I find myself increasingly concerned to hear of attacks on Christians around the world. Below are just a few recent examples that I've gleaned from the Internet - primarily from an organisation called the Barnabas Fund.
These are recent stories - some of which you will have heard on the news...some of which you will not. Take a deep breath...some are very shocking... After the examples...see my comments.
1) An evangelical Christian from Twickenham, Nadia Eweida, has been told by British Airways bosses that she cannot wear a cross necklace at check-ins. BA says they are not banning crosses, but that their uniform policy requires that crosses, or other religious symbols, - especially jewelry - must not be visible. However, religious headscarves are permitted to be worn by Muslim and Sikh staff. Nadia Eweida was sent home on 'voluntary unpaid leave' because she refused to remove her cross, or cover it up.
2) Just a few weeks before Nadia Eweida in the UK was sent home, a teenage Christian girl in Pakistan was beaten by her Muslim teachers for refusing to remove a cross. On 13th September Kiran Shahzadi (15) was rebuked for wearing the cross and ordered to remove it from her neck. She refused, saying the “cross is our Christian religious symbol so I cannot remove it.” Her teacher began beating Kiran, then took her to the headteacher who also mistreated her. The cross was pulled from her neck and thrown in the rubbish bin. Kiran was then made to stand in the scorching sun for several hours without water until she fainted.
3) At the same time, a row is brewing about a number of Christian Unions around the country, which are being banned by various Student Unions. The controversy centres around the 'doctrinal statement' which office holders in Christian Unions are required to sign. These commit Christian leaders to affirming "The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God" and "is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour". That is, of course, a particularly evangelical understanding of the Bible - but not an unusual one.
4) Last year, in May, a crowd of some 300 Muslims burned a wooden cross outside the American embassy in London - as part of a protest about the treatment of prisoners at Guantanmo Bay.
5) On the 4th of October, this year, a bomb exploded in the mainly Christian district of Camp Sara, Baghdad. As people gathered round to help the wounded there was a second, larger explosion. Nine Christians were killed.
6) On 10th October Paulos Iskander, an Iraqi church minister, was abducted in Mosul. When Iskander’s family asked for proof that he was still alive the kidnappers held up the phone so that his screams could be heard. The family began trying to raise the $40,000 ransom, asking local Christians to help, and arranging several loans. Thirty large posters were placed on churches in the city, distancing the Christians from the Pope’s recent words - which had sparked the kidnapping. However, before the ransom could be paid Iskander’s decapitated body was discovered, on the 12th of October, dumped in an outlying suburb of Mosul. His body showed signs of torture, with cigarette burns, bullet holes and wounds from beatings. His hands and feet had been severed, and arranged around his head which was placed on his chest.
7) Thirty Christian families in Mosul received messages on their mobile phones on the 30th of September telling them to leave within 72 hours or they would be killed.
8) Mobs of angry Muslim youths rampaged through the Nigerian village of Dutse in Jigawa state, Northern Nigeria on the 19th of September, destroying Christian property and injuring several Christians. The riots were allegedly sparked by comments made by a Christian woman about the Islamic prophet Muhammad. St Peter’s Anglican Cathedral was burnt to the ground and the Bishop’s office destroyed. Many Christian shops and vehicles were set on fire and around 1,000 Christians took refuge in local police barracks and schools to escape the violence.
COMMENT: Matthew 24:9 "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."
Let us never retaliate; never greet evil with more evil. Let us love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And let us never be blind to the fact that real persecution is taking place, right now, throughout the world, for many loving, law-abiding Christians - who do no more than profess their faith in the God of Love.