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7 Reasons Christianity is the Most Persecuted Religion in the World

August 10, AD 2014 23 Comments

Last night, I asked my family what percentage of religious persecution in the world they thought was directed at Christians.

They guessed about 30%. After all, they said, Christians are about one-third of the global population so that would make sense, right?

When I told them it was closer to 80%, they initially refused to believe me. Safe in our prosperous, post-Christian Australian culture, it seemed almost absurd. Yet, we have daily, horrifying proof of this reality.

From Northern Iraq to Nigeria, from China to India, the cries of Christian suffering pierces the heavens: A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” (Mt 2:18)

In all this, our own hearts cry out asking why. Why is this happening? Why do Christians suffer so much persecution today? Why have there been more martyrs to the faith in the 20th Century than the preceding 19 put together?

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In his book The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution John Allen cites the work of German scholar Thomas Schirrmacher, an Evangelical Christian human rights activist. Although Schirrmacher acknowledges the deep complexity of this global tragedy, he shows that there are some significant socio-political reasons Christians are so disproportionately persecuted.

He gives 10 points but I think we can summarise them in six — with one more reason which is by far the most important.

1. Christianity — Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal — is growing dramatically in the what is often called the Global South. Such growth is only possible because Christians actively evangelize, sharing the gospel of salvation with others. This missionary zeal is seen as a threat and directs attention towards Christians.

2. Christianity is growing rapidly in some of the most dangerous areas of the world, particularly in parts of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and even in the Middle East. In these volatile areas, any disruption of the fragile status quo is potentially disastrous and Christians are suffering because of it.

3. Christianity is often seen as a form of Western imperialism and identified with “the West.” This makes Christians a natural target for many nationalist movements. Nationalism invariably seeks to unify the nation by excluding minorities. They create unity through hate and Christians, who live for another kingdom, are often the target of this nationalist hatred. An example of this is extreme Hindu nationalism which targets Christians as anti-Indian.

4. Christians are often at the forefront of promoting human rights and democracy as well as opposing violence, corruption, and exploitation of the poor. As such, they are often targeted by the powerful, whether governments or mob groups, who don’t hesitate to use violence or other forces of coercion to get what they want. For example, the Latin American drug lords who murder Catholic priests and other Christian leaders because they are the only ones defending the rights of the poor.

5. Christians have their ultimate allegiance to the Kingdom of God which is not of this world. As such, they are viewed with suspicion by totalitarian governments who, as their name suggests, want total control over the bodies and souls of the people. This is the reason behind much of the persecution in places like China and even more so in North Korea.

6. Christians, on the whole, reject violence and retribution. Persecution is invariably the strong oppressing the weak — or in the case of Christianity, the meek — simply because they can.

7. Christians are persecuted because Christ is persecuted. Satan “knows that his time is short” and so, unable to get to Christ or His Mother (Revelation 12:12), he makes war “on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17) This is the hidden reality behind all persecution. The world and the devil continue to persecute Christ through His people (cf. Acts 9:4-5) just as Christ said they would: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you.” (John 15:20)

It’s important to understand the social, historical and political reasons why Christians are being persecuted. Understanding them more fully might be able to help us reduce persecution. We must do whatever we can to protect our Christian brothers and sisters, not just in providing short-term relief but helping to build a global culture of religious freedom.

At the same time, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the real enemy here ultimately isn’t the terrorist with the gun or the bureaucrat with the agenda. They need our prayers and yes, our love.

The real enemy is Satan.

If we forget that and believe that people are our true enemies, then we will hate our neighbor and imperil our souls. We will forget the heart of the Christian faith, the merciful Heart of Jesus who willingly bore the persecution of the world for our sake.

Then, we will truly be lost.

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About the Author:

Laura is a baby Catholic, research student, writer, tea-drinker and aspiring countess from Sydney, Australia. Formerly an Evangelical Protestant, she came back to the Catholic Church in 2012. She disturbs the universe at Catholic Cravings.
  • Excellent summary, especially that we keep #7 in mind, because it’s not just politics or even bigotry of other religions. Will be sharing this.

  • Howard

    “… the real enemy here ultimately isn’t the terrorist with the gun or the bureaucrat with an agenda.” They may not be our ultimate enemies, but they are enemies. Matthew 5:44 tells us to love our enemies; it does not tell us that we have no enemies. Will Rogers was not the Messiah.

    • Absolutely Howard! Love always loves in truth. Those who persecute Christians are our enemies; they have made themselves our enemies. As you said, we should love them but that doesn’t mean they’re not our enemies or that we should stand by while they do evil. That is isn’t loving them and it certainly isn’t loving their victims who deserve our love and protection. We are called to radical, sacrificial love… not pleasantness!

  • Babagranny

    I would have guessed that Jews had been the most persecuted. I don’t know the percentage of Jews in the world (now or before Hitler), but I think it is relatively small compared to Christians, isn’t it? If so, what has been the per capita rate of persecution of both Jews and Christians?

    • That’s a great point, Babagranny! Thanks for bringing it up. Jewish people have of course been horrifically persecuted for thousands of years and often by Christians and in the name of Christ. That is something no one should ever forget. And that persecution continues. Just the other day, the Guardian reported that anti-Semitism is at its highest level since the the Second World War. 🙁

      There are many ways to measure “most persecuted” and I don’t have a reliable source to compare per capita persecution. We would also need to take into account the level of persecution. If measured by per capita, however, we would also have to include some of the much smaller religions. How many of us can say we knew the Yazidi who are now facing almost total annihilation? It’s just an awful situation. Religious persecution across the board has risen on almost every measure in the last few years — and it doesn’t seem likely to decease any time soon.

      • John Fisher

        Moslems in the Middle East are Semites. I think you forget Jews also persecute Christians even in the Holy Land. Many will spit in the face of Christian clergy in Jerusalem. Please call to mind the stoning of the holy Stephen first martyr. Recall the synagogue persecuted Christians even in non Gentile cities as recorded in Acts. To exclude a religion as we should sometimes do is not wrong. Imagine if Catharism existed or Aztec religious practises. Tolerance sometimes gives the impression something that is tolerated is true. We don’t tolerate slavery… Islam enslaves non Moslems. My point.. some beliefs cannot exist side by side. It is simply a question of truth and practicality. Christian and Jewish disputes are religious not based on race.
        In Catholic countries other religions are only allowed private expression. This is correct.

      • Antago Dynamaur

        Agreed. Judaism is not Semitic, and I consider it a real political agenda that countless people call being Jewish synonymous with Semitism, and it is not only unfounded but has a real agenda. That agenda is: If you don’t agree with our beliefs, then you must be a racist. If you point this out and are unhappy with it, we will persecute & condemn you in the name of “self-protection”.

        I’ve seen it happen time and again.

        Yet, Christ Himself distinguishes the notion of those who call themselves Jews claiming to be the true Jews. He also makes it clear that you can join a faith, meaning that if you believe Judaism is synonymous with genetics, then it is no longer a belief-system & this hypocrisy is enough to be considered an obvious wrong.

        It is racist to claim that a faith of God’s is part of being a race. That is racist. And as you point out, we know this is untrue because Semites are free to believe whatever they want; they are also free to be Muslim, Christian, Satanist—and indeed, many are.

        Any person of any race or ethnic background may become a Jew if they so please, and they don’t need a document giving them permission—for if God has given humanity a faith, then it belongs to God not a sub-collective thought nor any man—or else it isn’t from God.

        Christ has taught us this, and died for it, and that was one of his greatest lessons in the faith was that anyone who in their heart wishes to join God’s church—it comes from within. We can indeed use the creative forces of the external world to form gatherings, groups, and documents—but if Christ would die at a cross being rejected in faith by those who claimed ownership of it, then we should accept his truth.

        I would also point out that the mass media is well known to anyone who researches into it to be controlled by a great collection of Semites; thus, the notion they are the “most persecuted group of all time” would most certainly be the first agenda to influence their audience with their own agenda to shield themselves, same as any group. If you speak to an atheist, he will generally say, “Us atheists are the most persecuted group of all time!” Satanists also make this claim about themselves.

        A Christian would say the same. A Muslim says the same about Islam. Black-Africans are quite known to make this claim about themselves as well.

        So how is it that a Semite who calls himself a Jew would ordinarily claim to be the most persecuted group? A black African claims to be the most persecuted group? A Christian claims to be the most persecuted group? A Muslim claims to be the most persecuted group? An atheist makes this claim about atheists? A Satanist makes this claim about Satanists?

        The difference between all of these groups is that Judaism generally rejects Christ. Satanism is egocentric, and not God-centric. Atheism denies God to His face in everyday life. Muslims don’t even consider Christ anything specific.

        Yet, Christ was the Lord ushering in the dawning Age of Pisces at the end of the Age of Aries (hence the Lamb of God).

        So, who truly is the most persecuted group? I would say Christians, because Christ was indeed the Lamb of God at the dawning new age, which actually has real power & relevance to the truth of the universe.

        Keep your eyes set on the prize, and watch out for playing into the hidden games & agendas of whose suffering “is the most important”.

      • jae

        Atheism has nothing to do with Satan. Atheists don’t waste time thinking of these things. They work on what can be fix in the here and now. Also, the term “atheist” for some implies it’s some sort of religion or ideology to follow, which it isn’t the case at all. Have you seen the polls that “atheists” are less trusted than Muslims in the current US? What does that tell you? It tells me that people are afraid of knowledge, science, truth and facts. There are more right-wing terror/gang groups in the US than any other. Look it up! People are more likely to be shot by one of these people or in a gang shooting, than they are by any other group in the US. That’s a fact. People are too afraid of other people when they shouldn’t be.

      • Antago Dynamaur

        No. Atheism is not synonymous with morals and perfection. What a crock. Atheists focus on how they can parasite energy in the here and now. That is Satanism. They love money, and the governmental advantages, fame, attention, cliches, etc. all of which are the fruits of Satanism. Being an atheist does not exempt them from having to pick a side, and they do pick sides.

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  • Orthodox Monk

    A very timely and accurate article. “The Real Enemy is Satan”. Satan appears today in the form of the New Age Movement. The purpose of this movement is the persecution of Christians and the annihilation of Christianity (the teachings of Christ). We see how easily and quickly the theory and ‘theology’ of the New Age is spreading and being enforced by leaders of all ‘civilized’ countries and sadly even religious leaders under the guise of the ecumenical movement.

    • Thank you, Orthodox Monk! Satan takes many forms and is definitely present in the New Age and secularism. The rabid intolerance towards Christians is proof of that. 🙁 At the same time, I’m afraid so many find these new ideologies so appealing because we Christians have failed to love each other as Christ loves. His love is not one of compromise but of true peace and freedom.

      • Orthodox Monk

        I appreciate your honesty and insight. As the Apostle Paul states: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but
        after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having
        itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Unfortunately, we who call ourselves Christians have failed to convey the Gospel message of Christ love. His love given to all by His being spit upon, beaten, and nailed to the Cross; all this, that we may have life eternal. Personally, I have failed as a true Christian. Thank you for waking me up.

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  • Hal Bowman

    “6. Christians, on the whole, reject violence and retribution. Persecution is invariably the strong oppressing the weak — or in the case of Christianity, the meek – simply because they can.”

    No, it’s the weak. Modern Christianity in the West, outside of some evangelical Protestants, has become functionally pacifist. One can argue whether this what Christ intended or not, but it is the ground truth. Sadly for Christians, our worldly enemies are both violent and well-funded. Christians outside the West are poor and vulnerable, and rich western Christians sit on their hands instead of coming to their rescue. By rescue I mean the only rescues that matter: mass relocation, mass arming, or actually showing up to fight. In the West, Christians curl up in a ball while their enemies kick them and pray that at least one of their 2.1 kids goes to church after they grow up.

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  • theresaEH

    anyone reading this page has access to the book “The Boy who Met Jesus” by Immaculee Ilibagiza read page 137 last paragraph. “You will know that my return is near when you see wars erupt between the different religions of the world”…….

    • jae

      There have always been war between different religions in history!

  • alvaro barcala velasco

    There are some good points in this article (all of them are good if taken with christian maturity). There are definitely a lot of christian minorities that are being persecuted around the world, the way “modern” life is getting in the west can be called a christian persecution too, and we sometimes persecute our own christian beliefs when acting and thinking against them. But I would like to underline now this very last point I said, because we must be careful with the way we reason and justify our violence against “our enemies”: stating and believing that christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world (which is a very debatable fact, indeed, mostly in terms of goverment persecution and international wars) can be a way to sublimate the hate and the visceral “let’s hit back” (or simply “lets hit” believing we are doing it back) against “our enemies” and against the ones that are different than us. Throughout history Europe has justified its violent global expansionism under this very same excuses, and in the name of Christ. Along the last century, and now, the US is using the very same excuses to gain and reinforce its global domination… “let’s help the weak and let’s spread our democracy” while the actual aim is establishing new goverments under the US control when economically that’s beneficial, and while many christian have fallen into satan mentality believing a “just” war has been done. It is really dangerous to associate “Democracy” with “Christianity” when it comes to establishing democracy around the world and stating that is done to protect the weak while its true aim is mere economical expansionism. It can be tricky to spread a feeling of “victimism” among the Christian community, since that victimism can be a wide open door to Satan into our minds and into our ways of reasoning. Having said that, I do believe this article owns many good points. It is the duty of the reader to take them with maturity. I do belive christianity must be spreaded and defended showing to the world the way Christ made us, giving example in our behaviour and words. Definitely sending massive amounts of weapons, bombing or invading a country under the excuse of protecting a christian minority is not giving a ‘christian example to the world’ at all. China, North Korea, etc… ok, we may not agree with their politics, those are the adversaries of the US noways for political and economical reasons… let’s not mingle into that the religious thing because that leads again to the sadly well known “holy wars”. “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”… this can be applied this way: give reasons to the Caesar to make wars, but in that matter leave God alone.

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  • Viv

    Early Christianity spread and establieshed itself by persecution, war and torture. The christian inquisition in Goa , India was a wanton unleashing of brutal torture on hindus by the church. The reasons for spread of Abrahamic religions have been political, not spiritual. The fault lines in Indian society such as caste etc are
    being cynically used by evangelists to ‘harvest souls’. Christians are extremely clever at using ‘persecution’ propaganda,
    since they have had 2000
    years of experience of competitive
    warfare. They then believe it themselves and retaliate in the form of holocausts, etc. The indian concept of Advaita Vedanta is a must read for any body who feels persecuted.

    evangelists to create
    dissaffection between groups. Imagine if hindu groups created dissaffection in western countries by telling the western black community that christianity