100 Million Christians Encounter Religious-related Violence, says Author of Book Detailing Worldwide Persecution

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

paul225Paul Marshall said persecution of Christians is an evil that must be thwarted.Aasiya Noreen’s life hangs in the balance. In November 2010, the Pakistani Christian woman, better known as Asia Bibi, was convicted of blasphemy and received a sentence of death by hanging.

Her offense was allegedly insulting the Islamic prophet Muhammad. If executed, Noreen would be the first woman in Pakistan to be lawfully killed for blasphemy. Noreen has denied the charges but there’s a problem: The country's sharia system considers a non-Muslim's testimony to carry half the weight of a Muslim's, which made it difficult to defend herself in court.

Meanwhile, Shahbaz Bhatti paid the ultimate price. The Roman Catholic and Pakistani politician who was an elected a member of the Pakistani National Assembly and the only Christian in the Cabinet of Pakistan, was assassinated on March 2, 2011 for being an outspoken critic of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

And Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian Christian pastor and American citizen, has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran reportedly on charges of undermining national security by holding private religious gatherings in Christian underground homes in Iran in the early 2000s.

These are high profile examples of Christian persecution that has spread worldwide, Paul Marshall said Jan. 26 at Calvin College’s annual January Series.

100 million religious-related violence

“Some 100 million Christians face religious-related violence in 35 countries,” said Marshall, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom in Washington D.C. and co-author of the book, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.

Marshall said Christian persecution falls into three major patterns.

The first category pertains to the remaining Communist and post-Communist countries, specifically, North Korea, Laos, China, Vietnam, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belarus.

“This affects the most Christians, since there are many Christians there, especially in China,” Marshall said. “China and Cuba are more relaxed now than they were 20 to 30 years ago, but there’s still repression, particularly for churches that do not want to register with the state.”

The second wave of persecution is found in South Asia where many, but not all, Hindus and Buddhists are involved in reactionary movements. In the Karnataka State in southwestern India, for example, an average of three Christians are attacked weekly.

Finally, maltreatment of Christians in found in the Islamic world.

“It’s not the largest as far as the most people, but it’s the most widespread due to radical Islamismand terrorism,” said Marshall. “I particularly worry that it’s growing with radical Islam which wants other Muslims and the rest of the world to support their view.”

The Zamfara State, for example, is the first state in Nigeria to introduce sharia law, which is Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Koran. “They’ve been killing government officials and other Muslims and Christians who oppose them,” said Marshall.

How to stem persecution

What works in helping to stem executions and long prison sentences is exerting international pressure, according to Marshall. That’s true of Maryam Rostampour and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad who were arrested in Iran on March 5, 2009 because they were accused of acting against state security. Both refused to deny their Christian faith. Released in 2011, they have since recounted their 259 days in captivity by retelling how they offered God's love and compassion to their guards and fellow prisoners.

Despite the hostility and ill-treatment, Christians around the world remain undaunted, said Marshall. China, for example, has gone from two million believers to perhaps 100 million in 25 years.

One-third of South Koreans are Christians.

paul2225Paul Marshall urged believers to pray for persecuted Christians. “Pray personally and pray congregationally so it becomes a part of our normal life,” he said.And the church is growing in Sudan, East and West Africa, Indonesia, Vietnam Iran and some parts of the Arab world, especially in western Maghreb.

And in Cairo, where it’s difficult to receive permission to build a new church building, a Coptic clergyman found a way around government red tape by carving out cliffs and caves and creating a worship sanctuary that seats between 12,000 to 15,000 Coptic Orthodox Charismatic Christians.

“This is one side of the amazing story of what’s happening around the world,” said Marshall.

What must we do?

Marshall advised Christians to inform themselves of what is happening around the world.

“You must pray and don’t forget them,” he said. “If nobody knows, nobody cares. Pray personally and pray congregationally so it becomes a part of our normal life.”

Christians should also publicize the injustices occurring throughout the world.

“Christians tend to be the most reticent of most religious groups to publicize,” said Marshall. “We should also be willing to give aid to churches overseas, particularly in Northern Iraq.”

Marshall advised forming alliances with other religious who are opposed to religious persecution. This includes Muslims who are committed to religious freedom, such as in Indonesia.

He also urged believers in the free world to provide legal resources for refugees and push governments to act on their behalf.

“Religious persecution is not going to end in the near future,” said Marshall. “Causing suffering to human beings is an evil. It’s a thing we need to be committed to fight.

“We are members of one body.”

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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