The Focus on Life initiative was undertaken by the Compassion, Mercy and Justice Team (formerly Social Concerns) to call attention to man-made or natural conditions that are taking, endangering, or denigrating human life from conception to old age.
Jesus said in John 10:10 “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”. But unfortunately, this abundant life promised by Jesus is cut short for millions each year as a result of war, crimes, elective abortions, and natural disasters such as famine and floods.
Our goal is that by calling attention to these conditions, the FirstCov church family will be more sensitive to these issues and respond with compassion, prayer, and action where possible to help relieve the suffering. Jesus is relying on us to be His hands and feet to minister to those in need and His voice to call for justice in the world.
“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor. 12:26)
Here at home in western Wisconsin, we drive to church on Sunday mornings, attend our small group meetings in homes and participate in a wide range of Christian Ministry activities without a second thought. We take our freedom of religious participation and expression for granted. But that is not the case in many parts of the world.
According to Open Doors, a Ministry serving persecuted Christians for over 60 years, Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. (To keep this in perspective, Christians are the largest religious group. Muslims and Jews are the second and third most persecuted groups worldwide.) It is defined as hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christian torture remains an issue for believers throughout the world along with the risk of imprisonment, loss of home and assets, physical torture, beheadings, rape, and even death as a result of their faith.
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.
- 255 Christians are killed
- 104 are abducted
- 150 Christians are raped, sexually harassed or forced into marriage
- 66 Churches are attacked
- 160 Christians are detained without trial and imprisoned
Sources and Trends in Christian Persecution
1. The Spread of Radical Islam: Islamic oppression is one of the most widely recognized sources of persecution for Christians; aiming to bring many parts of the world under Sharia law. This movement is expanding in Asia and Africa.
2. The Rise of Religious Nationalism: Insecure governments are using the country’s majority religion to marginalize religious minorities. An example would
be Hindu Nationalism affecting Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.
3. Intense Christian Persecution in Central Asia: Persecution is on the rise in countries like Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan where a grassroots revival in Islam is taking hold.
4. Increases in Organized Crime, Corruption, and Governmental Instability: These factors led to Mexico and Columbia making the top 50 countries for Christian persecution.
Top 10 Countries Where it is Most Dangerous to Follow Christ
Based on the frequency and severity of persecution, Open Doors compiled a numeric rating scale, the top ten are:
- North Korea
What can Christians do?
As with so many of the atrocities featured in our monthly Focus on Life series, the problems seem too great for any of us to have much of an impact, so we try to put it out of our minds.
That kind of thinking is problematic in two ways: First, it underestimates the power of prayer. If we believe our God is in charge and is bigger than these problems, our fervent prayers should not cease. Secondly, it overlooks the reality that individuals, Ministries, and Governments working together toward a common goal can bring about change for the better in our world. If not, why would anyone try?
Here is a list of concrete steps that concerned Christians can take to begin to make a difference:
1. As with any issue, it starts with understanding the problem. There is a wealth of information on the web related to Christian Persecution from a number of perspectives. So, start by becoming informed.
2. Pray specifically for problem areas that catch your attention and concern. For example, home churches in China are facing severe restrictions today. You can download an app entitled Pray for Persecution Church from Open Doors. It provides some helpful prayer suggestions for individuals and small groups.
3. Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support resolutions aimed at combating religious persecution, both at home and abroad.
From your FirstCov Compassion/Mercy/Justice (CMJ) Ministry Team