"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified."
1 Peter 4:12-14
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
In this issue of the Last Trumpet Newsletter, we will examine emerging trends which indicate that the condition of the world we live in today is deteriorating at a quickening pace. As we enter this new year of 2014, we are often told we live in a world of innovation and progress. Yet, mankind's unprecedented access to information, education, and technology in this modern age has not tempered the barbaric nature of the human race. In fact, followers of the Lord Jesus Christ are facing mounting persecution each and every day, particularly in the Middle East region of the world, Africa, and the Asian countries of China and North Korea.
The persecution of Christian people around the globe has intensified greatly in recent years, which prompted members of the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom to hold a three-hour discussion regarding the crisis in early December 2013. Member of Parliament Sammy Wilson was quoted as saying, "Within the last month, hundreds of people, from Nigeria to Eritrea to Kazakhstan to China, have been arrested and put in prison simply because of their faith, and when they go into prison, they are denied due process." Wilson further went on to say, "This is not only happening in Muslim countries. From Morocco to Pakistan, Christians in Muslim countries are under threat, but it happens elsewhere too." (1) Member of Parliament Jim Shannon also voiced his concern regarding the crisis, declaring that it is "the biggest story in the world that has never been told." Shannon claims that an estimated 200 million Christians are facing persecution today, and a total of 500 million are at risk because they live in dangerous areas. (2) Throughout the discussion, it was revealed that two million Christians have been killed in the African nation of Sudan over the last thirty years, and that the Christian population in the nation of Iraq has declined from 1.5 million people to between 200,000 and 600,000 individuals. As a consequence of this global crisis, approximately one Christian is killed every eleven minutes of each and every day. (3)
Abuse inflicted on Christian people has been especially harsh in the nation of Syria even as a civil war rages between rebel groups and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Sadly, many of these recent attacks have involved children. "The radical organizations are now attacking [Christian] children to get their parents to leave the country. In the last few days, five Christian schools have been attacked where children have been killed," declared Syrian parliament member Maria Saada in December 2013. (4) To date an estimated 45,000 Christians have fled the nation of Syria due to the intensifying persecution. (5) Although both sides of the conflict in Syria are guilty of numerous atrocities, it is important to note that many attacks on Christian people are carried out by the so-called rebel forces, which have benefited from the support of the Obama Administration. In fact, the Syrian rebels were given an aid package by the American government in August 2013 which totaled 195 million dollars. (6) In December 2013, the State Department of the United States suspended nonlethal aid to Syrian rebels due to the acts of hardline Islamic extremists in the region. However, statements by Administration officials indicate that this suspension of aid will only be temporary. (7)
Violent acts are also frequently committed against the Christian people living in the nation of Pakistan. Such was the case in September 2013 when two suicide bombers launched an attack, which resulted in the death of eighty-one people who had gathered outside a church in the city of Peshawar. The bombing was carried out by a group known as Jundullah. "All non-Muslims in Pakistan are our target, and they will remain our target as long as America fails to stop drone strikes in our country," declared Ahmad Marwat, a spokesman for the group. (8)
Meanwhile, nearly three hundred Christians have been arrested in the African nation of Eritrea this year. Those who are arrested are often imprisoned in dungeons located underground, shipping containers, or military detention facilities. "They face exposure, hard labor, and insufficient food, water and hygiene. They are regularly denied medical treatment for malaria and pneumonia contracted while in prison or diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or cancer that they may have arrived with," stated a representative of an organization known as Open Doors USA, which monitors the worldwide persecution of Christians. (9) It is estimated that between two thousand and three thousand Eritrean people flee their home country each month in spite of a "shoot to kill policy" for those caught fleeing. (10)
The Christian people of the Central African Republic have also faced a desperate struggle in recent days. According to a report published by the Associated Press, thousands of Christians sought refuge at the airport, which was being guarded by French soldiers, after a group of armed Muslims killed at least 280 people in early December 2013. One of the Christians who sought refuge was quoted as saying, "They're slaughtering us like chickens." (11)
Perhaps the most brutal persecution of Christians occurs within the nation of North Korea. According to a report published in November 2013, eighty people were publicly executed by the North Korean government, including some whose only crime was possession of a Bible. The executions were observed by a group of about 10,000 spectators who were forced to watch. (12) The North Korean government under the leadership of the communist dictator Kim Jong-un routinely imprisons, tortures, and executes Christians. One prison currently in operation is known to house six thousand Christians.
To those who have studied the Holy Scriptures, it is no surprise that persecution of the Christian people is widespread today. In fact, God's people have been consistently persecuted since the time our Lord and Saviour walked the earth nearly two thousand years ago. There is, however, a great blessing in obedience to Christ even if it means suffering in this present world. We are assured of this fact in Matthew 5:10-12 which reads, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
For those of us living in the United States and other relatively peaceful areas of the world, we have been fortunate to be able to express our beliefs and worship our God without fear of reprisal for the most part. However, there is a growing spirit of hostility against the Christian people in the United States, and it is not far-fetched to think that we may someday suffer similar persecutions as do our fellow believers in various other countries around the world. Despite the trials we may endure in the future, it is of the utmost importance that we always remain faithful to God even in the face of adversity. For as Jesus told us in Matthew 10:22, "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon