Belfast Telegraph

How Christians are paying for their faith daily with their lives

By Alf McCreary

On Monday week there will be a special 8pm service in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast for the persecuted Christian Church around the world. This is a timely initiative by Brother David Jardine, a canon at St Anne's, and his colleagues from the Divine Healing Ministries and Open Doors, who work with the persecuted Church worldwide.

Within Syria some 7.6 million people have been displaced inside the country, and nearly one million others have fled to Turkey, with two million more refugees going to the Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

A large number of these are Christians, and the Church in the Middle East is under fierce attack.

David Jardine, like nearly all of us, is horrified by the television pictures of the suffering of men, women and children.

He says: "Most of us feel helpless to influence this situation, but the service on October 19 will be an opportunity to make a contribution by showing our concern, to give a financial donation, and to pray for those being persecuted."

For those of us in the West who go to church, or not at all, it is difficult to imagine what religious persecution is like.

In my worldwide travels with agencies such as Christian Aid, I experienced this in South Korea where I worshipped in secret with local Christians, and in Southern Sudan I visited churches that had been damaged or destroyed by Muslim extremists.

According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80% of all acts of religious violence are directed towards Christians. It is estimated that 100,000 Christians are murdered every year because of their faith.

This is not just in the Middle East, where Christian men are beheaded and the enslaved women are traded between their rapists like pieces of meat. Christians are also under constant attack in Nigeria, Egypt and many other countries.

Historically, the Christian Churches have been guilty of persecution, but currently they are now themselves the targets for increasing hostility.

This is not just the acts of violence which so often make gruesome headlines on television, but also the more subtle attacks of our secular society.

Some noted religious figures do not regard this as "persecution" but in my opinion it adds up to a worrying degree of discrimination against individual Christians and also the best Christian standards which have helped to form the bedrock of our Western society.

Almost every day we hear stories of Christians being forbidden to wear crosses, or of Bibles being removed in case they offend.

A crematorium in England has had to remove a cross from outside the building in case it might annoy non-Christians. Companies in the UK are being asked to consider whether or not staff should heat up sausage rolls in communal microwaves, or keep bacon rolls in fridges, to avoid annoying people of non-Christian faiths.

Nearer to home, our own Queen's University stopped using the Grace at official dinners in case it might offend non-Christians. However, the same nervously politically correct institution was in the news recently because it allegedly failed to provide proper prayer facilities for its Muslim students.

Political correctness and religious sensitivities are complicating all our lives, often unnecessarily, but make no mistake about it, the Christian faith is now one of the most endangered in the world.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph