistics, every five minutes til kingdom come, unless something dramatic changes.
The now centuries-obsolete view of Christianity as a white colonial religion may serve to sideline and snub the western church. But when 100 million others—mostly poor and defenceless and who face real persecution—are spurned by association, ignored by the newsmakers and so forgotten by the world, then I can’t stay silent.
What is currently taking place constitutes nothing less than a global war on Christians; possibly the greatest human rights challenge of our time. In our day, Christianity faces extinction in its homeland. On this side of the world we raise our voice for every cause—all but this one apparently. Isn’t this just a little ironic? Hypocritical even?
“The biggest losers in this contradictory narrative are the voiceless.”
Do we really believe in equality and justice for all like we say we do? If so, let’s remember those believers in prison as if we were there ourselves, and those being mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3). Let’s stand with them, defending the weak and the fatherless, upholding the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3). For people of all faiths—but particularly, yes particularly, for Christians.
Not just because their rate of mistreatment is vastly disproportionate to their population, but because God calls us to do good to all—and especially to those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).
And let’s pray. Let’s connect with NGOs like Open Doors, Barnabas Fund or Voice of the Martyrs to pray informed prayers—and to use our privilege to help clothe, feed and provide for the least of these.