Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. (1 Peter 4:12)
According to the annual World Watch List ranking of the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution, 2014 saw the greatest number of religious freedom violations against Christians, worldwide, in recent times — even in Christian-majority countries.
In addition to tallying acts of violence, researchers defined persecution as the degree of freedom Christians have to live their faith in private, with their family, and in their community, nationally and their church life.
- 4,344 Christians were killed in 2014, more than double the 2,123 killed in 2013, and triple the 1,201 killed in 2012.
- Life worsened more in Africa, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where Islamic extremism is the main source of pressure on Christians.
- There is a resurgence of anti-Christian hostility in parts of Asia and Latin America — two regions where conditions were comparatively favorable in previous years.
- Mexico is on the list, at No. 38.
- The collapse of social and political structures in failed states (eg, Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen) are associated with increased persecution.
There are some positives in the report.
- Co-operative relationships are being forged between Muslims and Christians in the Middle East caldron.
- China is undecided but might invite Christians to play a fuller role in the building of the new China.
- Western governments are engaging with religious communities in working against extremists like never before.
Some positives are better than none. But passages from the Bible provide greater insights and hope. For example, more than 2000 years ago, Jesus, as written in the Gospel of Luke, offered a positive perspective on this age-old problem.
Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! (Luke 6:22)
Paul knew that glory awaits the persecuted who are sharing in the suffering of Jesus.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified together. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory, which shall be revealed in us. (Romans 8:16-18)
In the Gospel of John, Jesus knew that the Cross separates Christians from the world, and warned that this separation comes with the risk of hate and persecution.
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. (John 15:18-21)
What to do? For the rest of us, be a prayer warrior. To paraphrase David…
I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
[Our] times are in Your hand;
deliver [our brothers and sisters] from the hand of [our] enemies,
and from those who persecute [them].
Make Your face shine upon your servant;
save [them] for Your mercies’ sake. (Psalm 31:14-16)
You can go here for more in-depth information about the report.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:10)