Christianity growing despite persecution
December 25th has come and gone for Christians around the world, except for those whose liturgical worship is based on the Julian calendar. In most of the Christian world, people were free to worship and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ without fear of reprisal and out in the open. In the parts of the world where the Eastern Orthodox Church is the majority, Orthodox Christians will be able to celebrate proudly and without fear.
In fact, in those countries like Russia, Romania and other areas that once were under the Iron Curtain, Christianity has rebounded well since the days after the Wall began to crumble and communism began its death rattle. In the United States, the majority of the population remains Christian even if there’s a portion of those who are nominally Christian. Christmas, aside from being a holy day, has taken on the trappings of a secular celebration here to some degree, though the Christian roots remain and Christians freely celebrate and worship here as well.
In many parts of the globe, Christmas carried on somewhat of a somber tone this year. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity ( CSGC), close to 1 million Christians ( 900,000) have been martyred over the last decade. This would make Christians the most persecuted against group in the world.
From the attack on Notre Dame cathedral to Boko Haram’s attacks in Africa to the Sri Lanka Easter bombings, we have witnessed the attacks, their veracity and the resilience of those who worship the risen Lord.
And though we have witnessed, some perhaps have even personally experienced, and we are able to recount many events, I think the enormity escapes us at times. I would attempt to create an exhaustive list, but the task is excessively daunting due to time and space constraints. I will highlight some of the more prominent attacks using a plethora of online and print resources.
2007 Nigeria, at least 10 murdered by an Islamic mob. as Islamic extremists bomb 5 Catholic Churches in Iraq.
2005 a suicide bomber detonated a device in a mostly Christian community killing 135 and injuring over 100.
2005 14 Assyrian Christians are found tortured in an Iraqi garbage dump.
2005 Indonesia a priest, several children and dozens of others are killed when Islamic militants detonate devices in a community center.
2006 Nigeria, Muslim mob burns churches and beats Christians 21 killed and over 100 injured.
2006 on two successive days mobs riot killing at least 60 ( possibly 120) Christians and injure over 200 in Nigeria
2006 Iraq, Churches burned around 12 killed and 12 injured.
2006 Ethiopia 16 killed and around 100 injured in bombings and church burnings.
2007 The Philippines over 15 are killed and dozens injured by Jihadists.
2007 Nigeria, at least 10 murdered by an Islamic mob.
2008 Jakarta, Indonesia close to 300 Christians are beaten and hospitalized when a mob storms a Christian school.
2008 49 Christians are shot or hacked to death by a Muslim mob rampaging three villages.
2009 the Sudan, 43 Christians murdered and 60 plus injured as Islamic militias attack Christian villages.
2010 in Nigeria 49 Christians are hacked to death outside of churches including several pastors.
2010 Pakistan 33 Christians and some Shiite Muslims were murdered by a Sunni militia.
2010 Nigeria 528 Christians are hacked to death with machetes by Muslim raiders on their villages and over 600 are injured.
2010 Iraq terrorists target Christians on buses killing four and injuring 171.
2010 Iraq 53 killed and 80 injured as a mob storms a Catholic church with machine guns and grenades. Among the murdered are two of the parish priests.
2010 Alexandria, Egypt 23 parishioners are incinerated by suicide bombers.
2011 The Christmas Day bombings in Nigeria that killed around 50.
2011 Coptic Christians in Egypt 10 killed and close to 200 injured as firebombs are hurled into churches.
2011 Muslim mobs go on a rampage burning 42 churches and killing 321
2012 Nigeria 12 Christian villages attacked and 80 killed.
2012 Nigeria, attack on two churches 34 killed and 125 injured.
2012 Syria car bomb attack on a Christian funeral kills 27 and injures 48.
2013 Pakistan worship services attacked killing over 100 and injuring even more.
2013 Nigeria Christian villages attacked killing 37 including women, children, even pregnant women.
2013 Iraq, 26 killed as a Catholic church is bombed.
2014 Nigeria 121 Christians rounded up and hacked with machetes.
2014 Nigeria two massive bus bombs set off in a Christian district killing 150.
2015 Nigeria, Fulani terrorist massacre nearly 100 Christians. Mostly women and children.
2017 Syria 121 Christians stabbed and mutilated by members of the Islamic state.
2019 Sri Lanka 290 killed and 800 injured.
Christmas this year in Nigeria, 11 Christians are beheaded.
Obviously due to time and space limitations, I have left off some years and thousands of incidents. One does begin to understand the enormity of the persecution Christians face on a global scale, however. And these numbers, though they are staggering, pale in comparison to the tens of millions slaughtered by the atheist communists. These Christians, mostly Orthodox with some Roman Catholic and even fewer Protestants were jailed, sent to labor camps and almost genocided in the former Soviet Union and its satellite republics.
Persecution even exists in places where wouldn’t imagine it, as recently as 1995, an Israeli soldier, Daniel Koren, 22, entered St. Anthony Catholic Church in Jaffa and went on a shooting rampage, firing more than 100 bullets in the altar and the cross above it but causing no injuries. Koren said his Judaic convictions forced him to destroy all physical images of God, and admitted that he had staged a prior attack in Jerusalem’s Gethsemane Church. Instances of attacks, desecration in the state of Israel are not limited to this incident either. In the 1980s, extremist Jewish groups burned several churches from several different traditions.
My intent, in illustrating all this tragedy is not to put us all in a somber mood, however. I know that death does make us sad, and mournful, as well as a multitude of other emotions. I also know that such heinousness makes us angry, and to some degree in light of all these attacks, one can be righteously angry. None of that is really my intent. All of those points are ancillary to what I really want to say, and besides Christ calls us to pray for our enemies. It doesn’t mean we cannot defend ourselves and those weaker but it does mean we should pray for conversions.
My main point is that Christianity is growing in spite of and perhaps especially because of the global persecution. Firebombings, mutilations, shootings, burning of churches, and so on and so on have not stopped the growth of Christians in the persecuted areas. In fact, in many of those places, it has lead to growth. It is something we should follow here.
I know in the West the persecution is different and rarely does one face death for their faith in Jesus Christ here. The challenges here are the myriad of roadblocks devised by globalist secularism and atheism. There is rampant immorality, which is pushed and promoted by the entertainment industry for seemingly no other means that to wreck the spirituality of Americans. Liberalism has divided and destroyed Churches. It has introduced new doctrines and improvisations that mock traditional Christianity. People’s livelihoods and careers are threatened and people even pushed into financial ruin because they refuse to metaphorically offer that pinch of incense to Ceasar in the form of global secularism.
I understand the pressures and the dangers we face here and the juxtaposition of those to dangers and pressures our brothers and sisters face in places like Africa and Asia. I ask us all to take that into account and head into the new year confident and hopeful. We are not offered an easy life if we are to follow Jesus. In fact, we are guaranteed persecution and trials. It is time we begin to face them with moral fortitude.
Remember those abroad who face death every day for following Jesus, pray for them, for your friends, neighbors, family and even enemies and endeavor to make this new year one where we all more fully carry out the commands of Jesus. God bless you all and Happy New Year.