Our society values equality, tolerance and liberty. We see it as our duty to stand up for justice, to be a voice for the underdog, and to ensure that the freedoms we enjoy are extended to everyone—right?
Not entirely. There’s a group we’ve forgotten. Because of who they are, every day 11 of them are put to death. They’re harassed in 139 (nearly three-quarters of the world’s) nations. Eighty percent of all religious discrimination is directed against them, though they make up only 30% of the world’s population.
I’m talking about Christians. And I fear I may have suddenly lost your interest. Particularly if the word “Christian” calls to mind rich, western caucasians or errors and injustices from our colonial past.
And these mental pictures are precisely the problem. We like to measure our sophistication by how cutting-edge our perspectives are—but this picture of Christianity as a ‘white religion’ is a few hundred years out of date.
Christianity is Middle-Eastern in origin. Its epicentre was in Syria for 500 years, and for almost a millennium afterwards it was more dominant in Asia and Africa than the West. Today around 80% of Christians are from developing nations. Picture dark skin, a foreign language and subsistence living: that’s more like it.
And in the West, the sun of Christendom has set. We’re in the middle of a perplexing identity shift. It’s a post-Christian world where all faiths are apparently created equal. All except Christianity. That one’s less equal because it used to have power, and therefore has sins to atone for. So followers of Jesus on our shores are fair game for ridicule.
But this isn’t about me or other ‘white believers’ weary with the world’s verbal insults. The biggest losers in this contradictory narrative are the voiceless.
The Nigerian school girls. The Kenyan university students. The anonymous victims in Burkina Faso. Countless millions more, whose suffering wasn’t sensational enough to raise an editor’s eyebrow. The nameless one whose life will be taken in the next hour or two, and according to the statistics, every hour or two til kingdom come, unless something dramatic changes.
The now centuries-obsolete view of Christianity as a white colonial religion may serve to sideline and snub the western church. But when 245 million others—mostly poor and defenceless and who face real persecution—are spurned by association, ignored by the newsmakers and so forgotten by the world, then I can’t stay silent.
What is currently taking place constitutes nothing less than a global war on Christians; possibly the greatest human rights challenge of our time. In our day, Christianity faces extinction in its homeland. On this side of the world we raise our voice for every cause—all but this one apparently. Isn’t this just a little ironic? Hypocritical even?
Thankfully, this issue is finally capturing the attention of world leaders. This week, the UK government pledged to support all of the recommendations in a recent major report they’d commissioned on global Christian persecution.
Also this week, US President Donald Trump heard stories from people around the world who are persecuted for their faith—many of them Christians.
This took place at the largest religious liberty gathering in the world. The second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom was hosted by former Kansas governor Sam Brownback, now Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, who I had the pleasure of meeting last month.
It is nothing short of remarkable that people otherwise forgotten by the world had the ear of the world’s most powerful leader. Maybe we will start to see progress on this issue.
But it will take you and I raising our voices as well. The question is, do we really believe in equality and justice for all like we say we do?
If so, let’s remember those believers in prison as if we were there ourselves, and those being mistreated as if we ourselves were suffering (Hebrews 13:3). Let’s stand with them, defending the weak and the fatherless, upholding the cause of the poor and the oppressed (Psalm 82:3).
Let’s speak against injustice wherever we find it, remembering the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Let’s be a voice for people of all faiths—but particularly, yes particularly, for Christians.
Not just because their rate of mistreatment is vastly disproportionate to their population. But also because God calls us to do good to all—and especially to those in the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).