How should a Christian respond to persecution?

Persecution of Christians now and then: Persecuted like Jesus

Christian persecution has existed for as long as there have been Christians. When the risen Christ met the disciples, they closed the doors tightly - "out of fear of the Jews" (Jn 20:19), out of fear of attacks from the majority society in Jerusalem. They fear that the same fate will overtake them as the Lord, who had previously unequivocally prophesied this to them: "And you will be hated by all for my name's sake" (Lk 21:17).

Indeed: eleven of the twelve men to whom the risen One gives the Spirit of God and to whom in this spirit He gives the commission for mission, eleven of the twelve apostles of Christ find death in the fulfillment of their missionary commission; only John survived the first wave of Christian persecution. Even the apostle of the people Paul - at that time still as Saul at the head of the persecutors (cf. Acts 6, 58) - came to a violent end: he was beheaded in Rome.

Why Christians Are Persecuted

“Why are you persecuting me?” Jesus asks Saul (Acts 22, 7). Saul's answer is a counter-question: "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 22: 8). Jesus reveals himself to him: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” This of course does not explain why the persecution is due. But maybe yes. Perhaps the answer is actually in the statement “I am Jesus”, and perhaps “I am following Jesus” is sufficient as a reason for the cases of persecution today. Perhaps the reason for the persecution lies in Jesus himself. Because Jesus disrupts the existing order in favor of a new form of coexistence, the rules of which are less derived from tradition, custom and calculation, but are set up on the basis of love. Jesus irritates the cultural and religious foundations of society. The elites of this society, who have adjusted to the foundations that derive their power from it, cannot accept that.

Jesus knew that he would step on the feet of orderly people if he wanted to modify the rules of the game with his. He also knew what was in store for his disciples: “But before all of this happens, you will be arrested and persecuted. For my name's sake you will be handed over to the courts of synagogues, thrown into prison and brought before kings and governors ”(Lk 21:12). Shortly afterwards He expresses the associated emotional reason quite openly: hatred (cf. Lk 21, 17). In John's Gospel, Jesus relates this hatred to him and his work: “If the world hates you, then know that it hated me before you did. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its property. But because you are not of the world, but because I have chosen you from the world, the world hates you ”(Jn 15, 18-19).

The same pattern over and over again

Jesus' followers, above all the apostles, who are directly addressed here, carry the good news into the world and in this sense contribute to the building of the kingdom of God. At the same time, the profound irritation of mankind continues. In many waves of the worst persecution of Christians we encounter this pattern again and again: The new teaching of Jesus meets an old order, love meets hate. Jesus is the first victim of the persecution of Christians. From now on it is Christianity that irritates, it is people who follow Christ who question the existing order.

And it is society that counteracts it and says: “Everything was fine (meaning: in our order) until you came! Until you came and made people feel insecure with your alternative designs! ”That is the long version. The short version is: hatred, born of fear. In Rome and Athens in late antiquity, the Christian idea of ​​universal freedom, the dignity of all human beings in the image of God, meets a slave-holding society with firmly established roles that branch out and exploit people. It didn't go together. In addition, the many anthropogenic gods contradicted the belief in the one God who became man, but God remained.

Persecution of Christians Today

Then, with the expansion of the Church, the persecution of Christians became a global phenomenon. Today, since the Church is (almost) everywhere, it is also persecuted (almost) everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. The persecution of Christians is the oldest and the most widespread catastrophe with the most victims. Every tenth Christian suffers disadvantages just because he is a Christian.

About 100 million Christians - this is estimated by experts, but exact figures are of course difficult to determine - are systematically disadvantaged worldwide in schools, training and work, in society and politics. The persecution of Christians in the 21st century has many faces - including physical annihilation. Tens of thousands of Christians annually pay for their faith in Jesus, their personal imitation of Christ with their lives - because they are arrested and tortured to death or executed, because a terror bomb goes off during worship, because they have difficult access to medicines.

The Archbishop of Bamberg, Ludwig Schick, recently spoke of 100,000 Christians who are murdered every year for their beliefs. Open Doors, a global aid organization for persecuted Christians, publishes a study on the persecution of Christians at the beginning of each calendar year, the so-called World Persecution Index, which lists the fifty countries in which the persecution of Christians is currently particularly intense.

Persecution of Christians is particularly high in Islamic countries

If you look at the Open Doors World Persecution Index in recent years, the first thing you notice is the high proportion of Islamic countries. In the Islamic world (i.e. in Turkey, in the Arab countries of the Near and Middle East as well as in North Africa, in Indonesia, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, in Iran, increasingly also in Central Africa, especially in Nigeria and Sudan) different religious orders on top of each other, which carry a fundamentally different mission idea: based on coercion and voluntariness. It must hurt when Muslims convert to weak Christianity, which is based on love and freedom, when you are so strong yourself. If you prefer the impotence of the cross, a God who allows himself to be humbled. This creates fear, followed by hatred and aggression.

The divergent images of man do the rest: that male and female Christians pray together is an affront to the prevailing order. You can't accept that like that. The result: persecution. Since centuries. What has been perpetrated for several years by the terrorist organizations Boko Haram in Nigeria and "Islamic State" in Iraq and Syria, what the Somali terrorist organization Al-Shabaab did with the attack on the University of Garissa (Kenya) on Maundy Thursday , all of this is just a new dimension in this regard - not an entirely new phenomenon. But one that has long been suppressed or ignored in the European media.

That is now over: on Good Friday, the traditional way of the cross with Pope Francis in the Colosseum was remembered of the persecution in societies characterized by Islam. At the second station (“Jesus takes up the cross”), thoughts of the Pakistani Shahbaz Bhatti, Minister for Religious Minorities, who was murdered on March 2, 2011 by Islamists, were meditated. The media in this country couldn't help mentioning this. Thanks be to Francis!

Persecution of Christians in Asia

In the Southeast Asian region, too, there has been massive persecution of Christians in the past and present. In Korea, the Christian idea of ​​the unity of creation in God and the equality of all creatures before God, the equality of man and woman, of master and servant, of ruler and subject, of superior and subordinate, questioned the strictly dualistic social model of Confucianism. In the 19th century, the Church in Korea was brutally persecuted. The persecution took place in four waves: shortly after the ban (1801), from 1839 to 1841 (after that the church had to be completely reorganized, since priests in particular, such as the first bishop, were murdered), from 1846 to 1850 and finally - particularly violent - in the years 1866 to 1876 under Prince Regent Taewongun. It was not until the state and social reform in 1895 that the persecution of Christians subsided in Korea. In total, about 10,000 Korean Catholics were persecuted.

Persecution of Christians in North Korea

In North Korea there is a brutal persecution of Christians to this day, which is currently the worst in the world. For twelve years now, the country has been the undisputed and inglorious “number 1” in the Open Doors World Pursuit Index. In North Korea, Christians refuse to worship the ruling Kim dynasty as gods because they have already found their God: Jesus Christ. That's why they are hated. It is estimated that around 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in the labor camps there, which means that around one in three prisoners is imprisoned there because they believe in Jesus - and not in the inhuman Chuch'e ideology of the Kim family.

For years we have heard from survivors of the camps who were able to escape abroad about the atrocities that are taking place there. To read what the imprisoned Christians in the camps had to experience in terms of incredible cruelty is sad and angry at the same time. They are "treated worse than animals" (according to Markus Rode, head of Open Doors Germany).

A former detainee reports that they always have to keep their eyes lowered "so as not to look up to heaven and thus to God". "Barbaric experiments" are carried out on them. Christians are assigned the “hardest work”, have to “handle acids” and “remove feces”. They are “crammed into small boxes” for days; not infrequently, this abuse leads to physical paralysis. Their guards receive rewards for "torturing Christians to force them to give up their beliefs"; the quotations are from the report of the Christian media magazine Pro (No. 5/2012) about Shin Dong-hyuk's Gulag experience. The fear of Christianity and the hatred of Christianity rock each other up and are meanwhile unimaginably large: Finding a Bible in their apartment is enough for the imprisonment of an entire family.

Persecution of Christians in China

In China, only those Christians who recognize the Communist Party as the highest earthly authority are left alone. You want to keep the strings in your hand, for the sake of order. Bad for the professing church, which does not play along. In India it is still not understood how one can touch the untouchable. Christians come and care for them, anoint their wounds. “What are they actually imagining!” Again and again - since the Hindu nationalist Modi took over power, significantly increased - there have been acts of violence against Christians who want to free the untouchables from the caste system, to liberate them from a rigid, inhuman order. But this also violates this order, in which a person becomes all the more valuable the lighter his skin is.

Persecution of Christians in Vietnam

In Vietnam, more than sixty religious dignitaries are detained for being religious dignitaries. If at all, we only find out about imprisonment in Vietnam if the victims are more or less prominent, as in the case of the Catholic Father Nguyen Van-Ly, who is serving a long prison term. The state repression against normal priests and religious are not mentioned in the press.

One thing is certain: there is a new dimension in the nationwide persecution of Christians in Vietnam on the basis of “clear restrictions on freedom of expression and conscience” (according to the human rights organization International Christian Concern). By the way, Vietnam is one of the countries in which the persecution of Christians is increasing (18th place in the Open Doors World Persecution Index 2014, after 21st place in 2013) and unfortunately "one cannot assume that the situation of Christians will improve in the medium term" (like it is in the current dossier about the country). An ordinance on the implementation of the religious law that came into force at the beginning of 2013 plays a key role in this, and it appears to be increasingly tightening the control of the church.

What is it like in Germany and Europe?

And here? In Europe? In Germany? Here it is in particular the unadapted Catholic Church that is disturbing in a sexualized performance and elbow society, because its members still suspect meaning beyond body cult and consumption. Nevertheless - to be clear: there is no nationwide persecution in Germany. Christians don't have to fear for their lives because they are Christians.

But on the one hand there is increasing violence against artefacts that can be ascribed to Christianity (churches, cemeteries, wayside crosses, parsonages), on the other hand there is increasingly open discrimination against Christians in Europe if they are Christian in the context of marriage, family and protection of life position. “I am Jesus” or “I follow Jesus” - there is no viable and true alternative to this confession in this country either.

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