The persecution of Christians is a global reality. The varieties of persecution range from economic and social dis-empowerment to name-calling and bullying to loss of property, imprisonment, and death. Recently on Connecting Faith I spoke with Helene Fisher of Open Doors International about the gendered persecution targeting Christian women and girls.
What did they ask us to do? Primarily, they ask us to pray.
Christians are one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. Open Doors helps us to define and understand the persecution Christians face worldwide.
“While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.”
“Trends show that countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East are intensifying persecution against Christians, and perhaps the most vulnerable are Christian women, who often face double persecution for faith and gender.” Open Doors
The numbers are staggering and the stories are heartbreaking. According to Open Door 104 Christians are abducted and 255 Christians are killed every month. 1 in 12 Christians worldwide experience high levels of persecution.
Too easily we become numb, callous, and happily distracted by the demands closer to home. But if we genuinely abide in Christ, if God is our dwelling place and we are members of His household, then what exactly is closer to home than the suffering of our family? These are our brothers and sisters. These are the people with whom we will share eternity. We are, with them, one body.
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”
“The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
The call to prayer for members of the body suffering persecution is a call to acknowledge and share in the suffering and pain of a body of which we too are part. When our brothers or sisters suffer, we suffer…or do we? That is really the question. Do we really feel intimately and eternally connected to people with whom we share no worldly likeness but with whom we share the only likeness which ultimately matters: the likeness of Christ?
Let us pray for eyes to see and hearts to be turned and for our brothers and sisters to be comforted. And let us pray for the Gospel’s advance that those who persecute Christ by persecuting His Church would find themselves confronted like Paul on the road to Damascus. Indeed, may we actually long for the conversion unto Christ of those who currently persecute His body.Helen Fisher on persecuted religious minorities