More Persecution Throughout the Majority World

October 8, 2008

In most Western cultures persecution of Christians is seen in its more subtle forms: ridicule, inciting of religious arguments, attempts to suppress public forms of Christian expression, and accusations of being "religious fanatics" for sharing your faith. But in the Majority World (or, the "developing countries"), persecution is as blatant as it is rampant.

By far, persecution from Islam is the largest threat in most of the 54 African countries, but village cultures and religions also pose a very real impediment to the gospel. Some of these cultures include voodoo, incantations, and animal sacrifice, as part of their religious rituals. Benin is said to be the "World's Capital for Witchcraft." People are deeply entrenched by powerful demonic oppression and control, so when missionaries try to penetrate this spiritual barrier, there is much resistance and even death threats.

Christian Aid is deeply distressed over another obstacle to the gospel: the influence of foreign missionaries. The following is a direct quote we received from a missionary leader in Nepal, who explains the problem very clearly:

"One of [our] the local believers joined with a foreigner, who tempted him with money, and this believer is now creating problems. I do not understand some of the [foreign] missionaries, why they tempt the people with money. Here in Kathmandu some people directly say, 'We will give you money if you join with us or come with us.' This is a very sad thing. My relatives are saying, 'Why do you Christians give money and force people to become Christian?' This kind of act destroys our long-time efforts on the field." It is as disgrace that foreign Christian "missionaries" are responsible for not only causing their brothers to stumble, but also acting as a deterrent to the Lord's work in India and Nepal. (These tactics by foreign missionaries occur in many other areas of the world, as well.)

Religion, politics, long-time resentments or prejudices, are just some of the triggers that can set off a barrage of brutality in its various forms in Southeast Asia: Raids upon villages where Christians are rounded up, loaded onto trucks for "relocation," and where many endure starvation; genocide by use of poisonous chemicals; imprisonment and torture; and finally, martyrdom. Less brutal in the physical sense, but having a devastating impact; nevertheless, is simple discrimination. Christians in one Asian country are denied national identification cards, rendering them as non-persons with no rights, no jobs, and no lives.

In the state of Orissa, India, persecution is often the result of long, drawn out and persistent resistance by Hindu fanatics, who try to besmear Christians with blatant lies and cruel accusations. This past year we have all been witness to the persecution that began on December 24, 2007 ("Black Christmas") and continued to escalate during the year, culminating in their latest attack on Saturday, August 23. Hindu fanatics accused Christians of attacking and killing Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, and four of his associates, citing Black Christmas as the reason for this "vengeance." A ministry assisted through Christian Aid advised that they went on record denouncing these acts of hatred, but riots erupted throughout 14 districts in Orissa. Once again, thousands of people fled to the forests and hill country to escape beatings, killings, looting and massive destruction of homes, property and churches.

Persecution in China was wielded with a double-edged sword. Communism forced foreign missionaries out of China and then punished believers by putting them in hard-labor camps, where they were treated harshly by officials and other (non-Christian) prisoners. Persecution still continues today, but much more discreetly. Despite the dangers of proselytizing in China, during the past 60 years the church has grown tremendously. For the past 20 years Christian Aid has been a part of the emergence of more than 100 underground Bible schools – at least one school in every province!

In Central Asian countries, Christianity, as well as Islam, suffered setbacks due to suppression of any religion while under Soviet rule. The result of this was nominal Christians - and Muslims whose religion was by then a mix of Islam and an indigenous form of Shaminism. After the fall of the iron curtain, however, Islam began to emerge in a much more radical form. Muslims from countries to the south began their migration into Central Asia, building mosques and trying to impose what they believed to be "true" Islam on citizens there. Today Islam is the predominate religion in this area, with 80% to 97% adherents in most countries. Majority rule finds ways of discriminating against the Christian minority.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13 NKJV