January 12, 2012

2011: A very good year ... for Christian persecutors

I remember, many years ago, questioning the Bible's accuracy. With all the intelligence and experience that an eighth grader could muster, I precociously pointed out that the Book of Revelation had to be wrong. I was willing to accept that it featured a great deal of symbolism. But the one thing that really irritated me was its claim that, in the End Times, people would be beheaded for refusing to worship the Beast.

I thought, "Come on! Maybe that insanity was going on when Revelation was written, but we're civilized now. Nobody does that sort of thing in the 20th century!"

Sadly, I was wrong and the world has not changed much over the past two thousand years. In fact, if anything, barbaric attacks on Christians appear to be escalating.

To experience a small sampling of Christian persecution in modern times, a brief tour of the world might be instructive:

In Iraq and Afghanistan, for examples, Americans sacrificed dearly with the hope of bringing security to our country while establishing peace and freedom there. Yet, freedom of religion is being exterminated systematically as we wind our forces down. Reports are sounding alarms that the aftermath of American involvement leaves two countries where "Christianity might be eradicated in our lifetime." In Iraq, half of the Christian population already has fled to other countries. In Afghanistan, just one Jew remains and the last Christian church has been closed.

In Nigeria, terrorists are targeting Christians turning the country into "a cauldron of religious strife." In fact, while celebrating Christmas Mass, terrorists killed over 40 in a church bombing. And all this follows the 2009 beheading of three pastors by Islamic radicals.

Also in Africa, the Arab Spring that American officials initially applauded, in Egypt, seems to be evolving into an Islamist Winter. Radical Muslims have won nearly two thirds of the seats in Egypt's parliament, a shift that threatens to end the religious freedom of Coptic Christians, and the country's 33 years of peace with Israel.

In soon-to-be-a-nuclear-power Iran, a pastor has been imprisoned and sentenced to death for refusing to recant his faith in Jesus Christ. The man has never been Muslim, but the court ruled that he must return to the faith of his ancestors or be executed. However, when the barbarity of that case sparked international condemnation, the court trumped up additional charges, claiming that the man is "a Zionist" and, consequently, a security threat. Also, for good measure, they accused him of rape.

And elsewhere, in Indonesia, anti-Christian violence nearly doubled in 2011. During Christmas, Burmese army troops attacked Christians, killing one. Three million Filipino Catholics ignored president's warning that terrorists might target them during parade with famous statue of Christ. The head of the Syriac Catholic Church, which is in full communion with Rome, accused western governments of sacrificing religious rights of minorities in order to pursue their geostrategic and economic interests.

But Muslims are not the only ones getting in on the act.

Buddhists also have been responsible for religious persecution. One Lao village, has just eight Christian families left. When a relative died, on Christmas day, officials made the funeral arrangements so difficult that their true agenda was finally exposed: "Let the body rot if you insist on clinging to the Christian faith." The decomposing body left them no choice but to temporarily renounce their Christian beliefs. Also, nearby, seven Christian Laotians are still being shackled in stocks, in an animal pen, until they deny their faith. Reportedly, the stocks are "causing excruciating physical pain and bruises." Family members fear that the next level of torture may include starvation tactics.

Previously, I have reported on the wave of Hindu persecutions that have been spreading across India. There, Christians have been burned alive, churches have been destroyed, and even the nuns of Mother Teresa's Order have been forced to seek police protection.

It is interesting to note that the Pew Research Center found that one third of the world's population is experiencing increased restrictions on religion. That statistic, however, is not as clear as one might think. Increasingly, Sharia laws are promoting government-sponsored persecution and violence against nonviolent Christians while, elsewhere, other new laws are being passed to help prevent Islamist violence against Christians. To view those so-called "restrictions on religion" as comparable is somewhat akin to equating the crook and the cop, simply because they both carry a gun, while ignoring the fact that one side is trying to protect life and limb.

One has to wonder why there is such frenzied activity, around the globe, to exterminate a nonviolent faith. Could it have something to do with good versus evil?

Whether the increasing instances of religious violence are from the hands of individuals or the laws of governments one thing is certain: For Christian persecutors, 2011 was a very good year.

6/11/12 UPDATE: Persecutions continue:
Two Nigerian churches attacked during Sunday services, seven killed.