It is Easter Sunday and for many Christians, this represent the highlight of their faith. It is the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead to conquer death and sin. By doing this, he opened the gates of heaven to us all
After this moment, the apostles with the help of the Holy Spirit gained the courage to preach the good news to the world. They left their hiding place and moved into the open. Most of the apostles and other Christians suffered and/or died a result. Even today, Christians worldwide are suffering for their faith.
Every five minutes, a Christian is martyred. Additionally, more Christians are murdered for their faith since 1900 than all of the previous centuries since Christ. Christians are the most persecuted in the world. According to one report, approximately 200 million Christians in 50 countries suffer oppression because of their faith.
The big threat to Christians is in the Middle East. It is the biblical homeland where many Christians face extermination. Over the past century, between one half and two thirds of Christians left the region or been killed. With the rise of radical jihadists in the Middle East, much of the persecution is even government sanctioned or ignored by the government. The recent attack on Coptic Christians on Palm Sunday is one just example.
In 1990, over 1.2 million Christians resided in Iraq. By the end of 2003 and the first Iraq war, there were fewer than 500,000. Now, this number is lower than 200,000. Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites are divided on many issues. However, not on their hatred of Christians. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that the ongoing violence inside Iraq and the rise of ISIS, “will mark the end of its Yazidi and Christian communities.”
In Syria, more than 50 percent of the country’s Christians may have fled as refugees. In Iran, where Iranians are by definition Muslim, makes all Christian activity illegal. Therefore, the government imprisons Christians for apostasy.
In Pakistan, mob violence remains constant. Threats to Christians due to blasphemy laws, lead to the death penalty. In the Sudan, President Omar Bashir demolishes churches and kills Christians with no regard. The Nigerian Islamic terror group Boko Haram has been trying to eliminate Christians from the Muslim North. As part of their efforts, they have massacred 2000 Christians and kidnapped 200 girls from the town of Chibok.
In China, crosses are removed from public view and churches are destroyed. The North Korean government imprisons tens of thousands of Christians in labor camps because of their faith. For Christians, North Korea is one of the most dangerous places on Earth. Christians are the bottom of society.
For many Americans, martyrdom is something that happened in the distant past. But today, Christians face the proverbial lions on a daily basis. Some, just for celebrating Easter. Religious persecution is an everyday reality. Obviously, for Americans, religious freedom is a right. But throughout much of the world, the basic freedoms we take for granted do not exist. You are punished if you exercise your rights. To Christians, Christ died for our sins and his resurrection on Easter conquered sin. But for many Christians over the past 20 centuries, celebrating this day and their faith still leads to imprisonment and death.