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There have been numerous indications that persecution of Christians worldwide continues to grow at an alarming rate. From around the globe, news keeps pouring in of killings, imprisonment, torturing, harassment, rape, discrimination, displacement and evictions of Christians and attempts to close or destroy churches and Christian gatherings of any kind.
An article by Raymond Ibrahim gives a detailed account of some reported cases in January 2016 alone, which are summarized as follows:
"Iraq: The Islamic State has destroyed the nations oldest Christian monastery the 14 century old St. Elijah's Monastery in Iraq.
" Kosovo: Muslims reportedly urinated in an Orthodox Christian church in Pristina, the capital. Serbian [i.e., Christian] sanctuaries in Kosovo are constantly desecrated, deputy Prime Minister Branimir Stojanovic said.
" Algeria: On January 7, unknown vandals damaged, robbed, and wrote jihadi slogans on a church.
" Kuwait: Lawmaker Ahmad Al-Azemi said he and other MPs will reject an initially approved request to build churches because it contradicts Islamic sharia laws.
" Mongolia: Days after a church celebrated Christmas, explosives were thrown into the stove chimney of a Kazakh house church.
i. The Apostolic Church was burned in the Punjab a day after a prayer vigil for Epiphany on Jan. 6;
ii. The Victory Church in Kasur was broken into and copies of the Bible and other sacred books burned by a Muslim man.
iii. A group of Muslims illegally seized a church property and later armed themselves with guns and machetes to attack the Christians family members in their homes.
iv. A group of Muslim men went into a Christian district, abducted a 7-year-old boy, and took turns gang-raping him before finally strangling him to death with a rope.
v. A week later, another group of reportedly rich and drunk Muslims in a car accosted and sexually harassed three Christian girls walking home from work. When the girls tried to run away, the Muslims chased them down in their car and ran them over, killing one 17-year-old girl.
vi.Yet another Christian girl was abducted by a group of Muslim men, forced to convert to Islam, and marry one of her kidnappers.
vii. A Christian man was brutally tortured to death by police in an attempt to get him to confess to stealing from his Muslim employer. Khurram, the son of Liaqat Masih, the 47-year-old slain Christian, was also tortured by police for the same reason; he shared his eyewitness testimony of the beating his father endured before expiring.
" South Sudan: Muslims sent from Muslim-majority Sudan, a country in which Sharia law is enforced, are suspected of burning down a church building in its southern region where there is a Christian majority.
" Egypt: A makeshift bomb was found near a church on January 22. Father Paul of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt found what he described as a foreign object next to the garbage can outside of the Church of the Virgin Mary in Aswan.
i. Authorities from the Islamic Republic are trying to convert the Assyrian Christian church in Tehran into a mosque. The church was illegally confiscated two years ago when church leaders were told that an Islamic prayer hall would be built there.
ii. Instead of receiving much needed medical treatment, a Christian prisoner Ebrahim Firouzi was instead given five additional years in prison.
" Indonesia: Authorities in the Sharia-governed province of Aceh plan to remove tents built by Christians to worship in after their churches were torn down late last year by authorities responding to Muslim violence against churches that left one dead and thousands of Christians displaced.
i. A Syrian Orthodox Church in Diyarbakir, considered to be a "unique heritage site," is believed to have been destroyed during fighting between the Turkish army and the Kurdish PKK.
ii. Out of almost 2 million Syrian refugees within Turkeys borders, 45,000 are Christian and are finding that "life is only slightly better at best." Many have to pretend to be Muslims in public in order to avoid being attacked. There have also been incidences of refugees being beheaded.
" Bangladesh: ISIS claimed responsibility for the murder of an 85-year-old Muslim man for reportedly converting to Christianity. He was found lying in a coffin-like structure with blood on his chest. It is believed that he was stabbed to death while working at his homeopathic practice.
" Syria: A bomb attack on a mostly Christian neighborhood killed three people and wounded 10 others, all Christians. The attack occurred on January 24 in the Kurdish city of Qamishli.
" Germany: Christian refugees from Syria, Eritrea, and other countries are reportedly exposed to humiliation, manhunts, and brutal harassment at the camps for refugees by their Muslim neighbors. This also relates to the Yazidi religious minority and former Muslims.
i. According to Fr. Ayoub Yousef, who heads the Coptic Catholic church of St. George in Minya, Upper Egypt: "The tombs of the Copts [Egypts indigenous Christians] are being turned into garbage dumps," and are in a "piteous state," with all types of sewage and waste are being dumped into them to the point of filling the tombs.
ii. Lawyer Ahmed Abdu Maher reportedly stated: There is a book in Al-Azhar that calls for the forceful shaving of the heads of the Copts [Egypts Christians], placing a sign on their homes [so Muslims know where the "infidels" live], and refusing to shake hands with them.
" Kazakhstan: After he appealed the decision, a court in Astana, the nations capital, increased the sentence originally handed to Yklas Kabduakasov, a convert from Islam, from seven years house arrest to two years at a prison hard labor camp.
" Mali: A Swiss Christian missionary, Beatrice Stockly, who was abducted for 10 days in 2012, has been kidnapped again in Timbuktu by armed men who arrived in four pickup trucks. Militant Islamic groups are active in the area in which she lives and had launched two attacks in the previous weeks, one of them on a Christian radio station just before Christmas, which left 25 people dead.
As Ibrahims report clearly reveals, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world has become endemic. He, therefore, seeks to accomplish two main objectives through his monthly blog updates:
1. To document that which the mainstream media does not: the habitual, if not chronic, persecution of Christians and
2. To show that such persecution is not random, but systematic and interrelated - that it is rooted in a worldview inspired by Islamic Sharia.
Sharia-ruled nations though are by no means the only anti-Christian ones. Countries rooted in socialist cultures are equally culpable in this regard. As Stoyan Zaimov for the Christian Post (CP) recently reported, the Chinese government has decided to go so far as ordaining priests - effectively denying church leaders their rights of office and authority to conduct duties within their vocation.
As Zaimov narrated, the Chinese government has reportedly continued tightening its grip on Christianity, influencing the nation's two government-controlled Catholic organizations to agree to ordain bishops "under the leadership of the government."
According to the International Christian Concern: "China is attempting to control Christianity in two ways; demolishing the Christian image and arresting leaders, and manipulating them through a government run church... Either way, Christianity is facing difficult times in China, but their numbers still grow. That is a testament of the power of the Gospel, not the success of the government and the state."
The crackdown on Christianity has been seen in the forced removal of hundreds of church crosses across several Chinese provinces, and the arrests of underground church pastors and congregants who have stood against church demolitions.
And even where governments are not complicit in the persecution of Christians, they tend to want to downplay the extent of Christian suffering in favor of a politically correct stance.
A separate CP report noted that in Nigeria persecution watchdog groups, such as International Christian Concern (ICC) have pointed out that much of the violence is aimed at Christians, who make up close to half the nation's population.
Yet, as ICC noted, Nigerian officials are failing to convey this targeting of Christians, evaluating the ongoing attacks more as historical tensions over land rights for cattle grazing versus crop farming.
Despite indications that terror group Boko Harams militants are largely from the Kanuri ethno-cultural group, they have carried out several attacks on villages while disguising themselves as herdsmen. Whats more, some Fulani have admitted during interrogations by police that they are Boko Haram members.
India, according to separate reports, is yet another country where it is becoming harder for Christians to practice their faith in peace, largely due to Hindu resistance. Twenty-five million Indians, or about 2.3 percent of the population, are Christian. Six Indian states prohibit conversion from Hinduism to Christianity, or Islam.
During 2015 in India, according to the Evangelical Fellowship, the following statistics against Christians were recorded: 68 incidents involved physical violence, 36 involved the stopping of services or the damaging of churches, and 18 Christians and pastors were arrested. At least three women reported rape - including a nun who was raped at her convent. The worst persecution happened in central India in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, and in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Is there any indication that the international community is paying any attention to the plight of Christians worldwide who are so openly being persecuted for their faith? The lack of action so far is hardly due to a lack of awareness, as reporting on the issue has been widespread and a number of Christian organizations have repeatedly raised their voices in loud protest.
There is a small flicker of hope as Secretary of State John Kerry finally announced on March 17 that ISIS' action against Yazidis, Christians and Shiite Muslims in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide.
This is the first time that the United States has declared a genocide since Darfur in 2004.
The House of Representatives also unanimously passed a resolution labeling the ISIS atrocities against Christian groups in Syria and Iraq "genocide," a term the State Department had been reluctant to use about the attacks and mass murders by the terror group.
However, the genocide finding does not legally obligate the U.S. to take any particular action and many analysts doubt Obama is looking to take a more active role in the region with his term starting to wind down.
So what way forward for the persecuted church? Certainly Christians need to pray for and support the persecuted among them, locally and all around the world, in every possible way. But one may wonder what hope there is for Christians long-term survival given the rate and ferocity with which they are being fought, virtually everywhere and on all fronts.
But as Jesus Christ Himself so aptly stated of His church: The gates of hell shall not prevail against it(Matthew 16:18).