9 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About the Persecution of Christians

Is discrimination against Christians an acceptable form of prejudice?

Americans like to believe they do not tolerate discrimination against blacks, gays, women, the elderly, or the disabled — we wear that belief as a badge of pride. So why does the persecution of Christians go ignored? Here are 9 things everyone needs to know about the persecution and discrimination of this religious group:

1. Christian persecution is the largest-scale human rights issue in the world.

According to a report released in March by Gordon-Conwell Seminary, one in four of the world’s Christians live in countries hostile to their faith. At any given moment, 100 to 200 million Christians around the world are being persecuted for their faith. The Center for the Study of Global Christianity reports that 100,000 Christians die every year (11 every hour) because of their faith.

Presently, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments for their beliefs, according to the U.S. State Department. This is the biggest human rights issue in the world, but seems to be the least reported on, talked about, or protested against.

2. The world’s largest country is the greatest persecutor.

In China, persecution against Christians is at all-time highs. In Zhejiang Province, crosses have been removed or demolished from more than 300 churches. In Henan Province, restrictions and arrests are made at Christian meetings. Last month, a pastor was sentenced to 12 years in prison for “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” Authorities have explicitly banned Christians from sharing the gospel with anyone under 18 years old. In these and many other ways, Chinese authorities wage an ongoing campaign to curtail Christianity’s influence.

3. Iran’s many abuses include persecution of Christians.

The United Nations has found that Christians are persecuted more than ever in Iran. At least 49 Christians are presently held in Iranian jails. The lawyer representing them was recently denied access to even meet with them. To claim Christian faith can mean harassment and brutal beatings, and charges of “coercion” (for suspicions of evangelism) can lead to arrests and imprisonment. American citizen and pastor Saeed Abedini was sentenced in 2012 to eight years in an Iranian prison on charges related to his Christian faith. This Christmas, his wife and two young sons face another year without their husband and father.

4. Radical Islamic Jihadists target Christians for persecution.

In Iraq, ISIS has targeted Christians for discrimination or even death. They have raped Christian women, sold them into slavery, and caused many to flee. Where there were once 1.2 million Christians in Iraq, there are now less than 200,000. Some of the oldest Christian churches in the world have been abandoned because of ISIS attacks. Cities where Christians have continually worshipped for almost 2000 years no longer have a Christian presence. Likewise, in Kenya, Al Shabaab recently executed 19 Christians and actively seeks to persecute more Christians.

5. Persecution impacts the entire family.

These millions of discriminated Christians face similar realities. For men, discrimination means living with violence and intimidation. Their houses and businesses are raided, and they are often arrested and held without charge. For women, discrimination means experiencing vulnerability and being beaten and raped. They are left without a place to live and no income to provide for their children. For children, discrimination means a life of uncertainty. Some are orphaned; many are denied education. Socially excluded, they are doomed to menial jobs.

6. Discrimination against Christians exists in American culture and government.

When Franklin Graham, Billy Graham’s son, spoke out in support of the ban on gay marriage in North Carolina’s 2012 election, he says the IRS audited the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian relief ministry of which he is president. Discrimination of Christians is also endemic in television and movies. Though over 100 million Americans attend church each Sunday (a practice unlike anything else in America), representation of basic Christian practices in pop culture, where it happens at all, remains ill informed and negatively biased.

7. Christians are being persecuted in academia.

Since Gordon College’s president co-signed a letter asking President Obama for an exemption from an executive order on hiring LGBT people, this evangelical college outside of Boston has faced discrimination from the city of Salem and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Salem terminated Gordon’s contract to manage their Old Town Hall, and the NEASC is questioning whether Gordon’s policy on homosexual practice as a forbidden activity (the historic Christian norm) is in violation of their standards for accreditation. Likewise, many Christian scholars feel they must hide their faith if they are to find or keep their jobs, and Christians are under-represented in many campuses nationwide.

8. Discrimination against religious people is not tolerated — except for routine discrimination of Christians.

Here is one recent case in point: a student petition at the University of California-Berkeley sought to stop Bill Maher from speaking at the school’s fall commencement. Maher is called a “blatant bigot” in the Change.org petition for his recent remarks criticizing Islam as violent and anti-women. Yet, there has never been a boycott of Maher for his discriminatory statements against Christianity. He has called God a “psychotic mass murderer” for drowning the world in the Great Flood. (He also mocked the whole concept of religion in his 2008 movie Religulous.) On his HBO show, Maher regularly ridicules various Christian beliefs, but this has never resulted in a call to have him removed as a speaker.

9. Christian kids are persecuted in American schools.

Children who have Christian beliefs are increasingly threatened, punished, and silenced. Consider two recent cases: in Sacramento, California, a 12-year-old girl shared invitations with two classmates to a “biblical creation” event — and was “forced to confess her wrongheadedness about evolution.” She was called to the principal’s office, reprimanded, and directed to write an “Incident Report” confessing her wrongdoing. The acting principal then summoned her back to the office several more times to re-write her confession until it was satisfactory. Just last month, officials in Long Island, New York denied Liz Loverde the right to form a Bible club and join 30 other existing student-led activities at her school.

The opinions in this article belong to the author.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Rick McDaniel
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  • Elchupinazo

    Does the author realize that persecution isn’t the same as being fussy about the government not showing preference for or making policies around evangelical christian beliefs?

  • EM_Gumby

    Stewart already said it best.

    • Ken Valardi

      When ISIS rolls into a village and cuts off the heads of Christian children and nails their parents to crosses, that isn’t an example of “not always getting what you want.” When the Chinese government rounds up pastors and imprisons them for years, or throws Christians into prison or labor camps for no other crime than going to an “unofficial church” or for sharing the gospel with someone else or teaching a person the faith, again, neither is that an example of “not always getting what you want.” Neither is sending the IRS out to harass people and prevent them from getting the same non-profit tax status that every other group gets – all because they are conservative Christians or speak out against abortion. Neither is kicking Christian students out of university counseling programs simply because in good conscience they tell a counselee that while they cannot agree with the counselee’s homosexual practices, they are glad to refer them to another counselor who agrees with their views (which, by the way, is acceptable and standard practice in all other cases where the counselor as a matter of conscience cannot affirm a counselee in a practice they find morally objectionable). In all of these situations and more, Christians are being persecuted or discriminated for their faith, and it has nothing to do with “not always getting what you want.”

      • Sam

        Okay. Did you see my comment below?

  • nwcolorist

    The attacks on Christianity in the media go back 40 years. In the 70’s CBS aired made for TV movies that regularly portrayed Catholic priests as corrupt. But discrimination here is nothing compared to that in the Middle East, where Christians are regularly intimidated, beaten arrested, tortured, and killed for refusing to renounce their beliefs.

    Over the last 3 months I have contacted my representatives in D.C. numerous times asking what is being done about this horrific situation. I have yet to receive even an acknowledgement of my inquiries. The United States is silently looking the other way while genocide is being committed around the world.

    What has become of our once great country?

    • Sam

      What do you think should be done?

  • Guest


  • Sam

    Claim: “Christian persecution is the largest-scale human rights issue in the world.”
    Response: What about women? Wouldn’t the abuses they suffer be the greatest human rights issue in the world? Or the treatment of children?

    Claim: “The world’s largest country is the greatest persecutor.”
    Response: True, but what about how they persecute every group, religious or otherwise, who isn’t part of the Party establishment. And even that won’t save you. So isn’t this claim disingenuous?

    Claim: “Iran’s many abuses include persecution of Christians.”
    Response: Yeah, so see my response above. On this one I like how you throw in a count of prisoners and how they are being treated in truly heinous manner, but is that any different then how Muslim, Zoroastrian, atheist, and general political prisoners? And do you think they have more Muslims in prison under those conditions or more Christians?

    Claim: “Radical Islamic Jihadists target Christians for persecution.”
    Response: See the above again. Notice a trend here about authoritarianism and it’s lack of respect for human rights? You know ISIS has killed more Muslims than anyone else, right?

    Claim: “Persecution impacts the entire family.”
    Response: Totally agree. Have you seen the Palestinians? Or blacks or Hispanics in America?

    Claim: “Discrimination against Christians exists in American culture and government.”
    Response: I remember when the TEA Party made all those claims about how they were unduly “persecuted” by the IRS. It turns out that in actuality that they were actually audited less than people from the other side of the spectrum during that same period. So I can’t help but wonder what level of massaging data took place in order to show Graham was the victim here. Which leads me to another understanding of the current laws which was religious organizations, in order to retain their tax free status, most not participate in politics. I know that has seemingly morphed into not that recently, for better or for worse.
    And the second point you made on this is that people aren’t buying Christian stuff. I suppose this means the free-market isn’t Christian. I guess you could force people to buy Christian but wouldn’t that lead to the same persecution that you were denouncing previously?

    Claim: “Christians are being persecuted in academia.”
    Response: China is dominated by an officially atheistic organization. Are you okay with their organization firing Christians because they do not hold to the historic communist perspective?
    Iran is historically Islamic. Are you okay with organizations in Iran firing Christians because they do not hold to the historic Islamic perspective?
    If not, why? What is so different with your discrimination and theirs?

    Claim: “Discrimination against religious people is not tolerated — except for routine discrimination of Christians.”
    Response: Change is a grassroots movement. You can start a petition now to stop Bill Maher if you want, but you haven’t. And I find any claim that includes “never” unbelievable. Perhaps a more honest statement would be “not very often” or “nearly never” if you want to still get never in there.

    Claim: “Christian kids are persecuted in American schools.”
    Response: Do I need to list one off incident about Christian abuse or children in Christian schools and churches being forced to “confess the wrongheadness of evolution” or how about the systemic cover-up of child abuse by Catholic priests or (if those aren’t “real” enough Christians) Christian pastors and leaders in general?
    As for Liz being denied a club based on her religion, I agree. That’s utterly inappropriate. If she wants to start a Bible Club she should be allowed, just like Joe should be allowed to start and LGBTQ Club, or Muhammad should be able to start an Islam Club, or Jill should be allowed to start a Jewish club. I mean, you agree with that, right?

    Last, do you see how broad your original claims are but how specific and non-generalizable your basis for these arguments are?

    • Tom from North Carolina

      Sam, your comment clearly illustrates the problem this column has by spewing gross generalizations while failing to back them up. I would add one small point to your compressive rebuttal. The claim that Christians are persecuted in academia is really just a defense mechanism used by Christians to hold back the tide of knowledge and reason which comes closer every day, to swamping the ship of faith. Many of my more religious friends view facts about the origin of the universe or facts supporting evolution as persecution against their faith.

      For religious people, it must be unsettling to see a world in which God is viewed as playing a smaller and smaller role.

      • Sam

        Thanks, Tom.

        Obviously this was not a complete rebuttal and tomes could be written to clarify the gross inaccuracies of Rick’s argument, but time being what it is….

        I never did understand Faith that needed pillars of physics, chemistry, or biology to hold it up. Sounds like a weak faith to me.

      • nwcolorist

        ” …it must be unsettling to see a world in which God is viewed as playing a smaller and smaller role.”

        Tom, the above comment tells me that you are actually unaware of what’s going on in the “world”. And I can understand that because the media carefully filters out all religious news that doesn’t promote their biases.

        If you make an honest attempt to find out what’s really happening around the world, you will discover that religious revival is sweeping the globe. The spread of Islam has been duly recorded by the MSM. But little if any news is told about the huge growth of Christianity in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and China. One hundred years ago 90% of Christians lived in America or Europe. Today only 40% do, with the majority living in Asia and Africa. Christianity has become geographically, racially and ethnically diverse. Even Buddhism is experiencing revival.

        We Americans have become ignorant of so much around us. But all kinds of information is readily available out there. We just need to be willing to look at it with an open mind.

        • Tom from North Carolina

          It’s interesting that you see religion in the ascendency while the most recent American surveys shows that “no religion” is the fastest growing religious group. And as for Europe, other than a few specific countries like Italy, most of Europe has abandoned religion in favor of science and reason reducing its role to one of quaint traditions.

          Regarding the prevalence in other continents like Africa and Asia, it’s true that raw numbers in some have increased, but the number of regularly worshipping people as a percentage of the population, has declined. What you’re seeing is a function of an increasing population.

          Read magazines published by mainstream religions in the US and you will notice that underlying almost every issue is a deep concern about declining members, especially young members.

          And finally Muslims. Rather that Muslims rallying are common beliefs, they are now slaughtering each other. Shiites and Sunnis are openly hostile to each other and ISIS is viewed as a threat to both.

          It’s been 2,000 years since Jesus Died and 1,350 since Mohammed died. You would think that if one religion had the best argument for truth it would represent the majority of the world’s people. But alas, even after 2,000 years no religion has been able to attract a majority of believers.

          Science is winning this argument and despite uneven progress, god’s domain is shrinking.

          • nwcolorist

            Because of the massive numbers involved in the topic of religion, we both can find any number of examples to defend our particular positions. So I will make a few comments and leave it at that.

            Be careful on the polling question about “no religion” being the fastest growing group. If “religion” means denominational groups, then it’s true. However, there is a growing percentage of churchgoers that is choosing non-denominational churches as their spiritual home. This group is not represented in the polls I’ve read.

            Also, the article focuses on worldwide persecution as a whole, to which my comments are addressed. The focus on the decline of American mainstream religion does not represent the total worldwide. Pew Polls show that over the last 100 years the percentage of Christians worldwide has remained steady at 32-35%. And that number is predicted to remain constant in the foreseeable future.

            So your statement that “God’s domain is shrinking” is not accurate worldwide, and as a result, science is not winning that argument.

          • Tom from North Carolina

            “If “religion” means denominational groups, then it’s true. However, there is a growing percentage of churchgoers that is choosing non-denominational churches as their spiritual home. This group is not represented in the polls I’ve read.”

            Yes, that’s true but it’s equally true that the fastest growing segment is nonbeliever or unaffiliated. In most cases, the unaffiliated simply have stopped going to church except for a few holidays a year. That still doesn’t make them “religious” or faithful.

            The focus on worldwide persecution is one that I agree with. Even though I am not a believer, I assert that everyone should have the right to believe as they wish. The plight of Christians in China and some Muslim countries is particularly frightening. Even if we don’t agree on the relative importance with which humanity embraces religion, we can both agree that persecution based on religion is wrong.

  • Carstonio

    False equivalence of galactic proportions.

    No. 9 is merely misguided school administrators – these folks fail to understand that the First Amendment restricts government, and doesn’t prohibit student-directed religious activity outside of class time.

    No. 8 is laughable – no religion should be exempt from criticism, constructive or otherwise. It’s only anti-Christian discrimination if one assumes that Christianity and its adherents deserve a privileged position in the culture.

    Nos. 6 and 7 conveniently ignore the fact that the Christians involved seek to discriminate against gays and lesbians, under the boneheaded claim that treating gays equally amounts to endorsement of homosexuality. No one seeks to make such Christians be gay, and they have no justification in wanting to make everyone be straight. It’s not discrimination against a religious group to say that its members should mind their own business.

  • Linda_LaScola

    “The opinions in this article belong to the author.”
    I’ve never noticed this disclaimer attached to other articles here.

  • bakabomb

    The last half of the above list is devoted to “discrimination” against Christians in the US, not persecution. It really gripes me when US pastors conflate true persecution where Christians are killed or jailed — which admittedly does happen overseas — with things in this country that don’t begin to compare at all. As a Christian, this phony-victimization trope strikes me as simply pusillanimous. And this list is just another attempt to intermingle the two as if they were the identical thing. Bawwwwww!! Here, have a Kleenex.

  • Patrick Allen

    WHAT MAKES US THINK THAT WE ARE BETTER THAN OUR SAVIOR?! HE SUFFERED but that doesn’t mean you are exempt!! Read Matthew 10:16-26 and repent! Are we better than Paul or Peter or Stephen or Matthew that we be excused from persecution? It will only get worse! We cannot stop what God has ordained, what is recorded in the Scriptures. Persecution is here and will only get worse! God strengthen or faith to face whatever comes our way! The problem is our faith is shaken because we fear what these hell-bound terrorists will do to our bodies, but we aren’t concerned about what God’s wrath will do to us. Read Matthew 7:21-23 (remember Christians are the only people who call Jesus “Lord”). Cowards will have their place in hell…read Revelations 21:8.

  • Aric

    All of my comments below should be prefaced with this: I am a Bible-believing, Christ-centered man of God and I will defend my faith (and my right to it) to my death, if necessary. However, I think it is important to not radicalize “Christians” through statements like what are being made through this article. We should not stoop to the level of the national media elite, who feel like the only way to motivate is through fear and loathing. Rather, we should encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to exhibit love and understanding, as Christ taught and modeled for us.

    1. The Bible says it will be so.
    2. This kind of thing happens in nearly all countries that do not recognize religious freedom and/or have not named Christianity as the national religion. China just happens to be the largest country and, by default, therefore, has the most incidents.
    3. Yes; see #2 above.
    4. They do. They also target other “infidels” in parts all around the world. Additionally, other radicals target other people groups (see Christian Crusades, as one example). Christians are not now, nor have they ever been, the only group targeted by radical ideologists or theology.
    5. This rather goes without saying, doesn’t it?
    6. There is no way to know that Mr. Graham’s comments are the cause (directly or indirectly) of the IRS audit. The IRS audits people, companies, and organizations every day, month, and year – MOST of the time at random, or for (legitimate) cause.
    7. See #1 above. (Matthew 5:11)
    8. Not true. Christians tolerate discrimination against non-Christians by attempting to “legislate morality” all the time. Also, remember (again) the Crusades.
    9. See #1 above.