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.
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