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Sunday, November 10, 2013

International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians: November 10th

Today is the International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians. Some may scoff, but according to the International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world are directed toward Christians. In fact, according to The Pew Forum, between 2006-2010, Christians faced some sort of discrimination in 3/4 of all the nations of the world (139 to be exact), and by one estimate as many as 11 Christians are killed each hour somewhere in the world. As noted in the most recent issue of The Christian Century (November 13, 2007, p. 7):
In Eritrea, one of the earliest Christian countries in the world, a military compound has been turned into a prison complex housing 2,000 to 3,000 Christians. They are imprisoned because they are part of a small independent Protestant community that is not approved by the government... 
Of the 65 churches in Baghdad, 40 have been bombed since the United States' invasion of Iraq in 2003. Iraq had a flourishing Christian community of 1.5 million at the start of the war; now it is a third that size. In Egypt, 40 Coptic churches were burned and looted in August in a wave of attacks blamed on radical Islamists. In September a suicide bomber attacked a church in northwestern Pakistan, killing 85 people. Living under strict antiblasphemy laws, Christians throughout the country are being accused of blasphemy because of their Christian convictions. In Syria, Christians are caught in the cross fire of a civil war and are targeted by radicals on both sides. 
Persecution is occurring not only in the Middle East but in Nigerian, Kenya, Burma, India and North Korea. North Korea may be the worst place in the world to be a Christian; it's believed that a quarter of the country's Christians live in forced-labor camps.
However, as John L. Allen, Jr., author of the The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution, notes that this persecution is the greatest story not being told in the 21st century. Why? Allen believes that one reason is that because many of us have learned about Christian imperialism, we have a hard time believing that Christians can be among the oppressed and not always the oppressor. And as The Christian Century points out, "others are wary of the anti-Muslim fervor that fuels some people's focus on Christian persecution." And while, no doubt, this latter point is true, it isn't an excuse for looking the other way when a religious community is being persecuted, whether it's Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, or something else (Source: The Christian Century, November 13, 2013).

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