Monday, May 28, 2007

Praying for a miracle

The Sunday Times reports that an estimated 200m Christians in 60 countries are now suffering increasing victimisation.

“One of the world injustices least noticed in the West is the growing scale of Christian persecution,” says Eddie Lyle, who runs the British arm of Open Doors, a charity that works with afflicted churches and individuals. “We estimate that 200m Christians in more than 60 countries face the most brutal retribution because of their faith.” Christians have been persecuted, and have persecuted others, of course, since the Romans. What is unparalleled today is the sheer scope across the world. Take Bhutan: a Buddhist country with a religion usually associated with tolerance, it refuses to acknowledge that Christianity exists and is among the top 10 on the Open Doors 2007 list of global offenders.

The tradition of tolerance is under strain in India, too, from Hindu zealots. Anti-conversion laws aimed at evangelising have been passed in four states. For generations, many Christians were taught to pray for the conversion of communist Russia. Though the break-up of the Soviet Union restored the Orthodox Church to the heart of Russia, as Polish Catholicism helped to unravel the Soviet bloc, in some of the newly independent republics, notably Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, it has brought renewed persecution. Elsewhere, surviving communist states are continuing to repress. More Christians are imprisoned in China than anywhere else, a measure of the explosive success of underground or house churches. They may have as many as 70m members, vulnerable to arrest for non-regulated worship. In terms of severity, communist North Korea tops the Open Doors list, and International Christian Concern’s new “Hall of Shame”. Its capital, Pyongyang, was once known as “the Jerusalem of the East”. At least 50,000 Christians are now held in labour camps. Torture is frequently reported.

But it is across the Muslim world that persecution – sometimes government-inspired, but more often at mosque and street level – is spreading fastest. The problem is becoming acute along the fault line where largely Christian or animist Africa meets the Islamic north, from northeast Kenya and Ethiopia and Sudan, across northern Uganda and on into Nigeria."

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