As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Savior, we should bear in mind that this occasion is a time both of joy and potential deadly unrest for millions of Christians throughout the world. Christians in Asia and Africa are under enormous pressure as other religions and governments persecute the Church of Christ.
Radical Muslims in Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and other nations have murdered thousands of Christians. Some of the oldest Christian communities in the world are in danger of disappearing completely. Much if not most of this is completed ignored by the media.
SYRIA - (pop. 22,500,000) - 2 million Syrian Christians have also come under pressure to join anti-government protests or face death. Several churches have been burned.
IRAQ - (pop. 30,400,000) - now that there a minimal American military presence in Iraq, persecution of Christians is increasing. Somewhat protected under Saddam Hussein's ruthless dictatorship, over half of Iraq's Christians have fled the country since 1991. Under pressure from assassinations and bombings, less than a half million Christians remain. The new Iraqi constitution specifies that no other religion can contravene Islam - this does not bode well for Iraqi Christian communities, many of which predate Islam by centuries.
IRAN - (pop. 77,980,000) - there are approximately one million Christians in Iran and they are under fearful pressure from the Shi'a government. Muslim converts to Christ may be sentenced to death by Islamic courts. Conversely, this has had an unanticipated effect, conversions to Christianity are increasing. Pastors are routinely sent to prison for this offense.
EGYPT - (pop. 82,080,000) - Christians have not benefited from the Arab Spring. The Egyptian Constitution gives lip service to freedom of religion, but in practice it is very repressive. If you are born a Muslim you are not allowed to convert or marry a non-Muslim. This year scores of Coptic churches have been destroyed and Christians murdered while government security forces stood by and watched - even aiding the attackers in many instances. Egypt has the Middle East's largest Christian population, about 10% of 82 million Egyptians profess Jesus as Lord.
NIGERIA - (pop. 155,200,00) - Even though Christians comprise 40% of Nigeria's population and Nigeria has a secular constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion, many of Nigeria's northern states have imposed Sharia Law and in the process have destroyed hundreds of churches and killed thousands of Christians. The violence directed against the Nigerian Christian community is even worse than in the Middle East.
INDONESIA - (pop. 245,600,000) - With over 85% of it's population professing Islam, Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. A growing Christian population, now estimated at over 19 million, has prompted jihad. Thousands of churches have been attacked or destroyed.
Of course there are moderate Muslims who are appalled by this. In Cairo, some Muslims participate in Coptic services in order to forestall attacks and express solidarity with their countrymen. Others have ringed churches to defend them from radicals. But many Muslims are intimidated by the ferociousness and unrelenting cruelty of the radicals and by the government's apparent compliance.
But Muslims are not the only ones...
INDIA - (pop. 1,189,000,000) - Hindu extremists have murdered scores of Christians in the past few years and displaced tens of thousands through threats and intimidation. Several states have passed laws forbidding conversion to any religion other than Hindu. Experts see this as a way to maintain the forbidden caste system as many Christian converts are from the lowest castes. Christians comprise approximately 2.3% of the population giving an estimated Christian population of over 27 million.
CHINA - (pop. 1,337,000,000) - Since Chairman Mao's communist revolution, Chinese Christians have persevered in their faith under the most appalling conditions. The Chinese government continues to imprison more Christians than any other country. This is under the guise of enforcing the government's recognition of only one Christian denomination, the Catholic Church, and cracking down on evangelical home churches.
The Chinese maintain that there are about 28 million Catholics but experts estimate that there are between 80 and 130 million Christians in China and it is rapidly growing. All officially approved churches must submit to government control and officials see the underground home churches as a challenge to authority; they can be incredibly brutal in closing these small places. Many Chinese who wish to worship Christ in a non-Catholic/non-governmental setting are severely beaten and imprisoned.Do we see a foreshadow of what may come here, in America? And if so, why are we surprised? The world is at war with Christ, always has been and we are now witnessing America's post-Christian era. Our so-called modern churches have diluted the Gospel into a social statement. Politicians no longer fear the Christian political base because, quite frankly, it is not nearly as strong as it was two generations ago. And it wasn't just Christians; there was a strong moral consensus even amoung non-believers that certain actions were reprehensible and not to be tolerated. That cultural consensus no longer exists.
Can we see the same persecution here in America that now exists in China? Who knows...