As Americans face an increasing wave of pressure on religious liberty here at home, Christians around the world are enduring unprecedented levels of persecution.
According to We Stand With Them, a new group focused on “standing with those who stand with Jesus,” 100 million Christians were targeted for their faith in 2015, including a 136% increase over the previous year in believers who were killed for their faith. Last year was “the worst year for Christian persecution on record,” according to the group.
In a powerful new video, they aptly illustrate the situation:
As the narrator explains:
According to the U.S. State Department, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution for their faith in Jesus. 75% of people on the planet today live in countries where persecution of Christians is the norm…In fact, Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and there’s more persecution of Christians today than at any point in human history.
…Persecution generally doesn’t start with beheadings and massacres. It starts in subtle ways, with alienation and discrimination. And when the world is silent: suffering prevails.
It is important that we pray and intercede on behalf of these believers and they countries they inhabit. “We know that our God is greater than persecution,” the group says. “When we stand together in prayer for the persecuted heroes of the global Church, God hears from heaven, and He answers.”
Jesus reminds us that “blessed are the persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” and God can surely use and redeem the profound pain of such persecution. But such violence and oppression destroys lives and relationships in the here and know, having ripple effects that hinder and hamper the spreading of the Gospel in many, many ways.
The spiritual implications are severe, and they stretch deep into the broader social and economic order. Samuel Gregg has outlined how religious liberty is intricately linked to economic and political liberty, and researches like Brian Grim, Greg Clark, and Robert Edward Snyder have demonstrated a strong correlation between such liberty and economic growth. Such oppression goes from the persecuted and their families to the society as a whole, and back and forth again.
For those seeking holistic peace and prosperity for our nation and our global neighbors, religious persecution can’t be categorized as a “side issue.” It is fundamental to all else, and so in all of our corresponding prayers and efforts to alleviate pain and suffering, let us not neglect to remember the persecuted.
In The Victory of Reason, Rodney Stark advances the idea that Christianity is directly responsible for the most significant intellectual, political, scientific, and economic breakthroughs of the past millennium.