Persecution is defined as a policy or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs. According to The Pew Research Center, over 75% of the world’s population lives in areas with severe religious restrictions. Many of these people are Christians.
The difference between persecution and the everyday inconveniences of living in a world hostile toward Christianity, are painfully clear.
Persecution occurs whenever believers are denied the protection of religious freedom, prevented from converting to Christianity because of legal or social threats, physically attacked or killed because of their faith, forced to leave their job or home because of the threat of violence; or imprisoned and interrogated and often tortured for refusing to deny their faith.
In the Bible, Christ tells His followers that they will endure persecution:
John 15: 18-25 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat y
ou this way because of My name, for they do not know the one who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father as well. 24 If I had not done among them the works no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. As it is, they have seen, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. 25 But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’
Since Christ was persecuted, He tells us that because we are His followers, we too will be persecuted. In the Epistles, the Apostle Paul talks about Christians (as the Body of Christ) facing persecution:
1st Corinthians 12:26 “ If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (ESV)”
Today, Christians in more than 60 countries around the world are persecuted for their faith. While there are many Christians who do not face persecution, we are called to be united with the part of the Body of Christ that does face persecution daily.
Each year, Open Doors ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted in the annual World Watch List. You can learn more about Christians who are persecuted (and how you can help them) at http://www.worldwatchlist.us
*Definition from Random House Dictionary