In her January 2023 article “The Ten Worst Countries to Live in as a Christian,” Kelly Valencia directs readers’ attention to a dismal list from Open Doors, a global organization dedicated to providing support for persecuted Christians. North Korea, where apprehended Christians are either executed or imprisoned for life, heads up this list of death and oppression. The remaining top 10 nations are located in the Middle East or Africa.
In most of these countries the Christian population is miniscule, reduced in size by previous persecutions, killings, and forced displacement. According to Open Doors, for example, fear of the Taliban government in Afghanistan has forced home churches to close, and Christians have either gone into hiding or fled the country.
Backing up these charges from Open Doors is the report issued in 2019 by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, which found that persecutions in such countries are “close to…genocide.” A century ago, says the report, Christians made up 20 percent of the population of the Middle East and North Africa. Today that number has been reduced to 4 percent. As the report states, “the inconvenient truth” is “that the overwhelming majority (80%) of persecuted religious believers are Christians.”
Hopes that disseminating this information might mitigate Christian persecution has proved to be an illusion. In “Nightmare Wedding: Over 100 Christians Burned Alive, Iraqi Gov. Says Accidental,” Raymond Ibrahim reports that in October of 2023 a Christian wedding celebration in a banquet hall became a “hellish nightmare” when the hall caught fire. On that same day, the government declared the fire accidental—a pronouncement some local Iraqi Christians have labeled a lie.
Ibrahim then points to the other fires in these Islamic countries—“hundreds of Coptic and Assyrian churches have been torched in recent years”—and the ongoing killing and harassment of Christians in Egypt as well as Iraq.
These murders and abuses of Christians occur outside of the Middle East as well. Nigeria, which boasts the largest Christian population in Africa as well as an almost equal number of Muslims, has seen thousands of Christians killed in the last few years, with churches, villages, and houses burned or otherwise destroyed. Millions more Christians have been displaced.
Meanwhile, excepting the British foreign secretary’s report, Western governments ignore these abuses and carry on business as usual. In her July 2023 article at The Washington Stand, for instance, Lela Gilbert details the persecution in Nigeria, asking, “Why Is the Biden Administration Overlooking Nigeria’s Jihadi Attacks on Christianity?”
Given this widespread violence and discrimination against Christians, we might ask this same question—not just of the Biden administration but of all Western governments. Why do they pay so little attention to attacks on Christians?
Silence or indifference are apparently their answers. It’s true that the U.S. Agency for International Development has given over $600 million dollars in humanitarian assistance to Nigeria, yet the Agency seems loath to openly address the violence directed specifically at Christians. Moreover, Nigeria is renowned for its corruption. It’s likely that much of the money sent there ends up in the banking accounts of government officials.
Thus, we are left to surmise that most Western governments care little about Christians—not only in faraway places but here at home as well. One explanation for their non-concern may have to do with their voters and the post-Christian age in which we now live. Many Christians themselves remain oblivious to overseas persecution, and many more Americans lack any interest in the subject at all. In short, no one running for governor, senator, or even president will lose votes for shrugging off attacks that are so distant from more immediate concerns.
In addition, Christianity in the West, which is the foundation stone of Western culture, is itself frequently ridiculed or reviled. Mike Johnson, the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives, serves as a prime example of this bigotry. An evangelical Christian, he forthrightly tells others that his worldview comes from Scripture. The result? Johnson has faced a barrage of criticism aimed at his Christian faith.
Compare culture’s reception of Johnson to the criticism directed at his Muslim colleague Ilhan Omar. She is frequently attacked for her political takes but rarely, if ever, for her faith itself. Two standards are at work here, and Christianity makes for the softer, safer target.
The bad news? Little will be done by officials in the West to support beleaguered Christians living in Africa and the Middle East. Here at home the mockery of Christians will continue—no holds barred—while those who criticize, however politely, the Koran or its adherents will be instantly labeled Islamophobic.
But the good news? For Christians, it’s found in the gospels (a word which translates as “good news”) and the rest of the New Testament. There we find reminders such as the one in Matthew: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” From the Book of Acts, too, we can draw inspiration from the tribulations suffered by faithful followers of Christ. From the letters of St. Paul, we can take to heart his words about courage and tenacity: “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
After all, Christ has declared, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
For Christians, that is the promise that strengthens the spine and braces the heart in the fight against evil and persecution.
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