The most persecuted people in the world?

The Belfast Telegraph carried an article on Monday, which had first appeared in the Independent on Sunday, claiming that recently published research has shown that Christians are the most persecuted people in the world. The debate surrounding this claim has been very interesting with arguments about statistics, suggestions that ‘you reap what you sow’ and arguing about the definition of persecution taking up much space.The picture (left) with the article was of Meriam Ebrahim, recently released from prison in Sudan, meeting the Pope.

Here are seven reflections that, I believe, are beyond dispute:

1. Christians are being persecuted and martyred around the world.

2. Undoubtedly Christians have been involved in persecution of other religious groups but the volume and intensity of Christian persecution of other religious groups pales in comparison with persecution being visited on Christians

3. Persecution for one’s faith and hostility for other social reasons are often intertwined.

4. Western interference and support for various insurgents has led to a very significant increase in Christians being persecuted, most notably in the Middle East.

5. We must distinguish between opposition and persecution. We have every right to oppose what we believe to be wrong. Just as Christians will argue against, say, Islam, so Muslims and others have every right to argue against Christians but opposition should be peaceful, reasoned and principled.

6. Christians cannot look for help from Western or historically Christianised governments… unless such help will be politically advantageous to these governments! In contrast, it is likely that principled people in other religions and of no religion may be allies against unfair treatment.

7. The historically privileged position of the Church in the ‘West’ is coming to an end. Opposition will increase, possibly also persecution. As we, in the West, come to the same position that many other Christians have been in for generations, we will need to learn from them, from both their faithfulness and their failures.