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The Acceptable Persecution

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

As would be expected with the Christmas season in full swing, people are preoccupied with the traditional tasks of shopping, addressing cards, decorating homes and the like­all mundane obligations which are generally unrelated to the birth of Christ.

Many of those who share our faith do not have the luxury of entertaining such frivolous distractions. Instead they are concerned with their fundamental freedom to worship, and in many cases, with avoiding oppression, torture and even death.

The abominable truth is that more Christians have been martyred in this century for pursuing the worship of Jesus Christ than in the first nineteen centuries after His birth. There are many indications today that the torment of Christians throughout the world is the great, unexpressed human rights story of our time.

This poor, unjustifiable treatment of Christians must be acknowledged not merely as discrimination, but rather outright persecution. It has taken horrific form as expressed through the destruction of churches, the confiscation of personal property and the deliberate starvation, torture and murder of innocent victims.

Sadly, the most infamous persecutor nations are numerous. They include China, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, Pakistan, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Cuba, Sudan, Egypt, Nigeria and Uzbekistan.

In China there are more Christians in confinement because of their involvement in religious activities than in any other nation in the world. Protestants are arrested and tortured for holding prayer meetings, preaching and distributing Bibles. Roman Catholic clergy are imprisoned for celebrating Mass and administering sacraments.

Communist Vietnam has also embarked on a new campaign of persecution. The imprisoned include American citizens who engaged in the "criminal activity" of distributing Christian materials, singing hymns or preaching.

In a similar manner, Laos recently conducted a campaign against Christianity. Communist leaders of Laos have stated that Christianity has replaced the United States as the "number one enemy of the people."

In many Islamic countries, it is a capital offense for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. Such nations include Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Emirate of Kuwait.

New signs of oppression for Christians are emerging in Europe. A cadre of psychiatric, legal, media and socialist groups are pressuring European governments to outlaw or curtail the activities of well-known religious organizations. Lists of "unacceptable" sects are being compiled, with Germany citing 800, Belgium listing 187, and France noting172 unsuitable groups. Catholic charismatics, Hasidic Jews, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Quakers, Buddhists, YWCA, Opus Dei and Campus Crusade for Christ are being characterized as "dangerous sects" by state panels. On December 7, the European Parliament began a debate and then voted on a Europe-wide document identifying "dangerous sects." Anti-sect groups propose laws to list these groups, monitor them and bar them from opening bank accounts or renting meeting halls.

If this sounds hauntingly familiar, it is. This is the type of activity that paved the way for Russia to pass recent legislation granting a legal monopoly to the Orthodox Church. Eastern European leaders have shown an inclination to follow suit by banning all public religious events except those conducted by the Orthodox Church.

The trend of permissible prejudice towards Christians is displayed here in our own country. It has its origins in the elimination of prayer in schools and the secularization of the public square. The purveyors of contemporary culture invariably reflect this negative attitude. The entertainment and print media are consistently anti-Christian. Films that marginalize and disparage religious figures are continually being produced. Members of the news media attempt to associate Christians with militia and fringe organizations. Newsmagazines feature articles that are unfavorable to the worldview shared by believers in the Christian faith.

We cannot afford to ignore the direction that these incidents portend. History has shown us that religious adherents often become scapegoats of tyrants. The acceptance of the persecution of Christians may be a foreshadowing of a future danger to other segments of society. "So then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."

Copyright © 1999 -
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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