Category Archives: Christian Persecution

World Watch List #2 Somalia

This is the second in a series of weekly posts highlighting the 50 most dangerous countries in the world for Christians.

Somalia Flag

The Constitution of the African nation of Somalia says in Article 1:” After Allah the Almighty, all power is vested in the public and can only be exercised in accordance with the Constitution and the law and through the relevant institutions.” Yet Somali government can hardly be said to exist by the standards of most nations.

Article 2 is the article that dominates all other elements of what passes for government in Somalia. It says:

(1) Islam is the religion of the State.
(2) No religion other than Islam can be propagated in the country.
(3) No law which is not compliant with the general principles of Shari’ah can be enacted.

Islam has dominated this country for so long that the only Christians in the country today are Muslim background believers. Shari’ah law provides for extreme punishment for people who propagate other religions and for leaving Islam.

The government of Somalia is disorganized and corrupt. It is, for all practical purposes, non-functional. Its officials rely on corrupt practices to support themselves and their official duties. The government, predominantly adherents of sunni Islam, makes little headway against the depradation of Al Shabaab, an insurgent Islamic group which wreaks violence and destruction throughout Somalia in the furtherance of its goal to gain power for wahhabist Islam.

In Somalia, both the government and Al Shabaab want to eradicate all evidence of Christianity. Christians are in great danger. They must gather in secret and are always at risk of arrest for even mentioning Christianity.

Article 17 of the constitution claims to protect religious liberty in section 1, and puts an end to any such notion in section 2:

(1) Every person is free to practice his or her religion.
(2) No religion other than Islam can be propagated in the Federal Republic of Somalia.

The internal violence between government and insurgent militant Islamists does not distract either force from persecuting Christians when they find them.

Pray for Christians in Somalia:

  • For the small number of Christians who have come to Jesus from the Islamic faith
  • For restoration of a functioning government which will give freedom to all faiths
  • For an end to the civil war, famine and drought which has plagued the nation since 1991

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image:Flag of Somalia
Courtesy of Nicolas Raymond
Source: http://freestock.ca/flags_maps_g80-somalia_grunge_flag_p1138.html
License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0

 

 

World Watch List #1 North Korea

This post is the first in a weekly series highlighting the fifty most dangerous countries in the world for Christians.

Flag_of_North_Korea_(WFB_2004)

The constitution of North Korea guarantees religious liberty with these words:

Citizens have freedom of religious beliefs. This right is granted by approving the construction of religious buildings and the holding of religious ceremonies. Religion must not be used as a pretext for drawing in foreign forces or for harming the State and social order.” These words are found in Article 68 of the constitution of North Korea.

When you read the words of the North Korean constitution that ostensibly protect religion, your first impression would naturally be to assume that all religions are treated well. Yet like all legal language in any country, the words are simply a cover for the ideas embodied in them.

When an American reads the words, “This right is granted by approving the construction of religious buildings and the holding of religious ceremonies,” an American mind believes that there must be church buildings and worship services within. If a tourist visits Pyongyang, he might actually see a few church buildings where there are occasional “worship” events. None of them have anything to do with Christianity despite their names. Christians in North Korea must worship in secret and hope government spies do not penetrate their secret churches.

The American mind must be advised to read the statement again. “This right is granted.” Governments do not grant human rights. The role of government is to protect rights granted to humans by God.

North Korea is the most dangerous nation on earth for a Christian.

If the US government ever attempts to instigate registration of church groups or church buildings, wise citizens will defeat such initiatives on sight, because that is a sure sign that government intends to suppress Christianity.

Christians in North Korea are persecuted because Christianity is considered a pretext for bringing in foreign ideas, and Christians are accused of being spies for foreign governments. It is not known how many Christians are imprisoned in North Korea, but the estimate is between 50,000 and 70,000. The population as a whole suffers from inadequate food and shelter. The little information available for the prisons indicates that conditions are deplorable and inhumane. Torture and starvation are common.

The guiding philosophy of North Korea is Juche. From the website of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea, these words describe this philosophy:

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is guided in its activities by the Juche idea authored by President Kim Il Sung. The Juche idea means, in a nutshell, that the masters of the revolution and construction are the masses of the people and that they are also the motive force of the revolution and construction.

The Juche idea is based on the philosophical principle that man is the master of everything and decides everything. It is the man-centred world outlook and also a political philosophy to materialize the independence of the popular masses, namely, a philosophy which elucidates the theoretical basis of politics that leads the development of society along the right path.

The Government of the DPRK steadfastly maintains Juche in all realms of the revolution and construction. 

The North Korean man-centered outlook is the most extreme development of secularism on the planet. This worldview is the reason that the government asserts its power to “grant” or withhold rights that derive from the Creator himself. North Korea’s government acknowledges nothing higher than itself. Its worldview is man-centered, and the man at the center of this worldview is Kim Jong-un. The “masses” may be the motive force behind revolution and construction, but the power in North Korea lies in one man: Kim Jong-un.

We pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer in North Korea. We pray to be alert to developments in our own nation that move in the same direction as the philosophy that dominates North Korea.

Please Pray:

  • For the 50,000-70,000 Christians imprisoned in labor camps; ask God to sustain them
  • For the many Christians who don’t have enough food to survive and are forced to flee to China
  • That Christians may stay strong in their faith under unrelenting pressure from government spies

 

For more information visit http://www.opendoors.org

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: By US CIA (The World Factbook) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Prepare for the New Year

I cannot say anything more profound than the words of Pastor Saeed’s Christmas Letter. May each of us aspire to live our testimony faithfully wherever we are, just as he does in his prison cell in Iran.

saeed-abedini

He continues to be imprisoned in Iran simply because he is a Christian. Iran feared to permit him freedom, because they allege he is a threat to the state. If they fear the testimony of a free man, they should be in awe of the powerful testimony of a prisoner for the name of Christ.

https://www.scribd.com/doc/250257165/Christmas-Message-2014-Saeed-Abedini

 

Good News! Senate Bill S 2578 Defeated

Free speech and free exercise of religion are fundamental human rights.  The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was always intended to affirm protection of those rights. American citizens of any faith or no faith at all should rejoice that the Senate acted to affirm that religious liberty is still a core value in the USA.

Are Christians Persecuted in the USA?

By the strictest definition of the work persecute there is no persecution of Christians in the USA. However, persecution seldom arises full-blown in any country. It develops over time. The seed is sown as disinformation about Christianity is spread in conversations, blog posts, public discussions and printed material. Disinformation casts Christianity as anything from an annoyance to a real threat to non-Christians, and the reaction of non-Christians may be as mild as name-calling in a shopping mall or as severe as lawsuits pursued all the way to the Supreme Court. Harassment may lead to actual discrimination, a practice forbidden in law but easily practiced by pretending some other motive.

That path to persecution is littered with the establishment of dangerous precedents. For example, in contemporary culture, the generic issues of health care, marriage and education are seething stews of hot button issues that turn on personal values shaped by religious teachings. When legal discussions succeed in dissecting the issues to separate actions from the values of people embroiled in them, court decisions can set precedents that feel like persecution to individuals who cannot live by their faith principles without running afoul of laws or regulations. Increasingly, the secular stance of the culture shapes a secular stance by government. The secular worldview is not itself persecution, but it is diametrically opposed to the Christian worldview. The conflict between worldviews can and does lead to persecution. It has happened in countries around the world, and it could happen in the USA

In the US, the First Amendment to the US Constitution historically has moderated the friction between secularism and Christianity. At the beginning of the nation, most of the parties to discussions in this realm agreed on terminology and definitions without writing out the terms and the definitions. They simply understood one another. Today, the tacit agreements of the past no longer stand, and disagreement over the terms is creating new points of friction.

Contemporary Christians chafe at the changes but are loathe to use the word persecution. It sounds overblown. They do not want to call it persecution when an employer forbids employees to wish customers a “Merry Christmas.” They don’t even want to call it persecution when a student is forbidden to pray in a valedictory address, bad though they may think the ruling is. They want to get along, and they do not want to start trouble.

This is the real challenge. When might the courage of one’s convictions become thoughtless and irresponsible trouble-making? In first century Jerusalem, the same question arose. The apostles were going around talking about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, a real sore spot for Jewish religious leaders and Roman government officials. They had executed Jesus in order to shut down trouble, but trouble seemed to erupt despite everything. Ignorant fishermen made the powers that be look ridiculous by claiming their “execution” was a failure, and even worse, they were performing miracles of healing in the name of the very troublemaker who had been executed. The people with power in the culture and the government tried to make deals with these people. They said that if the followers of Jesus would just shut up, the people with power would leave them alone. The followers of Jesus refused to shut up, saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” The public disagreements escalated from disinformation (these people just want to make trouble) to harassment (demands by religious leaders to shut up) to discrimination (refusal to hire Christians or allow them to live in certain places) to outright persecution (beatings, stonings, imprisonment and public executions).

Nothing has changed. People in the US have become comfortable about being Christian, because until recently, the culture actually thought being Christian was a good thing. Public officials wanted to be known for regular church attendance, whether or not they believed anything. That state of affairs has ended. And that is no real loss. What is lost, however, is an easy, comfortable assumption that being a Christian is a social plus.

What should Christians do about it?

Christians must open their eyes. The cultural pressures that create the momentum to persecution seem almost too trivial or even too ridiculous to worry about. Some Christians feel that it looks immature to object when somebody says, “It offends me when you say that Christ is the way to God.” In the name of being considerate and sensitive to the feelings of others, Christians back away and back away and back away.

Jesus teaches his followers to love people who oppose them, and he even teaches his followers to turn the other cheek, but he also insists that his followers must never stop putting him first. The entire book of Revelation is devoted to one consistent message: overcoming. Christians do not overcome the world by aggression; they overcome by clinging to Christ. When they are opposed, they cling to Christ, they claim his name and his promise to go with them, and they never recant. When they are assaulted and abused, they turn the other cheek, and they keep saying, “Christ died for you, too.” When they are told to keep their religion to themselves, they simply do not do it; they share Christ everywhere at all times. They overcome persecution by never giving up Christ. Their victories may at times look like defeat. Christ on the cross looked like a loser, but the empty tomb testifies that Christ is the winner, the victor.

In the US today, a Christian’s neighbors do not gather around and demand he leave town because everybody else is a Buddhist. It won’t hold water in a US court to accuse a Christian of blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed. The local shaman will not assemble a mob to burn down a Christian’s house because he refuses to contribute to the annual fertility festival. Those kinds of aggression do sound like persecution even to western ears. By comparison, battles over prayer in schools, wearing a cross at work, and even the funding of birth control don’t actually sound like persecution. Nevertheless, it is important to remember than unless Christians step up and defend the boundaries of religious liberty, the pressure of creeping secularism will steadily shrink the accepted scope of religious liberty. Christians in the US may not be persecuted today, in the strictest sense of the word, but their right to the free exercise of their faith is seriously under assault. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation do not try to hide the fact that they want religion shut down and cleaned out of US society. They are quite clear that each time they win a victory, they celebrate the narrowing of religious liberty, and they consider that small victory to be a stepping stone to the ultimate victory of removing religion from the culture forever.

Christ never taught us that we should expect it to be easy to live obedient to him. He said, “All men will hate you because of me.” Matthew 9:22 The cultural and even governmental restrictions that pressure Christians to be less and less visible may not be persecution, but if the enemies of Christianity achieve their objective, the suppression of the good news of Christ, persecution will not be needed. Persecution arises only when less violent tactics fail. Christians must be faithful against the least rejection, the tiniest restriction of free exercise of faith. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and Satan’s battle to defeat the good news of Christ may begin with nothing more than a whisper. Never doubt, however, that when Satan takes the smallest step to diminish Christ’s influence in the world, he has every intention of carrying the battle to its fullest development. The fact that Christians are not “persecuted” in the US today does not mean that it will not happen.