Occasional Paper

The Persecuted Church

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Prefatory Note

This Occasional Paper was produced by the Issue Group on this topic at the 2004 Forum for World Evangelization hosted by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization in Pattaya, Thailand, 29 September 2004 to 5 October 2004

Executive Summary

Beginning with the Lausanne Covenant of 1974, the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) has consistently expressed a concern to pray and work for the freedom of those who are suffering for their faithfulness to Christ as well as to seek religious freedom for all people. Despite the fall of the Iron Curtain, the oppression and persecution of Christians is on the increase in most contexts, some of the most significant contributing factors now being globalisation, nationalism, religious fundamentalism, economic disparity, post-modernism and secularism.

There is a wide range of contexts of persecution including the tragic persecution of Christians by each other. But since 1989 the main context for Christian persecution has become the Islamic world. The ‘clash of civilisations’ between Islam and the West has intensified since September 11th 2001 (9/11) and is contributing to anti-Christian violence in Muslim contexts. Other important contemporary contexts of persecution are Hinduism, communism and post-communist contexts, and secularism. Trends, methods and examples from all these contexts are discussed.

An important method of seeking religious freedom for Christians (and others) is by appealing to legal and constitutional rights and international norms. This can be done through the law courts, by letter-writing campaigns or by discreet behind-the-scenes requests through diplomatic and similar channels.

The Church’s existing theology of suffering needs to be supplemented by developing a theology of persecution, and possibly even a theology of religious freedom. It is important to distinguish between the Christian approach to situations of persecution and a purely human rights approach which will not necessarily be identical. Theological reflection is needed in order to develop a theology to guide Christians in their response to persecution.

Practical recommendations include:

  1. Capacity building within and for the persecuted Church by means of training, both spiritual training for ministry and enduring persecution and practical/vocational training to strengthen the Church economically.
  2. Advocacy and legal issues. Guidelines and training are needed on reporting situations of persecution, both in terms of credibility and in terms of security. The creation of structures to ensure greater coordination and cooperation between the various Christian bodies and Christian lawyers involved in this work would be helpful.
  3. Prayer: while prayer must undergird all that is done, there is a need for greater knowledge of how to engage in spiritual warfare in situations of persecution and how to make intercession more strategic. There is great advantage in telling others about answered prayer for their own encouragement and for continued prayer.
  4. Practical assistance for persecuted Christians. Many needs can be lessened or removed by practical/financial help e.g. feeding, training, literature and other resources, education, medical assistance, convert care, buildings and infra-structure.
  5. Networking and partnership between the persecuted and non-persecuted, as well as between different parts of the persecuted Church will strengthen the Body of Christ as a whole. Knowing of their fellow-Christians’ love and concern will encourage those who are suffering, while the spiritual insights and example of the persecuted will build up the non-persecuted. Greater communication can also facilitate practical help, counselling and theological reflection. It will also help Christians prepare for a change in their situation, whether for increased or for reduced freedom, learning from the experience of others.
  6. Developing a theology of persecution. Some preliminary observations have been made, but many questions and issues need to be reflected on. Facilities should be developed to enable this to happen effectively, as well as to share existing relevant resources (curricula, bibliographies, textbooks, courses etc.)
  7. There are existing resources for the persecuted Church which are under-utilised through lack of awareness. These include Christian and secular assistance for refugees, church history materials concerning times of persecution and martyrdom, and a new religious freedom index.
  8. Security concerns must not be ignored. Christians must be aware of the possibility of deliberate disinformation being circulated, as well as the dangers and risks of information falling into the wrong hands, either by deliberate infiltration or by the actions of well-meaning but naïve concerned Christians. Religious freedom organisations should develop and implement guidelines and share their expertise in this area with each other.

Convenor’s Preface

The Persecuted Church Issue Group comprised 40 individuals from at least 18 different countries. Some were from contexts of persecution themselves and had personally endured prison and other forms of suffering for their faith. Others came from the non-persecuted Church but served in ministries which supported the persecuted Church. Because so many of the group came from sensitive situations or ministries, it was decided not to list the names of the individual participants, in order to ensure their security.

The group affirmed their concern for religious freedom for all people of every faith. However, our brief was to consider the persecuted Church, and hence the report which follows focuses primarily on the plight of Christians. Many situations of repression and persecution are to a greater or lesser extent a result of political and legal principles, decisions and actions in the countries concerned. This report is not intended to carry any particular political message. As a group of Christian believers considering the needs of our co-religionists, our perspective, emphasis and concerns are spiritual and practical. However, the report does deal with issues of advocacy and the need to pray and work for basic freedoms for Christians.

We trust that this report will stimulate prayer and promote a lasting concern for brothers and sisters in Christ who endure so much for His sake. It is also hoped that Christian agencies and organisations which have any kind of connection with contexts of persecution will study the report and find it helpful in formulating direction and agendas.

One of the clear outcomes of our discussions was a desire for greater unity and cooperation amongst the various agencies who work on behalf of the persecuted Church. The group felt strongly that a fragmented position does not glorify our Lord. Furthermore it was emphasised that this unity and partnership should encompass both those from non-persecuted contexts and those from the persecuted Church itself. Finally, let us remember that persecution, rejection, hatred and hostility are to be expected for Christians. Our Lord Jesus said, ‘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… If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also’ (John 15:19-20).

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of the Barnabas Fund
Convenor of the Issue Group on the Persecuted Church

1. Introduction

I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His suffering, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Philippians 3:10-11 (emphasis added)

The universal Body of Christ shares a common identity with Jesus Christ but deepens its fellowship through the vehicle of suffering. Scripture is filled with both narrative and instruction concerning the role of suffering in the believer’s experience. The Apostle Paul said:

We always carry around in our own body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. (2 Corinthians 4:10)

On rare occasions the worldwide Body of Christ finds opportunity to converge national histories and speak of distinctive pilgrimages in the face of opposing forces. When this happens, the threads of truth encounter and faith suffering demonstrate the depth of our common faith, the breadth of our encounter with divine love, and the height of our eternal Kingdom focus – empowering us to proclaim His glory among the nations!

Contrary to all human logic, it is the theme of persecution that strengthens, purifies, and unifies us in our faith. The forces of persecution are external – coming at us from every angle of cultural history that challenges a Christian worldview. The forces of persecution are also coming at us internally – directed specifically at the Church and its members with the fervour of unleashed hatred in opposition to God. The enemy of God strikes wherever he can to weaken the faith fibre of His Body. The triumphant suffering Church is that which leads forward to glory, even as the Suffering Servant is the precursor to the risen and glorified LORD of history!

This tension between the internal and the external is addressed in 1 John 2:15–17, where John exhorts us as follows:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. … For everything in the world … comes not from the Father but from the world. The world … passes away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

The world system attacks the Church at several levels with increasing intensity. In the Lausanne movement we acknowledge the increasing role of persecution from within and without the Church as something that demands our unified response.

1.1 The Lausanne Movement’s statements on persecution

The Lausanne Covenant of 1974 commented on the issue of ‘Freedom and Persecution’ in section 13. While recognising the inevitability of persecution, its signatories also pledged to pray and work for the freedom of those unjustly imprisoned or suffering for their faithfulness to Christ.

It is the God-appointed duty of every government to secure conditions of peace, justice and liberty in which the Church may obey God, serve the Lord Jesus Christ, and preach the gospel without interference. We therefore pray for the leaders of nations and call upon them to guarantee freedom of thought and conscience, and freedom to practise and propagate religion in accordance with the will of God and as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also express our deep concern for all who have been unjustly imprisoned, and especially for those who are suffering for their testimony to the Lord Jesus. We promise to pray and work for their freedom. At the same time we refuse to be intimidated by their fate. God helping us, we too will seek to stand against injustice and to remain faithful to the gospel, whatever the cost. We do not forget the warnings of Jesus that persecution is inevitable. (Clause 13, Lausanne Covenant)

Very helpful papers have been made presented at Lausanne 1974 and at later consultations, especially on the theology of the cross, discipleship and service (see papers on Lausanne website: lausanne.org). Some stated that “suffering first, followed by glory” is God’s sovereign pattern that effects growth and purification of His Church. These contributions seemed to come in the majority from those who aimed at counterbalancing what might lead the Lausanne movement toward a theology of success. Only a few deal explicitly and at length with suffering and persecution, none with martyrdom.

More emphasis seems to be given to strategy than to theology when the suffering Church and restricted access nations are considered. However, the Lausanne movement has shown a complementary theological emphasis. This is promising, since theology can be beyond culture whereas strategy works within culture. The strategic implementation in each particular context should rather be left to those who are in that context.

The Manila Manifesto of 1989 (Lausanne II) reiterated the need to stand against injustice and oppression, giving as the ninth of its 21 affirmations the statement:

We affirm that the proclamation of God’s kingdom of justice and peace demands the denunciation of all injustice and oppression, both personal and structural; we will not shrink from this prophetic witness. (Affirmation 9, Manila Manifesto)

The Manila Manifesto went on to look at ‘Difficult Situations’ (section 12). Like the Lausanne Covenant, it affirmed the inevitability of Christian persecution, recognising that on the whole ‘it seems that ancient religions are becoming less tolerant, expatriates less welcome, and the world less friendly to the gospel’. On the specific issue of religious freedom, the Manila Manifesto endorsed once again the call for the rights affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Lausanne Covenant had highlighted.

Christians earnestly desire freedom of religion for all people, not just freedom for Christianity. In predominantly Christian countries, Christians are at the forefront of those who demand freedom for religious minorities. In predominantly non-Christian countries, therefore, Christians are asking for themselves no more than they demand for others in similar circumstances. The freedom to ‘profess, practise and propagate’ religion, as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, could and should surely be a reciprocally granted right. (part of Manila Manifesto elaboration, section 12)

A particular contribution to the issue was made by a Lausanne Occasional Paper on Ministry in Islamic Contexts, published in 1996, being the report of a 1995 consultation held in Nicosia, sponsored by LCWE, the Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Servants Fellowship International (IISIC).1 The report noted that there was a broad range of religious freedom deprivations within the Muslim world, and proposed a hierarchy of religious freedom rights to be pursued from urgently required minimal rights (personal security, right to worship, right to establish churches) to full religious freedom in terms of equality of civil and human rights in a pluralistic context. Likewise it set out a hierarchy of responses to violations of rights of religious freedom, starting with approaches which are built on relationships and are private in nature, before moving on to approaches focusing on power and which are public in nature.

The report recommended that specific resources be made available to help churches, ministries and other Christian groups to evaluate appropriate responses to religious freedom infringements, one such resource being a document discussing factors for assessing when advocacy is appropriate and what form it should take.

The report also asserted the need for any dialogue between Christians and Muslims on issues of human rights and religious freedom to be based on principles designed to ensure that such dialogue is constructive. It encouraged familiarity with the commitments to international legal norms expressed in various conventions and declarations. It recommended that a Religious Liberty Consulting Group be established for the Muslim world by the International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in appropriate consultation with others. The Consulting Group should be equipped with a resource centre and staffed by experts in appropriate disciplines such as international law. It was envisaged that this Consulting Group would be supported by a broad cross-section of Christian organisations with ministry and advocacy interests in the Muslim world.

Looking at the development of the Lausanne movement as a whole, one can observe that most paragraphs of the Lausanne Covenant have received extensive further treatment or even the attention of whole consultations. But no consultation of LCWE has yet dealt explicitly with suffering, persecution and martyrdom. A growing call for a theology of suffering and a consultation devoted to it, can be heard in the Lausanne movement. Those who have been living under adverse circumstances for a long time call on the Body of Christ for help to break out of their isolation. Others, who start feeling the pain of mounting adversity, call for spiritual preparation of the churches for times of persecution.

Still others remind one of the biblical teaching in the light of eschatology, while yet others expect much from intensified lobbying for religious freedom within the context of universal human rights.

Important issues have been raised, but many remain to be dealt with more extensively. They include:

  • The relationship between human suffering in general, suffering for Christ’s sake, and Christ’s own suffering.
  • The relationship between human rights and the way of the cross.
  • The sovereignty of God concerning suffering and Church growth.
  • The Church as the Body of Christ suffering and rejoicing with its members.
  • The problem of secret disciples and those backslidden or fallen during times of persecution, and the churches’ attitude toward them.
  • Suffering, persecution and martyrdom in the light of eschatology.

1.2 Factors contributing to persecution

There are a range of forces and factors that contribute to current persecution, either directly or indirectly; some of the most influential of these will be considered below. Since September 11, 2001 all of these must be set in the context of the greatly heightened hostility to Christians that has resulted from the American-led response to the terrorist atrocities which were perpetrated in the USA on that day. The West’s so-called “War on Terror” continues to be seen in the Muslim world as a “War on Islam” and is bitterly resented. For most Muslims there is no hope of getting the revenge they desire on Americans, British and westerners in general, but instead they often do have opportunity to attack local Christians in their own countries, the logic of this being that such Christians are co-religionists of the “Christian” West. Thus a spate of anti-Christian violence occurred around the Muslim world soon after the US attacks on Afghanistan in late 2001, and such violence continues against both Christian and western targets.

A key characteristic of our world today is globalization by which western culture is becoming increasingly dominant. While this has positive aspects in that communication is facilitated, there are also negative aspects related to identity. Those who react against globalization and westernization may emphasise their own identity including its religious and cultural aspects. This may lead to an aggression towards Christianity which is seen as “the religion of the West” as well as towards, say, McDonalds, which is seen as “the culture of the West”. Globalization is but one factor in the fundamentalism and revival which are currently being seen in many faiths, a revival which in itself can be sometimes manifested in anti-Christian discrimination or persecution. Many religions which had lain quiet and “dormant” for decades or centuries have now become vibrant and confident, propagating their faith and often oppressing those of other faiths. Christians are particularly vulnerable in this respect because of the missionary nature of the Christian faith, which brings them into more direct confrontation with other religions.

Closely linked to the sense of identity is a resurgent nationalism and consciousness of ethnicity which is often a factor in contemporary anti-Christian persecution. Forces of difference are pitted against forces of unity. Many conflicts have multi-faceted causes in which religion and ethnicity may be inextricably linked, especially where for historic reasons the Christian population is largely of different ethnic origin from the majority population. Christian minorities are not helped by the fact that Western colonialism is still bitterly resented, and that Christianity is often considered by the majority population to be the religion of the former colonial masters. Christians are therefore assumed to have no loyalty to their homeland, and very likely to be spying or otherwise acting for western countries and interests. They are widely mistrusted.

Another feature which is increasingly prevalent across the world today is an economic disparity which is seen in many countries as a widening gulf between rich and poor. Environmental problems and disasters may also contribute to the growing disparity. This is relevant to the persecution of Christians in two ways. Firstly, there is resentment towards the wealthy whose wealth is perceived to be linked to the capitalism of the “Christian” West; this resentment may be expressed in hostility to Christian minorities. This can be exacerbated if Christians are seen to be receiving material and economic aid from western sources. Secondly, in many countries where Christians form a minority, they are, for various reasons, (such as discrimination in education and employment, or descent from despised castes) amongst the poorer strata of society. The increasing poverty of the poor, accompanied by increasing competition for the few jobs and resources there may be, therefore results in greater difficulties for the Christian community which is increasingly marginalized. Furthermore, economic disadvantage often leads to social unrest, which can be channelled by radical religious movements to target Christians.

In the West post-modernism is posing a huge threat to the Church. The relativism which is such a major feature of post-modern culture rejects any claim to exclusivity or uniqueness. Thus evangelical Christians are condemned as fundamentalists, an epithet which, as used by western society at large, has become indicative of unacceptable intolerance. Ironically secularism itself is developing traits which parallel those of traditional religion, particularly in its intolerance of others and hostility to alternative belief systems. This hostility seems to be particularly focused on Christianity, rather than on the more recently arrived faiths now present in the West, and looks set to become a serious factor of repression of the Church. Daily offence is suffered by Christian believers in the West as they hear the Lord Jesus mocked and blasphemed without restraint, and as Christianity, especially “born again Christianity”, becomes a standard target of abuse and denigration. This may soon begin to match the daily offence suffered by Christians in other contexts where Christ and Christianity are routinely and publicly scorned, for example, Bangladesh and a host of other Muslim countries.

Different understandings of the term ‘religious freedom’

When speaking about ‘religious freedom’, care must be taken to distinguish between a legal and a theological understanding of the term. Legally, the term is interchangeable with the term ‘religious liberty’. A definition is given in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1898) (available online at http://www.bartleby.com/81/10204.html).

Religious Liberty. Freedom in religious opinions, and in both private and public worship, provided such freedom in no wise interferes with the equal liberty of others.

Alternatively it can be defined as in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 18: Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

A theological understanding hinges on the ‘Golden Rule’ to do to others what one would wish to be done to oneself, i.e. an ethical principle, a moral imperative. It can be scripturally defined from places like 2 Corinthians 3:17 ‘Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty’ (KJV) and from the accounts of the apostles’ preaching activities, which the government authorities at times sought to limit or prohibit, according to the book of Acts. The gospel itself contains the imperative to be preached to all creation, no matter what the consequences might be. The apostle of Jesus Christ is under orders to proclaim freedom, however paradoxical that may sound. The freedom of the apostle, missionary, or preacher consists, first and foremost, in being bound to Christ. He or she cannot claim special privileges from the government but can only appeal to its representative’s conscience and goodwill. In some cases, especially when the preacher, like Paul the apostle, enjoys certain privileges and freedom rights as a citizen, a claim to these legal freedom rights can be made. In our days, the rights that should be universally enjoyed according to the UDHR, can be invoked, but even if they are denied, the Christian should seek by any means to keep his or her faith, to teach it to others, to pray in private and in fellowship with other Christians, to worship communally, and, when called, to preach the gospel openly.

While the deteriorating situation in the West does not (yet) merit the term ‘persecution’, it should be recognised that there is a reduction in religious freedom which is primarily affecting Christians, with non-Christian religions apparently protected by an unwritten agreement of media, the entertainment industry, governments and society at large.

This overview of primary factors is not comprehensive but has sought only to identify some of the causes of Christian persecution which are most typical of our age. There are also secondary factors – means and mechanisms to facilitate persecution – which are likewise particularly characteristic of our times. Foremost amongst these must be the media and information systems. Modern communications, in particular the internet and satellite television, have completely revolutionised the way in which human beings can get their message across to others. The dissemination of disinformation and propaganda is easier to achieve than ever before, as are the incitement of hatred and the organisation of deliberate anti-Christian violence.

Another secondary factor worth mentioning in this overview are the formal legal and constitutional structures of modern nation-states. Some countries, especially in the communist world, have for many decades had laws of various kinds which have been used to persecute Christians. In addition, countries which had previously been influenced by colonial legislation and methods are now moving away from this heritage and seeking to develop their own authentic legal systems, for example, the move towards Islamic law which is inherently discriminatory towards non-Muslims. In these contexts Christians have no possibility of recourse to law to seek to obtain their human rights or religious freedom. More often, however, the law and constitution are blameless, but their implementation is at fault due either to the prejudice of individual members of the judiciary or police or due to official government policy. Sometimes in the latter case a raft of other regulations may override constitutional or legal guarantees. A development now occurring in western countries with a history of religious freedom is the use of so-called anti-discrimination laws which are in effect used to discriminate against Christians by preventing them from upholding and expressing their ethical beliefs.

This overview has looked only at some of the most obvious factors involved in the persecution of the Church in addition to specific religious factors. The various specific contexts which are focused on below will seek to make clear how these factors take effect in practice. In some cases one factor predominates, but in many cases there are multiple dominant factors as for example in Vietnam where religion, communism and nationalism are all important reasons for the persecution of the Church.

Samuel Huntington has used the term ‘clash of civilizations’ to summarise many aspects of this situation.2 Two particular civilizations identified have intentions of world dominance, based upon their theologies. Islam and Christianity provide the most explosive context for persecution, and history demonstrates that reality. But even setting aside the issue of persecution, a real clash of expectations and norms exists between these two civilisations as for example with Turkey’s proposed law to criminalise adultery which would be entirely unacceptable to the Judeo-Christian-heritage countries of the European Union which Turkey is seeking to join. A similar issue that has yet to become a topical reality would be polygamy which is common amongst the British Muslim community, for example, though rarely acknowledged officially since bigamy is a crime in the UK.

It also appears that in addition to the external clashes between different civilizations, there is an internal clash within individual civilizations as tensions between tradition and modernity, which can to some extent be attributed to globalization, seem liable to lead to the collapse of the age-old civilizations. This has resulted in growing conflicts which can lead to armed violence in some situations. In these contexts Christian minorities find themselves victims whether they are caught in the crossfire or are deliberately targeted. Added to this is the fact that some traditional civilizations are characterised by religious territoriality i.e. where religion and land are linked. In such civilizations, religious minorities had no place, as for example in classical Hinduism’s concept of “Hindustan” or if they were accepted it was with a subordinate status, for example, the dhimmis of classical Islam.

In summary, we know that the Body of Christ has always been called to suffering, just as Christ Himself was the suffering Servant. Rightly responded to, this persecution can serve in a wonderful way to build up believers in their individual faith, as well as to strengthen the Church. In the twentieth century this was at first primarily in the communist context but latterly it has been seen increasingly in the context of other faiths and of secularism. The early years of the twenty-first century have seen this trend become even more highly developed, particularly in respect of Islam following 9/11 and its repercussions.

2. The Contexts

The Body of Christ is subjected to persecution in a wide range of contexts and in many different ways. Surely the most tragic instances must be those places where Christians oppress each other; for example, Protestants in Russia are harassed by the Orthodox Church, who try to limit their freedoms with regard to evangelism and church buildings. In certain parts of Mexico evangelicals are severely persecuted by adherents of the dominant Roman Catholic Church. In Eritrea we see the phenomenon of a communist government severely repressing certain Protestant denominations (particularly Pentecostals), and other religious groups. In 2002 public worship by these groups was forbidden and orders given for all buildings to close. Followers are arrested and often tortured while in detention. Yet the same communist government recognises other Christians (Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran) as well as mainstream Muslims, permitting them to practise their faiths.

Another kind of persecution comes when Christians are caught in the cross-fire of local conflicts in which they are not directly involved. An example of this is the plight of Palestinian Christians in the West Bank, and also the situation in Colombia where the longest lasting insurgency in the western hemisphere has created 3 million displaced people of whom approximately 450,000 are evangelical Christians. Since 1998 over 400 evangelical churches in Colombia have been forced to close, and more than 100 pastors and leaders assassinated by illegal armed groups. Children of church members are seized by the armed groups and forced to fight, often in the front lines as “cannon fodder” – the first to be killed in battle. Many rural churches have been forced to make financial donations to the armed groups; if they refuse they are threatened with the kidnapping or death of the pastor or his family. Guerrillas who are caught by the government and give names of “collaborators” (in exchange for lenient treatment) often falsely accuse evangelicals of collaboration; the evangelicals are then arrested. The Colombian government has made charges against some Christian workers who have a ministry of conflict resolution.

Four major contemporary contexts of pressure will be considered in detail below:

  • Persecution of Christians in Islamic contexts.
  • Persecution of Christians in Hindu contexts (selected as an example of oriental religions).
  • Persecution of Christians in communist and post-communist contexts.
  • The challenge posed by secularism to the Church in the West.

These four contexts do not cover the totality of persecution of Christians, but have been chosen to present an overview of the majority of current persecution. The four major context studies are supplemented with two specific case studies. The first of these is on Vietnam, which is presented as an example of how various causes of persecution can overlap and reinforce each other. The second case study is on Mexico, representing one of the situations where Christians are persecuted by other Christians.

2.1 The Islamic context

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Islam has emerged as a main persecutor of Christians around the world. Christians have been suffering to varying degrees under Islam since its inception, but at the start of the twenty-first century, persecution of Christians by Muslims seems to be on the increase across most of the Muslim world.

(a) Reasons for Persecution

There are a number of causes that seem to underlie the majority of cases where Christians are suffering in the Islamic context.

There is a prevailing attitude amongst Muslims, derived from Islamic doctrine, that Christians are naturally inferior to Muslims and should be treated as such. Behind many or most of the restrictions to which Christians in the Muslim world are subject, is the conviction that Muslims are unquestionably far superior to all other religious groups. Only Muslims are considered able to be full citizens, and only Muslims can exercise political rule. The God-ordained relationship between Muslims and non-Muslim communities is that of dominant versus subordinate, expressed in the subservience and public humiliation of the non-Muslim minorities who are seen as weak and shameful. Contempt for all non-Muslim minorities, including Christians, is an expression of the God-decreed superiority of Islam.

An Islamic revival is seen in the increasing power and influence of conservative expressions of Islam within the Islamic world. Such Islamism is fuelled by a return to certain classical interpretations of Islamic sources, as espoused by movements such as the Wahabbism that prevails in Saudi Arabia. In such an understanding of Islam, Christians are often defined not as protected ‘people of the book’ (as in mainstream classical Islam), but as rejecters of Islam, pact-breakers or even infidels.

Furthermore there is a prevailing attitude that Christianity is a western faith and is only embraced by western collaborators. Christians are widely assumed to be western spies and a fifth column for the West in the heart of Islam. Conspiracy theories abound that turn Christians into scapegoats.

The situation of evangelical Christians is sometimes exacerbated by various factors. They tend to have the closest links to the West and to western agencies active in evangelism amongst Muslims. As a result they may attract blame and accusation from traditional Christian denominations, which tend to identify the evangelical Church as being responsible for much of the isolation and persecution being suffered by Christians as a whole. An example of this is seen in the bombings of five churches of various denominations in Iraq on 1st August 2004.

Some of the traditional Christian denominational leaders within the country identified western evangelicals as those who were active in seeking to convert Muslims, and argued that the evangelicals should therefore be the ones who should face the attacks.

(b) Trends in persecution

There is a growing movement within Islam that enforces a militant expression of Islam which often manifests itself in the isolation and persecution of Christians. Implicit approval from local authorities and governments allows such persecution to continue largely unhindered and unpunished. Often there are reports of complicity between persecutors and local authorities when confronting Christian minorities. This is especially seen in situations dealing with converts to Christianity from an Islamic background.

Perhaps the most disturbing trend in current anti-Christian persecution in the Muslim world is the division between traditional and historic denominations and the evangelical church. This rift appears to be growing. Islam has successfully pitted the Body of Christ against one another, and this disunity has put all in greater danger.

As a result of the causes stated above, the persecution of Christians in the Islamic contexts appears to be growing. Recent decades have seen more Christians being persecuted and an increase in the severity of such persecution in virtually every Muslim-majority nation. A dramatic exception to this trend is Algeria, though Christian freedom now seems to be under threat there as well. To some extent the situation for national believers in Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey has also improved but without any certainty that this will prove dependable or long-lasting.

(c) Methods of persecution

In some countries it is the government and its organs that persecute Christians through unjust laws, restrictions on church activities, arbitrary arrest, torture and imprisonment. An extreme example is Saudi Arabia where all non-Muslim public religious practice is banned. In several Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iran and Sudan, the law specifies the death sentence for a Muslim who converts to another religion such as Christianity. In Sudan the Islamic government for decades has pursued a ruthless policy of Arabizing and Islamizing the mainly non-Muslim and non-Arab south, resulting in millions of Southerners, including Christians, being killed, and millions more being internally displaced. In Iran the government has severely restricted the activities of Protestants, closing several churches and the Bible Society. Iranian churches are forbidden to hold services in Farsi, the national language. Several Iranian Christian leaders have been abducted and killed apparently by the Secret Service, and one convert from Islam has been executed.

In some countries, vocal Islamists are pressuring governments to become more Islamic, implement shari•a, and take a more negative stance towards Christians. Armed radical Islamist militias raid and attack Christians to reinstate Muslim superiority and dominance in many parts of the world. In Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan and other countries this has been an ongoing and intensifying process. Governments are often unwilling to defend their Christian citizens because of the powerful influence of radical Islamists.

Following incitement by radical preachers and local authorities, communal and mob violence has repeatedly erupted against Christians in various countries. This has happened in Nigeria, Indonesia, and Egypt, among others.

Usually there is a combination of all three elements working together to worsen the persecution of Christians. Traditional ingrained attitudes of contempt to Christians are widespread, opening the way for both covert and open cooperation between political leaders, radical Islamists and antiChristian preachers.

(d) Some examples of persecution

(i) Egypt

The Christian Copts (10 to 16% of the population) have lived under Islamic rule as dhimmis since the seventh century. From the end of the nineteenth century to the 1920’s a consensus emerged around a secular-liberal national identity. Christians were heavily involved in the freedom struggle against the British. This was the Golden Age for the Copts. The consensus soon broke due to the rise of pan-Arabism and Islamism – Islam became central to the Egyptian national identity, and the Copts were marginalised, even though the constitution offered theoretical equality. Islamists saw Copts as allied to the imperialist West and to western plots against Islam.

Coptic trust lands were confiscated by Nasser, and not returned when Islamic trust lands were returned to Muslim endowments, but were seized by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. Christians face great difficulties in obtaining permits to repair and build churches, which until 1999 required presidential approval. Permission for repairs has now been devolved to local government, while the president still has power to decide on the building of new churches. Applying for either kind of permission is a long, slow process with no guarantee of success.

Islam is taught in all state schools to all pupils, but Christianity cannot be taught to Christian children. Textbooks denigrate Christianity. Coptic teachers cannot teach Arabic. No Christian university is allowed. There is an asymmetry in conversions – Copts are encouraged to convert to Islam, but Muslims who convert to Christianity face harassment and severe persecution. Copts are restricted in admission to the military, police, medical schools, and high academic or public office.

Christians living in rural communities today are facing severe levels of isolation and persecution. Villages have been razed and family farms and places of business run and owned by Christians have been burned. Sometimes the traditional jizya tax on non-Muslims has been demanded. There is little if any punishment of the culprits.

Especially disturbing is the treatment of Christians who have converted from Islam. These believers face grave dangers from a variety of sources, including isolation, ostracism, and harassment by the authorities including arrest and torture or even murder on a variety of pretexts. In situations of conversion, local authorities often give silent compliance to families of the believers, and this sometimes leads to the murder of the converted individuals at the hands of their family.

(ii) Sudan

Although Sudan gained independence in 1956 a civil war between the predominantly Muslim North and the inhabitants of the South raged from 1955 to 1973. In 1965 massacres occurred in the South, along with the systematic persecution of Christians and the destruction of many churches and mission stations. Shari‘a laws were introduced in 1967. In 1972 a peace accord was signed, giving the South greater regional autonomy. In 1973 a new Islamic constitution was passed, while at the same time certain minority rights were granted to the non-Muslims in the South. In 1983 the regional autonomy was ended and the government, based in the predominantly Muslim north of the country, imposed shari‘a law over the whole country. This imposition was rejected by the South, most of whose inhabitants were either Christian or followers of traditional African religions. A military campaign against the South, to enforce the government’s decision, resulted in a civil war that is still continuing in 2004 despite a number of recent peace agreements.

This campaign was later described by the Sudanese government as a jihad. During the campaign countless villages in the South have been destroyed, women have been abducted and taken to the North to serve as concubines, and children have been taken as slaves. When villages are razed by government soldiers it has often been Christian pastors who are killed first, in order to encourage conversion to Islam among the other villagers. The government also uses the tool of starvation in certain areas of the South and even in Christian refugee camps in the North by limiting or denying foreign aid to these regions. It is estimated that two and a half million have died in Sudan since 1983 and that four to five million have been displaced within the country or outside it. During this time there has been enormous growth of the Church in South Sudan.

(iii) Indonesia

Following independence, an inclusive Pancasila State philosophy established a fairly tolerant modern State identity. Pancasila translates roughly as “five principles” and was first described by Sukarno in a speech in June 1945. The five principles are:

• Kebangsaan (nationalism)

• Kemanusiaan (humanism or internationalism)

• Kerakyatan (representative government or democracy)

• Keadilan Sosial (social justice)

• Ketuhanan (monotheism)

All are to be based in “gotong royong” (community cooperation or working together). All those indigenous communities of Indonesia which would adhere to these and took part in the struggle for independence were recognised under Indonesian law.

Later Pancasila was made part of the standard curriculum, and all organisations in Indonesia were required to adopt Pancasila as their guiding ideology. This caused a degree of controversy in the 1980’s as some Indonesians felt that Pancasila was being redefined to mean loyalty to the person of President Suharto. Muslims also were concerned that they were possibly being asked to place Pancasila above their faith.

As Suharto’s grip on power diminished in the 1990s, he used conservative Islam against the demands for democracy and human rights. This fuelled an Islamic revival and the growth of radical Islamist groups demanding an Islamic state under shari‘a. Islamist militias were formed such as Laskar Jihad and Jema‘a Islamiyya.

The loss of mainly Christian East Timor (1999-2002) was a source of deep shame to the Muslim population and to the security forces in Indonesia. It generated a desire for revenge against the West that had supported East Timor’s demands for independence. Indonesian Christians were accused of separatist sentiments, secularism, and of being allies of the Christian West against Muslim Indonesia.

Central Sulawesi, the Malukus and Irian Jaya have been infiltrated by thousands of radical militias including foreign mujahidin. Militant Islamists have engaged in jihad and ethnic cleansing against Christian regions. Laskar Jihad, Jema‘a Islamiyya and other militants attacked Christian villages and churches, resulting in destruction, murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, and forced conversions. The military and police forces in these regions were often complicit in violence against Christians. From 1999 to 2002 anti-Christian violence in the Malukus resulted in at least 10,000 Christians killed (perhaps as many as 30,000) and 500,000 displaced. In Central Sulawesi, from 1998 to 2002, an estimated 2,500 Christians were killed and 50,000 displaced. A peace accord in 2002 disarmed the Christians but not the jihadists. Tensions and sporadic violence have continued. In both regions Christian churches, institutions and whole villages were destroyed. Forcible conversions of Christians to Islam, including forced circumcisions were carried out, and Christian women were raped.

(iv) Nigeria

In modern Nigeria Muslims and Christians are almost equal in number, but unevenly distributed. There are three “belts”: the Muslim majority North, the Christian majority South, and the Middle Belt where Christians and Muslims are equally distributed. Ethnic, religious, and regional differences combine to form an explosive mixture. Northern Nigeria has a history of Muslim jihads and caliphates (Sokoto, Borno). Modern Nigerian politics has been mainly dominated by Muslims since the 1960’s. The military dictatorship, consisting mainly of northern Muslim officers, manipulated Islam to retain power and started the Islamization process.

The rapid spread of Christianity and the election of a Christian, Olusegun Obasanjo, to the Presidency in 1999, caused Muslims to fear losing their supremacy. This was coupled to growing Islamist infiltration that further radicalized the Muslim population. The imposition of full shari‘a in northern and central Nigerian States (Zamfara first in 1999, now 12 States), was seen as licence to discriminate against Christians. There has been much inflammatory preaching resulting in mob violence and riots. Many Christians have been injured or killed. Christian churches, property, and villages have been destroyed, and there has been an internal displacement of Christians. Muslim leaders stated that shari‘a would not apply to non-Muslims, but in reality gender segregation, Islamic dress codes and other Islamic practices are being forced on them. Shari‘a has effectively turned Northern Christians into second-class marginalized citizens. During Obasanjo’s first four years in office (1999-2003) over 10,000 people, mainly Christians, were killed in the anti-Christian violence.

(v) Saudi Arabia

The Saudi government enforces Wahhabi Islam to the exclusion of all other faiths. All citizens must be Muslims. The public practice of non-Muslim faiths is prohibited. No church buildings are allowed in Saudi Arabia. Foreign clergy are not allowed into the country for the purpose of conducting religious services. As an example, no priests are allowed to cater for the religious needs of over 600,000 Filipino workers, 90% of whom are Catholic.

The government has stated that it allows non-Muslim foreigners to practice their faith at home and in private. However, it does not provide explicit guidelines about what constitutes ‘private’ worship, and many non-Muslims have been harassed for practicing their faith. Most Christian groups are obliged to conduct their activities in secret to escape detection by the religious police (mutawwa‘). No Bibles or crosses are allowed. Those who attract official attention have suffered a variety of punishments including arrest, imprisonment, lashes, torture and deportation. Filipino, Ethiopian, and other developing world Christians are especially targeted, as their governments are seen as too weak to protect them. In the summer of 2001 there was a crackdown in Jeddah on a loose network of private Christian “home fellowships”. All were arrested, detained without charge, and confined to harsh prison conditions and repeated interrogations. All were deported by March 2002 after months in prison.

(vi) Pakistan

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan was founded in 1947 as a homeland for the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent. The Christian community numbers some 3% of the population and the majority are descended from the lowest caste Hindu converts to Christianity. Because of their caste and their faith they are despised by mainstream society and are given the worst paid, most menial jobs. An estimated 80% of bonded labourers in Pakistan are Christian. Poverty and discrimination restrict their access to education, employment and to justice in the courts.

The notorious ‘Blasphemy Law’ decrees death for anyone who even accidentally ‘defiles the name’ of Muhammad, and life imprisonment for any one who desecrates a copy of the Qur’an. This law has been abused by Muslims seeking to settle personal grudges against Christians. There is no penalty for false accusations of blasphemy, and law courts have a tendency to believe Muslims rather than Christians. Many Christians have been accused of blasphemy, imprisoned for years awaiting judgement, and condemned to death. Some were finally released on appeal to higher courts. Some of those accused have been murdered by zealous Muslims.

Following the American attack on Afghanistan in 2001, armed militant Islamists have attacked churches and other Christian institutions and murdered many Christians, including women and children. In the year 2002 alone, over 40 Christians were killed and more than 100 injured in such attacks.

(vii) West Bank/Palestinian Territories

Christians in the West Bank and Palestinian Authority Area have increasingly been confronted with the challenges of persecution. Christian communities and homes are often avoided by Israeli police and military forces because they are not perceived as a threat, while at the same time, homes of neighbouring Muslims are razed and destroyed. This leads to Palestinian Christians being identified by Palestinian Muslims as Zionists and western collaborators, and produces greater isolation and eventual persecution of the Christian communities in these regions.

(viii) East Africa

In East Africa Islamic extremists funded the education and training of African students in Saudi Arabia. This has had the apparent effect of radicalizing a once moderate Muslim community, and thus greatly endangering the Christian community. In some locations, Christians are now being ostracized by their neighbours. Churches are not being allowed to be built in ‘Islamic’ areas, and the evangelical witness and spread of the Church in these areas is being challenged.

(ix) Maldives

In 1998 all expatriate missionaries were expelled from the country. These missionaries had lived in relative peace and friendly relationship with their neighbours. The nation is now officially considered to be 100% Islamic, although there are believed to be a small number of indigenous Christians living in isolation within the country. Persecution extends to all non-Muslims. In many cases hostility and violence towards Christians is fostered by the government whose human rights record has continued to deteriorate.

(x) Comoros

Expatriate Christians are free to follow their Christian faith openly, but Comorian Christians meet secretly in house fellowships. Both the open church and the house churches are fearful of persecution and therefore very cautious in their ministry and outreach. Comorian Christians all suffer some degree of harassment and persecution from their own families and relatives and this is one of the reasons why they do not dare to meet together openly.

2.2 The Hindu context

The persecution of Christians in Hindu contexts will be described with particular reference to India, where Hinduism is the majority religion and the main persecutor. However, there is also persecution of Christians who have left other religions to follow Christ, including those from Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism.

There is a history of tolerance, and the population in general is still tolerant. However, in recent years a Hindu extremist minority has initiated a widespread, deeply rooted and growing persecution. Some Indian States are particularly severely affected, for example Orissa. In many cases the government response to attacks by Hindu extremists has been inadequate.

(a) Reasons for persecution

With regard to Hinduism, persecution stems from Hindu extremists and their organizations such as the VHP (Visva Hindu Purshad) and RSS (Rastrea Savak Samaj) and from some political parties like the BJP (Bhratia Janata Party, in government for several years until mid-2004) and their militant fanatic groups. Another but less important factor is rejection of converts from Hinduism by relatives and by the community, on the basis of the caste system.

Hindu nationalism exalts Hinduism as the national identity. It is claimed that India is for Hindus, whereas Christianity is an imported religion which involves worshipping the ‘God of America’. Hindu nationalism is responsible for the majority of cases of persecution. A minority of persecution cases stem from traditional culture and family ties. Hindu nationalists are fearful of the mass conversion of Hindus to Christianity, triggered by large evangelistic crusades (by foreign evangelists) in the Christian-dominated south. In response to such crusades, several states passed anticonversion laws whose effect was to prescribe a prison sentence and a fine equivalent to US$3,000 for conversion. Tamil Nadu State later announced the repeal of its law.

(b) Methods of persecution

Disinformation about Christians typically condemns church leaders as hirelings of America. It is widely thought that people convert to Christianity for material benefits only, so any help given by Christians to others is believed to be done for the purpose of eliciting conversions. The phrase ‘SoupSoap-Salvation’ is used to sum this up. A formalised discrimination against Christians occurs in terms of the quotas set aside in education, jobs and politics. Some 60% of Indian Christians are from the lowest caste, the Dalits (also called the scheduled castes), those who are ‘untouchable’. Dalits who follow Hinduism, neo-Buddhism or Sikhism are eligible for the Dalit quota of 16% of educational places, jobs and political seats at national level. Christian Dalits are not eligible to be included in this quota. All that Christians have is a 1% quota at State level for educational places and jobs. Christians believe that only some 10-20% of ‘Hindu’ Dalits are actually staunch Hindus, while the majority are secret Christians.

In terms of outright violence towards Christians, pastors are whipped, spat upon and murdered. Catholic nuns are raped and a pastor’s wife was kidnapped in 2004. Evangelists are stoned and ridiculed. A group of women who had converted to Christianity in one village had their heads shaved and were forced out of the village. Church buildings have been burnt in many places. No permission is granted to build new churches or to rebuild churches which have been burnt down, whereas land is provided free of charge for Hindu temples. Muslims face similar problems with mosques and rebuilding mosques.

The targets of persecution include not only Christians but also any former Hindus who leave their faith. There is also reciprocal aggression between Muslims and Hindus, manifesting itself in riots and fights.

2.3 Communist and Communist influenced contexts

There are ten countries which fall into this category, of which seven have communist governments, namely, China, Vietnam, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, Myanmar (a totalitarian regime with many similarities to communism) and Eritrea. The remaining three are Mongolia, Peru (where Christians are persecuted by the Marxist Shining Path guerrillas) and Nepal (where Christians are persecuted by Maoist rebels and the Hindu government). More than 1.5 billion people live in these countries.

(a) Reasons for persecution

The collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe has shown the remaining communist governments how Christianity, accompanied by the peaceful use of democracy and human rights, can bring down a government. They are therefore all the more wary of the Church in their respective countries.

It is important to realize that technological modernization and economic reform do not lead to a more liberal treatment of Christians. Although other areas of ideology may be rapidly changing, the traditional Marxist view of religion and the way in which the government operates, tend to be unaffected by such developments. Thus, for example, there has been a marked increase in persecution of Christians this year (2004) despite an improving economic situation in these countries.

(b) Methods of persecution

Typically the government establishes a bureau of religious affairs, whose job is to control and suppress the expression of religion, especially Christianity. Common methods of persecuting individual Christians are imprisonment, beating, humiliation, murder, and confiscation of personal goods, homes and property. Christians may be discriminated against in such a way that they are deprived of educational opportunities.

Communist governments increasingly use the ‘rule of law’ to persecute the Church, such as laws banning the possession and distribution of information harmful to the State. In some contexts, the smallest kind of altercation with a police officer could result in an accusation of interfering with a police officer in the execution of his duty. Another common method is using zoning laws to justify the closure of house churches; this type of law has been used in China even to destroy a Three Self Church. In Vietnam laws against disturbing public order and unity are frequently used. In Myanmar ‘secret laws’ have been quoted to justify the destruction of Bible school buildings.

Another method, which began to be used in China, Vietnam and Laos in the mid-1990’s, is to encourage and facilitate the revival of other religions (which were formerly opposed by communists) on the pretext of cultural preservation. These non-Christian religions, such as animism, Confucianism and ancestor-worship, are opposed to Christianity and will themselves help to suppress the Church. This strategy appears to have been adopted when it became apparent that twentieth century science had failed to eliminate religious belief.

As in so many contexts, disinformation about Christians is used to create animosity towards them; in particular, allegations of Christian links with western colonialism are frequently reinforced.

(c) Image presented to the West

All communist contexts have an official, state-sponsored, registered church and an unofficial, underground church. Very often a communist government will use the existence of the Statesponsored Church as propaganda to promote a positive image of their country in the West. Delegations of leaders from such churches may be sent to the West to talk about their situation. This disinformation is very effective in giving an impression of greater religious freedom than there really is.

Various pretexts are used for the persecution of Christians, particularly when there is a major crackdown. The most common are public security, either invoking anti-terrorism or anti-cult measures, and safeguarding the environment for business investment.

It is important to note that although communist constitutions may allow for religious freedom other regulations will counteract this and ensure that such liberty is not granted in practice.

2.4 Secularism

Judeo-Christian freedoms in the West are under threat from the rise of secularism which can be considered a quasi-religious belief system displaying traits similar to traditional religion. Such traits include exclusive truth, hostility to alternative belief systems, and humanistic utopianism.

This subject is important not only for Christians in that part of the world which is dominated by secularism, but also because if Judeo-Christian freedoms continue to be undermined in the developed world, this will have adverse effects on Christian freedoms everywhere. International legal and political pressures are essential components in the application of diplomatic relief to persecuted Christian communities everywhere in the world.

(a) Legal freedoms and concerns

The two greatest areas of concern are the freedom of expression (the right to evangelize) and Church autonomy.

Freedom of expression as a fundamental freedom is self-evident. In developed states this has been a traditional human right that was thought to be unassailable. However, with the rise of sexual libertarian ethics (promiscuity, homosexuality, abortion), traditional religious teaching on sexual ethics is being restricted.

Church autonomy is a classic inherent component of religious freedom. The right of the Church to self-select its own membership, employees and doctrine without unwarranted State intrusion is fundamental to the functioning of the Church. A component part of the ‘religion’ of ‘secularism’ is sexual libertarianism and the pragmatic refusal to permit alternative structures of allegiance (such as duties towards religious organizations). In this area, our traditional freedoms premised upon Judeo-Christian thought patterns are in direct conflict with the values of the ‘religion’ of ‘secularism’. Unfortunately, secular society lacks its selfprofessed tolerance to those religious organizations that dissent from this view.

(b) Case Studies

(i) Freedom of expression – the example the freedom to oppose sexual libertarianism

In the context of persecution, we are not concerned with theological analysis of the issue of sexual libertarianism, but rather with the freedom of Christians to either support or oppose controversial issues free from the interference, whether from the State or from other sources. An example of this clash is manifested in Christian opposition to homosexuality. In Sweden in 2004, Pastor Green was prosecuted for a sermon on homosexuality; the case is currently under appeal and it is hoped that this will be successful.

Another example occurred in the UK. Mr Hammond was an evangelical Christian who regularly preached in the town square at Bournemouth. In October 2001 he carried a banner with the words ‘Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Stop Immorality’, and around its sides ‘Turn to Jesus’. A group of some 30 individuals, mostly healthy young men, assaulted Mr. Hammond, who was 69 and in poor health. Although it was accepted by the authorities that at all times he used ‘temperate’ language, Mr Hammond was arrested and prosecuted for ‘inciting’ his own attack. He died approximately eight months later. In January 2004 the High Court upheld his conviction under Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 arguing that “criticism” of homosexuality as ‘immoral’ was ‘insulting’ language and a criminal penalty was appropriate.

These cases, among others, illuminate the possible reality that component parts of evangelical belief could be suppressed by the authorities. In short, the Bible itself could be classified as “hate speech”.

The case of Mr Hammond must be juxtaposed with a pro-homosexual rally held in London in July 2002 in which there was a public reading of a poem about the Lord Jesus which was deeply offensive to Christians. The authorities refused to apply the blasphemy laws.

Such a ‘restricted’ form of freedom of expression is of particular concern in the light of the rise of both radical Islam and anti-Semitic discourse. There is a significant undermining of freedom of expression if temperate criticism of Islam or homosexuality receives antagonism and suppression from State and non-State sources, whilst the Christian and Jewish communities face outright hostility.

(ii) Church autonomy

Religious autonomy is a component part of religious freedom. The disciplining of Church members and the exclusion of those whose practices are disapproved of are vital elements of our religious heritage. No one is compelled to join a religious organization and the freedom of individuals (who are excluded from Church membership) is to join another religious body or to establish their own religious body. This is true religious freedom.

European Council Directive 78/2000 raised the issue of whether the Church was permitted to exclude homosexuals, and those of other religions from employment. If the Church were to be prevented from holding a doctrine-based recruitment policy, or from having the ability to enforce uniformity throughout the entire organization (from Minister to secretary), the mission voice of the Church would be seriously undermined.

In Parry v Vine Christian Fellowship [2002], a trans-sexual who had been excluded from a British church commenced legal proceedings. Mr Parry suffered from gender dysphasia and wanted to become a woman. His minister believed this was contrary to Church doctrine, but Mr Parry refused to accept Church authority and was excluded. Mr Parry sued under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Human Rights Act. The Church was successful in arguing that it was not offering ‘goods and services’ to the public under the 1975 Act. However, later in 2002, the European Court of Human Rights recognized the right of trans-sexual marriage (Goodwin v United Kingdom) and the United Kingdom Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (section 9 of which states that an individual must be treated ‘for all purposes’ as a person of the opposite sex). This has grave implications for Church freedom to maintain doctrine and sexual purity.

(c) Conclusion

The traditional understanding of North American society is that ‘freedom of religion’ means the freedom for religious institutions from unwarranted intrusion of the State. In Europe this principle is inverted to mean freedom of the State from the Church. The French doctrine of laïcité remains applicable.

In the case of Rafah Partisi (The Welfare Party) v Turkey (2003), the European Court (in upholding the banning of an Islamic political party) ruled that:-

…the Convention institutions have expressed the view that the principle of secularism is certainly one of the fundamental principles of the State, which are in harmony and respect for human rights and democracy. (paragraph 93)

It is to be hoped that this statement is limited to the situation of Turkey and the rise of radical Islamic parties. It is to be hoped that this principle is not applied to Judeo-Christian values as both a societal norm and as a basis of political activity.

2.5 Case Study: Vietnam – multiple factors in persecution

The government of Vietnam recognizes as legal only some 20 percent of Vietnam’s 1.2 million Protestants. Those belonging to the Evangelical Church of Vietnam – North (recognized in the mid- 1960’s) and the Evangelical Church of Vietnam – South (recognized in 2001) find their activities severely curtailed. The oppression of the majority of Protestant Christians in Vietnam, mainly minority Montagnards in the Central Highlands and Hmong and Dao in the North-west provinces, remains systematic and severe.

All of Vietnam’s more than 50 house church organizations remain illegal and subject to regular arbitrary harassment and mistreatment. This includes frequent raids of home worship meetings as well as the detention and abuse of house church leaders. Until the year 2000, persecution was usually done openly in the name of following “the illegal religion”. More recently officials are using non-religious pretences, such as “disturbing public order” or “resisting an official doing his duty” as reasons to arrest, try and convict Christian leaders. At least 10 Hmong Christian leaders remained prisoners of conscience in February 2004.

Vietnam continues to blatantly deny religious liberty abuses, pointing to its public policy of religious freedom and to the considerable public religious activity by legal churches in Hanoi and other major cities. However, even the legally recognized Protestant bodies remain under tight restrictions, depending on often long-delayed government approvals for the smallest items and routine activities. Worse still, hundreds of thousands of Vietnam’s Protestants in remote mountainous areas live not by Vietnam’s public pronouncements of freedom but under a harsh internal policy of repression.

(a) Reasons for persecution

There is widespread persecution of Christians among the majority Viet population from their closest relatives when they turn away from ancestor worship. This is the major cause of persecution though the country is also influenced by Buddhism and Confucianism.

Nationalism is the real driving force in politics and exalts traditional values. All that remains of communism is the rhetoric and a desire to cling to power. People maintain their “communist” allegiance for the material benefits that come with it. Communism operates within the framework of nationalism and not only accommodates, but also actively promotes the worship of ancestors and idols and the veneration and worship of national heroes.

In the communist view, Christianity is an imported religion brought by French Catholics and American Protestants. Those practising ancestor worship consider Christians to have forsaken their family, ancestors, tradition, culture and community. Eldest sons are particularly exposed as it is they who bear the responsibility for the perpetuation of ancestor worship.

(b) Methods of persecution

One of the main methods of persecution is by disinformation. Rumours are circulated that Christians perpetuate American reactionary influence and are American spies. Christians are also accused of trying to set up a State within the State. There are concocted cases built on false allegations and on accusations such as ‘not cooperating with the police’ or ‘opposing law enforcement’. There is also discrimination against Christians, for example, in some places they are refused loans.

The police come to check on any new house church that is formed and seek to close the meeting. They will threaten and insult the Christians, sometimes exposing them in handcuffs to public ridicule. Occasionally fines are issued (for example on the pretext of causing too much noise) and any who do not pay are brought in for questioning again. If Christians persist in meeting despite initial police harassment, and if these meetings do not exceed 20 people they are often ignored or tolerated. If there are more than 20 people attending then harassment continues. However, from time to time those who attend house churches are arrested and detained for a day or several days; sometimes they are beaten. House church leaders are often summoned by the authorities for long and exhausting questioning.

Until now discrimination and persecution were based merely on regulations. On 15 November 2004 this will change, with the enforcement of a new law on religion which will make all house churches illegal and is expected by most Christians to lead to a further reduction in religious freedom and greater persecution.

While Christians are the major target of persecution, Buddhists also used to face occasional persecution. Buddhist monks in temples in the north have been replaced by those loyal to the communist regime. Catholic Christians suffer less persecution than do Protestants.

(i) Central Highlands region

In early 2001 some of the 500,000 Montagnard Christians were among those who publicly expressed their frustration over the theft by official complicity of their traditional lands by ethnic Vietnamese settlers, and over their lack of freedom to practise Christianity. Following those unprecedented demonstrations, the government of Vietnam undertook a severe and well-documented crackdown, particularly on Christians. Cloaked as activities to support national unity and political stability, the anti-Christian campaigns from mid-2002 until early 2003 succeeded in forcibly disbanding some 750 Montagnard congregations in Dak Lak and Gia Lai provinces. All local church organizations were declared illegal and congregations were forbidden to meet for worship or for the observance of baptisms, weddings and funerals or special Christian holy days. The government campaign against Christians involved ‘seminars’ whose objective was to get Christians to recant their faith by signing pledges so stating. Christian believers were often forced to take part in animistic rites considered repulsive by them, to show they had abandoned Christianity.

The relentless search for those alleged to have been leaders in demonstrating against government abuses, and the cruel mistreatment, sham trials and long sentences given to those who were caught, led many Christians to hide in the forest and some to flee to Cambodia. In February 2004 some members of the special police unit 113 were reported to be using tracker dogs and sophisticated electronic devices to find those in hiding. Efforts since 2001 by the newly-legal Evangelical Church of Vietnam to include the Montagnard churches, historically an integral part of it, have been disallowed or given only token recognition by the government.

(ii) The North-west provinces

There are now some 300,000 Christians from the Hmong and Dao minority groups, who have come to Christian faith since 1988. Since the mid-1990’s, persecution of these Christian minorities has often been under the guise of ‘restoring traditional culture’.

During the last three years voluminous documentation of abuse of Hmong Christians have included: a campaign of ‘seminars’ to force Hmong Christians to give up Christianity and re-embrace traditional ancestor worship; the rape by police of Christian women to intimidate the family; the gassing of a congregation at worship leading to the illness of the victims; the expulsion of an honest local government leader from his village with the total loss of his considerable property because he was a Christian and defended Christian believers; the destruction of Christians’ homes and property; the driving away of many Christians from their traditional homes and fields because they were believers and would not recant the faith; and the death by police beating at least three Hmong church leaders. During the last five years more than 15,000 Hmong Christians have abandoned their homes and fields, and fled to the Central Highlands in an often vain search for more freedom to practise their faith. Some are also fleeing persecution by going to Laos.

2.6 Case Study: Mexico – Christian persecution of Christians

The Spanish conquerors of Mexico brought with them Roman Catholicism, which supplanted the ancient religion of the region and has dominated since then. Mexico has the largest Catholic population in the world, though for many their ‘Christianity’ is strongly mingled with folk beliefs. The Catholic Church formerly owned an enormous amount of property which now belongs to the government.

Evangelicals are considered to be a sect and as such are persecuted, especially in rural areas. Many evangelical churches in rural areas have been burnt down and indigenous evangelicals have been harassed by, for example, having their water and electricity cut off, and eventually being forced out of their villages.

In the State of Chiapas, where there is great unrest and violence, many indigenous evangelicals have faced great opposition and violence, whose perpetrators have largely gone unpunished. In San Juan Chamula religious intolerance has resulted in the forceful expulsion of more than 35,000 evangelical Tzotzil Indians from their lands, as well as countless threats, imprisonments, the refusal of public education for their children and, the brutal murder of many believers.

In addition 34 evangelicals are amongst 78 men who have been unjustly held in prison since 1998, accused of participation in an armed confrontation which took place in Acteal, in the municipality of Chenalho, Chiapas, on 22 December 1997. This accusation is clearly false and a pretext for keeping them in prison, the real reason being that they refused to join the ongoing political struggle between the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) and followers of the dominant political party (PRI).

3. Advocacy and Legal Issues

There are a number of constitutional and legal norms which ought to protect Christians from violation of their human and religious rights, but whose power is often diluted for a variety of reasons. Sometimes authorities ignore their own laws. In certain countries there are parallel legal systems, for example secular law and shari’a [Islamic law]; very often the Islamic law courts, either officially or in practice, take priority over the secular law. Even in the West, shari’a is beginning to gain acceptability, for example in Ontario, Canada, where the civil courts may accept rulings from shari’a courts if they choose. The United Nations has evolved to become more a political than a legal entity and thus has less power to enforce its declarations and rulings. Furthermore, it is largely driven by Muslim-majority nations whose agenda is to protect Islam rather than to protect all religions equally. When Mary Robinson was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights she gave official sanction to shari’a by accepting the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights (1990).

In contexts where constitutional/legal norms and legislation are for whatever reason ineffective, there is a need for ‘advocacy’ on behalf of those Christians whose rights have been violated. It should be noted that the fixing of immutable rights is a double-edged sword and that Christians may not be happy with all the rights and freedoms which may be supported in this way.

Christian advocacy in cases of abuse of human rights or religious freedom includes writing letters to prisoners of conscience, organising petitions and letter-writing campaigns, as well as direct contacts with foreign embassies or heads of government and heads of state. Issues can also be brought to international bodies such as the United Nations and the European Union.

Such advocacy has sometimes yielded definite positive results, as, for example, happened recently in Kenya when Christian protests prevented the new constitution from giving Islamic kadhi courts a greater role than they had previously had.

A petition against Islam’s apostasy law has brought this issue to the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights but many observers feel that Islam is extremely unlikely ever to yield on this point, as so many Muslims might leave the faith if they could do so without penalty.

(a) International legal norms

The classicus international statement on fundamental human rights is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). This document has been followed by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966) and reinforced by General Comment No. 22 (1983) of the UN Human Rights Committee. Additionally, there is the General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981).

Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) secures religious freedoms in those states that are a signatory to the Convention and who are members of the Council of Europe.

(b) Legal principles

The existence of the ‘rule of law’ with an independent judiciary to apply the law, and a duty upon the executive to respect those decisions are fundamental to civilized society. Unfortunately, this legal norm is respected only in a minority of States.

It is important to distinguish between ‘soft law’ such as UN Declarations and ‘statements of principle’ on the one hand, and ‘hard law’ on the other hand such as the applicable legislation of national States. However, ‘soft law’ can be used as an interpretive construction of ‘hard law’.

General Comment No. 22 of the UN Human Rights Committee is used, but the enforcement mechanisms at international level are weak. However, the European Court of Human Rights has given primacy to religious rights and the right to evangelize in the case of Kokkinakis v Greece (1993).

Another important distinction to note is the difference between establishing a Constitutional Norm (by which rights are entrenched) and national civil and criminal laws. The United States Supreme Court has entrenched the constitutional rights to an abortion (Roe v Wade [1993]) as well as of religion (First Amendment).

(c) Advocacy implications

In states in which the ‘rule of law’ is non-existent or partial, the use of diplomatic pressures and international campaigning is one of the few means of preventing violations of the human rights of Christians.

Another possibility may be through the courts, although until recently this has been extremely difficult because of the principle of the comity of nations, which considers that the acts of foreign powers in their own domestic affairs are always deemed to be legal. This is what happened in a case in the European Court in 2002 (Al-A. v United Kingdom) in which a Kuwaiti national who had been tortured by the Iraqis during the First Gulf War (1991) sued for a breach of human rights in the United Kingdom Courts (as a State under the ‘rule of law’). The European Court rejected the case, but the case will have to re-visited in the light of the Guantanamo Bay litigation at national and international level. Many courts are now trying to breach the comity of nations.

Christians should develop legal arguments used by others and seek with determination to promote the Christian agenda. In appropriate circumstances, there is no reason why a case should not be brought against powerful States such as Saudi Arabia or China in the courts of the United Kingdom or the United States in which the rights of Christian believers have been violated; however, in order to succeed it would be necessary to have a national link e.g. a British or American citizen who had been affected.

(d) Legal implications

The use of Constitutional and other Legal norms to protect and promote Christian religious freedoms is a subject which would necessitate detailed legal consideration. Particular areas of concern, where either a Constitutional Norm, subordinate legislation, or judicial interpretation are needed to provide protection, are:

  • Classic religious freedom (freedom to worship, freedom to evangelize and religious autonomy);
  • Freedom of speech and freedom to evangelize as a specific and distinct category of religious freedom that conjuncts freedom of expression with freedom of religion;
  • Freedom to change religion (of particular importance for Muslims), as guaranteed by Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • The use of ‘hate speech laws’ or the new blasphemy laws, and whether the limit of such speech to be ‘incitement of violence’ or merely ‘insulting’. The Hammond case in the UK Courts (see above) established the threshold level of ‘insulting’ with the consequence that the ‘mob’ could silence the Christian speech;
  • The need for public recognition of religious rights; such rights should not be privatized. This would prevent decisions such as that which was given by the Canadian Supreme Court in Chamberlain (2002) when a teacher in Vancouver was permitted to continue promoting homosexuality amongst 5-year-olds, despite the objections of evangelical parents, because it was ruled that religious rights are private.
  • The need for Christian freedoms in the employment and educational contexts;
  • The rights of parents to bring up their children in accordance with their religious viewpoint, even where such education takes place in the state sector. This issue is clear in areas such as sex and ethics education;
  • The need to create a ‘non-sectarian’ public forum and the prevention of the marginalization of Judeo-Christian viewpoints from the public square (as espoused by Ian Benson);
  • The ‘militancy’ of the sexual libertarian and homosexual movement towards Christianity (in particular).

4. Towards a Theology of Persecution

The Christian Church has a theology of suffering, which is particularly well developed among the Orthodox Churches. Others who have made significant contributions to this in modern times include Kitamori from Japan and Moltmann from Germany. The Judeo-Christian understanding of a God who is vulnerable, who suffers, expressed in His Son is unknown in other religious traditions. His people also experience pain and suffering, which arise from our fallen nature, the fallen world, the evil men do to us, the evil we do to ourselves and the attacks of Satan. But does a theology of persecution exist?

(a) Suffering, persecution and martyrdom

The terms, suffering, persecution and martyrdom are related to each other in multiple ways. While suffering is common to all humanity (1 Peter 1:6), persecution in our context means specifically suffering for Christ. Their relation could best be described as that of concentric circles. Suffering forms the widest circle, persecution a smaller one within it. Martyrdom forms the innermost circle. Alternatively, they could be viewed as a pyramid with suffering as the base and martyrdom as the pinnacle. In terms of time, persecution can be represented as waves on a sea of suffering as the constant. (See Appendix 1: Terminology and Definitions of Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom.)

Persecution always causes suffering and sometimes causes martyrdom, but according to Scripture, especially the Old Testament, it is also sometimes connected with God’s judgement and punishment of His people. Martyrdom, however, is always a glorification of God. (For more on martyrdom, see Appendix 2: Six New Testament Aspects of Martyrdom.)

There is a clear distinction between Christ’s martyrdom and that of His disciples in the uniquely salvific value of the former, whereas the latter causes new disciples to be made by authenticating the message of Christ’s suffering and death in the disciple who is martyred. The suffering of Christ’s disciples through the ages mediates Christ’s salvation wrought once and for all.

Satan’s role in the persecution of the Church should not be overlooked. He is still allowed to stir up resistance from unbelievers against believers and even believers against one another. The ultimate source of persecution is evil, that is, the sin of human beings and the activities of Satan. Yet although God does not initiate persecution, He clearly permits it, for otherwise it would not be occurring. But could it be that persecution may even be part of God’s plan, either for the sanctification of His people or for their judgement? Josef Tson has written of the concept of God finding an individual worthy to suffer for Him.

Eschatology is also a necessary component when dealing theologically with persecution and martyrdom; martyrs will be rewarded and persecutors will be punished.

Suffering and persecution are inevitable for those who follow the Lord Jesus. They can bring blessing in terms of sanctification, and sometimes open the way for revival. In Acts 4 we read how the believers prayed after a bout of persecution, and in Acts 8 we see how fleeing persecution led to the spread of the gospel. Sometimes God wonderfully protects His people from persecution (Hebrews 11:33-5).

Jesus is the model for persecuted Christians. He Himself said that He was persecuted because He was and spoke the word of God. His disciples are persecuted because a slave is not greater than his master. According to the Beatitudes, the disciples are blessed because the prophets before them were persecuted and they are in the same category (Matthew 5:10-12). The apostles clearly identified the persecution they underwent with that of Jesus (Acts 4:27-30). The disciples were not actively seeking persecution, but the persecution was nevertheless a result of their obedience to God.

The apostle Paul even avoided persecution by invoking his rights as a Roman citizen. Although Paul stated that he delighted in persecution (2 Corinthians 12:10), his purpose is not to suffer for Christ, but to preach the gospel. Scripture seems to teach that God allows persecution and uses it, but also grants protection against it, and that a disciple should not seek to be persecuted bur rather to proclaim the gospel. If we should not seek persecution, neither should we fear it. Nothing should deflect us from proclaiming the gospel.

Persecution does not automatically lead to godliness. A persecuted Christian is not immune from temptation and must still pursue a life of holiness and love (1 Peter 1:15-17, a letter written specifically to persecuted Christians).

There is a deep interdependence in the Body of Christ, in suffering and in joy, through space and through time. The persecuted Church on earth can receive solace through the witness of the glorified Church above. Even the Church triumphant is incomplete without the Church militant. When the martyrs under the altar (Revelation 6:9-11) ask the Lord how long they will have to wait, we receive an indication that there is a waiting in heaven.

(b) A theology of religious freedom?

A further question may be posed as to whether there is a theology of religious freedom. If so, how does this relate to theologies of suffering and of persecution? Does such a theology have anything to say to the question of whether there is a difference between the martyrdom of an individual Christian and the genocide of a Christian community? And what should be the Christian response to persecution? Is there a Christian ethic of persecution?

The advent of religious freedom to a situation of former persecution can bring its own set of challenges to the Church. Many Russian pastors, experienced in church leadership under Soviet rule, were sometimes at a loss as to how to lead a church in the unfamiliar context of freedom. They found it more difficult, despite the freedom. In times of persecution they had concentrated on helping Christians to keep the faith, share the faith and attend meetings. In times of freedom, many have ‘lost their focus’ and become dictatorial, laying down detailed rules for the way their church members should live. They are inexperienced in discipling young people growing up in a free society. Some are also reluctant to lose the overseas financial support they received when they were persecuted, so may even seek to get themselves in trouble with the authorities so that they can continue to report to the West that they are being harassed or oppressed. Some have moved to the West. In times of persecution leaders were cautious about trusting too many individuals, so leadership teams were small and therefore stretched in seeking to care for church members. Now by contrast churches can be top-heavy with huge numbers of leaders.

The concept of human rights originally sprang from Judeo-Christian roots, but how far should Christians now pursue the idea of human rights – in particular, the right to religious freedom – in order to avoid persecution?

Human rights can be a useful tool to help defend suffering Christians but must not become an idol. Christians belong to the heavenly Kingdom. The priority for them must be to fulfil the will of their King. The Bible is a higher authority for us than the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our main objective is to spread the word of God in all circumstances; this might not always be understood by people whose highest priority is human rights and democracy.

However, we oppose the religious sanctioning of discrimination and persecution of followers of other religions. We also oppose the abuse of religious freedom concepts to discriminate and suppress people within their own religion.

(c) Questions and issues for reflection

There is clearly a need for deeper theological reflection on the issues pertaining to suffering, persecution, martyrdom, religious freedom and human rights, and an appropriate Christian response.

  1. What should be the attitude of Christians towards suffering, persecution and martyrdom?
  2. How does the concept of human rights relate to the way of the cross and the Christian mandate? What about the power of prayer in comparison with the ‘power’ of invoking human rights?
  3. Is there a biblical basis for human rights as set out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
  4. With regard to other religions which have their own agendas, what is the definition of religion and who provides this definition?
  5. What are the definitions of human rights and religious freedom and who defines them? By what authority are the definitions made?
  6. How much does any theology of religious freedom or human rights depend on the context?
  7. How can New Testament passages on obedience to government and on obedience to God be reconciled?
  8. How do we understand the sovereignty of God concerning suffering, persecution and martyrdom?
  9. Are suffering, persecution and martyrdom ordained or permitted or are they a special grace? What are the relevant New Testament models?
  10. What lessons can be learned from Church history about suffering, persecution and martyrdom?
  11. Should Christians accept persecution or actively defend themselves against it?
  12. Is there a difference between the martyrdom of the individual and the genocide of a community?
  13. Is there an intrinsic relationship between Christianity and democracy? Where does Christianity stand with respect to political systems (democracy/dictatorship)?
  14. How does the theology of suffering, persecution and martyrdom relate to the theology of transformation, especially in the light of eschatology?

(d) Note on the effects of Christian apostasy

It should be noted that apostasy in one part of the Church, or deviation from firm and Scripturally based moral teachings, may cause suffering in other parts of the Church. A case in point is the situation of African churches which are ridiculed by Muslim leaders for the lack of faith commitment by their former mother-churches in the West, as well as for the former mother-churches’ deviations from biblical doctrine and for the new positions taken by some of them on issues such as homosexuality.

5. The Way Ahead: Recommendations

Prayer is paramount in all that we do and should undergird all the initiatives listed below.

5.1 Capacity building within and for the persecuted Church

Capacity building addresses three particular groups: the leaders, the church members, and the new converts. For each group the focus is different. We also distinguish three different types of training needed: spiritual and ministry training, training for economic self-sufficiency, and training which helps to influence society in matters of law, media and politics.

A. Spiritual and ministry training

(a) Leaders

  1. leadership training for pastors and other senior leaders
  2. leadership training for laity
  3. training for children’s ministry
  4. specific teaching to counteract cults
  5. financial accountability
  6. how to report to advocates on persecution
  7. media, communication and advocacy (how to deal with misinformation in the press, how to represent concerns about legislation to government etc.)
  8. how to use arrest and other persecution as an opportunity for witness
  9. how to avoid unnecessary persecution (e.g. to counter charges of being pro-western and unpatriotic)
  10. church-planting in the context of persecution
  11. equipping new converts as church leaders (guidance on church structures, preaching etc.)
  12. Church history, with reference to persecution
  13. preparation for persecution
  14. preparation for freedom
  15. theological reflection on persecution

(b) Church members

  1. Bible
  2. Basics which will enable Christians to reject the teaching of cults
  3. Church history, with reference to persecution
  4. preparation for persecution
  5. preparation for freedom
  6. self-understanding of persecuted Church
  7. how to use arrest and other persecution as an opportunity for witness
  8. how to avoid unnecessary persecution

(c) New converts

  1. discipleship
  2. developing a Christian identity (so the convert can stand when persecution comes) – self-understanding of the persecuted Church

B. Economic self-sufficiency training

  1. business skills
  2. vocational skills for income generation
  3. literacy and basic education
  4. must include women in training programmes

C. Societal training (in order to influence society)

  1. legal
  2. media
  3. politics

Training is an essential component in our efforts to resource the persecuted Church. While the training takes on various faces and expressions that are distinct, these components are all intertwined and rally around the unifying theme of strengthening the Church throughout the world. In many locations this is a particularly urgent need for the Church. In countries like Bangladesh, Syria and Jordan, there is a sense that the persecution of the Church is likely to increase, and there is an urgent need to help strengthen the Church to face these coming challenges.

5.1.1 Leadership training

The persecuted Church finds itself in great need of more leaders who are strong and able to lead the Church through the trials and victories of suffering. In Southern Sudan, for example, the persecution of the Church produced a revival that yielded a very rapid growth in the Church. There is an urgent need for the development of leadership that facilitates this growth. In some Sudanese villages the Church grew from a couple of hundred people to several thousand. There have been too few leaders able to nurture and disciple these large numbers of converts. Primary emphasis should be upon the theological training of leaders, with a secondary emphasis on developing a plan for all other types of leadership training required.

5.1.2 Theological training

There is great need to provide theological training and biblical teaching to the persecuted Church. Often these churches have a strong faith but find themselves confronted with the challenges of persecution without even the most basic theological tools. Greater efforts should be made to partner with the local Church in its context to assist with such practical needs as books and libraries, basic theological and biblical courses for church attendees, and other such elements to help meet these needs. One such course that has found great success has been a form of extension training, where church members are able to deepen their knowledge of the bible and their faith within their own context. Efforts should be multiplied to meet these needs so that the Church might be encouraged and strengthened in the knowledge and understanding of the Christian faith.

5.1.3 Vocational and practical training

There is also a very real need to provide training that meets the practical and vocational needs of the persecuted Church. Because the Church ministers in contexts where Christians are often isolated, even despised, it is difficult for Christians to find work. Micro-enterprise and small business development have been successful in helping to create jobs throughout the world, and efforts to strengthen the Christian community by this avenue should be a major priority in resourcing the persecuted Church. Sometimes the training may have to start with literacy and basic education.

5.1.4 Note on Church history

Preparation for freedom is a vital subject, not least in preparing the Church for the activities of cults. Church history must be taught in an appropriate way and cover appropriate parts of the world in order to have the desired effect of strengthening the persecuted Church. Commemorating recent and past martyrs can be a source of strength in the present situation.

5.2 Advocacy and legal issues

It is important to develop training on reporting, noting:

  1. what is needed for accuracy and credibility;
  2. the need for verification – how to do this and the pitfalls to avoid;
  3. the need to evaluate public statements by senior church leaders at risk.

Accuracy in reporting, from both the receiving organizations seeking to publicize the information as well as from the persecuted contexts, should always be the aim. There must be a greater effort by both parties to provide information that can be passed on without fear of being rejected or discredited. Both the sender of the information and the receiver of it should take great care and caution, knowing that information that has been released to the public is readily accessible all over the world. Every step should include consultation with the local context.

  1. Create guidelines on reporting and publicity, including when publicity should be avoided. (See Appendix 5)
  2. Create guidelines on behind-the-scenes advocacy at high level.
  3. Create guidelines on what to do when conflicting advice is received from within the context or different instructions come from the place of persecution and from the respective Christian diaspora.
  4. Create an international accrediting body for Christian agencies to ensure codes of practice or guidelines are followed.
  5. Create an agency to publicise Christian persecution immediately and widely.
  6. Create a very discreet database of Christians who have senior contacts in politics, diplomatic service or other positions of influence.
  7. Provide outside support as necessary for persecuted Christians engaged in advocacy on their own behalf, for example, the. recent approach of Vietnamese Christians to their government about new law to be introduced in November 2004.
  8. Share information on individual case resolution between advocacy groups and legal groups in order to develop useful legal arguments.
  9. Outside (western) lawyers should consider taking on cases in countries where persecution is practised and laws ignored, so as to put greater pressure on the government to uphold its laws.
  10. Make effective use of existing documents on the incompatibility of shari‘a with the UN’s various statements on human rights.
  11. Campaign to persuade Al-Azhar University to rule that the punishment for apostasy from Islam can be deferred until the next life.
  12. Provide training for Christian lawyers on shari‘a.
  13. Provide advocacy and legal help for diaspora Christians – refugees who have fled persecution.
  14. Inform advocacy groups about international refugee processes and support structures which could be accessed and utilized.

Some questions and issues with regard to advocacy need careful consideration. For instance, which would have the more powerful impact, a single voice representing all Protestants or multiple voices? Could one of the existing evangelical organizations speak for all when interfacing with other Christian bodies on this issue? There are some denominations which for various reasons are reluctant to speak clearly about persecution; how can advocacy best assist them?

It is a priority to start a partnership of organizations involved in advocacy. This should not be a new structure with personnel and an office, but simply a meeting (perhaps once a year) to discuss and build trust. The partnership would not function as a public accrediting body or a body which publicizes information. It would merely share information among the partner bodies.

5.3 Prayer

When Christians in persecuted contexts are asked by those not under persecution how to help, they invariably reply, ‘Please, pray for us.’

We believe that the topic of the persecuted Church is a spiritual issue. The devil does not want people to hear about Jesus, so he tries to isolate them and prevent them from hearing the gospel. The devil knows his time is short and the battle is increasing (Revelation 12:12). We may be in the End Times, making prayer and mission all the more urgent. Spiritual battles should be fought with spiritual weapons. Ephesians 6 teaches us clearly about the nature of our enemy – not a person or a government but spiritual forces in the heavenly places. At the same time, in this chapter the apostle Paul reminds us of the spiritual weapons with which we can engage in this battle. We believe one of the powerful weapons available to us is prayer.

The mysterious and miraculous unity of God’s Church around the world is best displayed when Christians pray for each other. The Holy Spirit unites us in our prayers and truly brings us to a place where ‘if one part suffers, every part suffers with it.’ (1 Corinthians 12:26). Hebrews 13:3 calls us to cultivate a relationship of remembrance, and it is this relationship that we nurture when we pray for the persecuted Church.

5.3.1 Spiritual warfare

In order to pray strategically, we need to identify the areas of spiritual attack that relate to the persecuted church.

  1. Truth. One of the areas where the enemy attacks the persecuted is the mind. Prisoners as well as Christians in oppressive societies have to endure lengthy indoctrination sessions. They are constantly bombarded with lies about their own behaviour and character, as well as that of their Christian brothers and sisters. Trustworthy information is of the utmost importance in winning the battle in this area. The enemy seeks to blind the eyes of the world regarding the true situation of God’s children, by manipulation, distortion of Scripture, lies, deception from family, friends, government etc. We will not be able to pray effectively if we do not know about the pain and suffering our brothers and sisters face.
  2. Unity. Divide and conquer is a weapon the enemy frequently uses. He seeks to divide the persecuted – families and churches, as well as organizations trying to help them.
  3. Fear. The persecuted Church regularly has to fight fear. The enemy threatens, intimidates and marginalizes. Fear paralyzes and can cause the Church to lose its witness.
  4. Discernment. The enemy is very clever at infiltrating and camouflaging. Opponents often disguise themselves as wolves in sheep’s clothing. The discernment of the Holy Spirit is needed to know what/who comes from God and what originates from the devil.
  5. Discouragement. Discouragement can have different sources: isolation, lack of fellowship, burn out and tiredness after living under constant stress. C.f. Daniel 7:25 ‘He will speak against the Most High and oppress [plot against, wear out] his saints…’
  6. Lack of resources. For many years there has been a tremendous shortage of bibles, theological and lay leadership training, Christian books, children’s material etc. in communist countries. In a number of Islamic countries, the majority of Christians are found amongst the poor.
  7. Physical, emotional and spiritual safety. Muslim Background Believers know they may have to be called upon to lay down their lives for their faith in Jesus. Not knowing if their families will be cared for when that happens adds to their strain. The same can be said for the persecuted and prisoners in other contexts, for example, communist countries.
  8. Passivity as opposed to exercising spiritual authority. ‘When I die, it will be for speaking, not for being quiet,’ Pastor Haik Hovsepian in Iran said shortly before he was martyred. The enemy wants us to be quiet about our faith in the face of adversity but God wants all people everywhere to hear the good news of the gospel. The persecuted Church often lacks teaching of how to use the spiritual weapons God has provided for us.
  9. Christ-like response. Jesus taught us to forgive those who trespass against us, to bless and not curse those who hate us and to love even our enemies

5.3.2 Strategic prayer

Prayer for the persecuted Church can be more strategic:

  1. Through informed intercession. In order to pray effectively, we need to be aware of the situations and the needs of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
  2. By using the word of God as a weapon in prayer for the persecuted to bind the enemy. When praying with Christians from different denominational backgrounds, one cannot go wrong by praying out the Word of God.
  3. By mobilizing nationwide or worldwide prayer against specific threats, for example, the implementation of restrictive laws as currently in India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
  4. Through networking with other ministries and prayer ministries who focus on persecuted Christians around the world.
  5. By mobilizing prayer for the leaders and workers in organizations as well as national leaders and workers in security-sensitive areas who seek to minister to the persecuted church. They too are vulnerable to attack.

5.3.3 Answers to prayer

In recent years, world wide awareness of – and prayer for – the persecuted has increased. Various initiatives have been undertaken by organizations seeking to serve the persecuted Church, for example, the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) and Suffering Church Sunday. In several countries, Christians experienced positive changes and answers to prayer, though the battle is far from over and persecution of Christians remains an issue in most of these countries.

We are happy to report the following positive developments.

  1. For many Christians around the world, the fall of the Iron Curtain came as an answer to prayer. Many of the former Soviet Central Asian countries finally opened up for the gospel and Christians in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe experienced new freedom to worship and to witness. The closed and isolated country of Albania opened its doors and many heard the gospel in that country.
  2. In China, though tensions remain between the Three-Self churches and the house churches, thousands of Christians freely worship the Lord in registered churches. Millions of Bibles have been printed legally on the Amity Press, though an immense shortage of Bibles and Christian literature remains due to the vast growth of the Chinese Church.
  3. Likewise in Vietnam, compared to the 1970s and 1980s, the government has loosened its grip on the church in the South somewhat by giving official recognition to the Evangelical Church of Vietnam (Tin Lanh). They have allowed the official church to print Bibles legally and even theological education is permitted again on a small scale. Though most house churches and ethnic minority churches do not share in the new freedoms experienced by the Tin Lanh church, we praise the Lord for every improvement in the area of religious freedom.
  4. In various ways, Christians seek to influence the sad state of affairs in North Korea. We are thankful for everything that is being done, both to seek to influence the government by communication and dialogue and unofficially to help the persecuted believers in that land. We continue to pray for North Korea, thankful for every small step forward and small openings of the door into that closed country.
  5. Christians around the world united in prayer for the dismantling of the ruthless Shining Path movement in Peru. Though a few innocent Christians remain unjustly incarcerated, most Christians have been released in recent years.
  6. India – The surprise defeat of India’s hard-line Hindu nationalist party, the BJP, in April 2004 was an encouragement for Christians and other non-Hindus in India. The anti-conversion law in Tamil Nadu state was immediately repealed.
  7. In Sri Lanka, in mid-2004, Christians united in prayer against the implementation of an imminent anti-conversion law. In August the law was withdrawn. Though the threat is not over, a battle was won through prayer and advocacy.
  8. In the Southern part of Sudan the Church continues to explode in growth even in the face of the relentless suffering they are experiencing. The Church continues to stand strong in this critical area understanding the role they play in slowing the desired Islamization of South and East Africa.
  9. In the Muslim world as a whole, persecution and anti-Christian violence are generally increasing, particularly after September 11th 2001. However, at the same time, there are large numbers of Muslims becoming Christians in many contexts, in a way never before known in history. Furthermore, astonishing changes have been seen in Algeria in recent years in terms of improved religious liberty, as the underground Church of Muslim converts are now able to meet and worship openly and are vigorously protected by the authorities. Less dramatic improvements in religious freedom have been seen in certain countries of Central Asia as well, although the situation of Christians from a Muslim background remains very difficult.

5.4 Practical assistance for Christians

a. Relief and aid

  • long term feeding programmes;
  • emergency need, for example, for refugees.

b. Bibles, Christian literature and other teaching resources, all of which must be appropriate to the context (for example, satellite dishes would enable Christians to receive Christian teaching by TV).

c. Training (see 5.1 above)

  • Christian leadership (including provision of training materials);
  • self-sufficiency;
  • professional.

d. Support for those in full-time ministry (pastors, evangelists etc.)

e. Children’s education.

f. Medical (for example, subsidised medical care or provision of clinics).

g. Emergency needs for victims of violence and persecution and their dependents.

h. Practical assistance for diaspora Christians – refugees who have fled persecution – including information and links about international assistance available for refugees (for example, the Refugee Highway, see below).

i. Convert care:

  • discipleship
  • refuge
  • relocation costs
  • income-generation (for example,. training or small business start-up costs)
  • many other needs.

ii. Buildings and infra-structure:

  • Churches
  • Bible schools and other training centres
  • clinics homes for elderly
  • schools
  • refuges

Practical assistance is a foundational link between the persecuted Church and the nonpersecuted Church. Its timely delivery encourages unity and facilitates relationship and empathy for all involved. Assistance should be both short- and long-term. It is recognized that openness to the gospel is often directly related to the meeting of very practical felt-needs. This is especially true in a persecuted context. Practical assistance should be contextual, meaning assistance should be delivered to meet the greatest expressed needs of the people.

It is important to first recognize whether or not practical assistance from external sources is necessary, and then to find safe and secure channels to deliver without further endangering the Church. Exactly ‘how’ to deliver aid is nearly as important as whether or not to deliver it. We must be creative and develop strategies that come out of the context in order to meet the needs and draw the least attention to what is being done.

The local church should be empowered and incorporated into the process, so that it is the Church that becomes the deliverer of good news, practical assistance and relief, rather than some outside agency that is not intimately related to the context.

Reporting can often become a strain on the receiver of the practical assistance. The reporting can at times draw greater attention to the larger Christian communities, and thus provide greater security. An emphasis on relationship and trust is important, and serves to lower some of the extreme reporting requirements of the groups receiving assistance. Also at issue here are the tax codes of governments.

5.5 Partnership

  1. Create awareness in non-persecuted Church of the needs of the persecuted Church.
  2. Communicate to persecuted Church the love, concern and prayers of others.
  3. Give teaching on the Body of Christ (and our need to be concerned for each other).
  4. Encourage and strengthen the persecuted Church by contact with persecuted Christians in other countries, for:
    1. sharing information about the victorious Church in other situations of persecution;
    2. counselling of persecuted Christians by other Christians who have had the same experience.
  5. Facilitate networking of Christians in professions to exchange information about how to bring positive influence and change in society (within countries and between countries).
  6. Christians in countries facing varying degrees of persecution or freedom can assist others to prepare for coming change in either direction.
  7. Strengthen the non-persecuted Church spiritually through the example and teaching of the persecuted Church.
  8. Facilitate exchange of theological reflection on suffering, persecution and martyrdom among those concerned.

It was recommended that an ongoing partnership or network be set up under the umbrella of the LCWE, since we can no longer afford to continue with the lack of collaboration which has sadly existed in the past, at cost to the body of Christ under persecution. It was felt that ‘we have come of age in that we can no longer afford to operate in isolation and play our games, we must pull together’. It was therefore proposed to set up an initial steering committee composed of core leaders under the chairmanship of the issue group convenor. This steering committee, under the umbrella of the LCWE (in the spirit of LCWE), can only succeed and function with the cooperation and commitment of every member of the Persecuted Church Issue Group.

The network should meet again in approximately one year’s time, and should include other religious freedom organisations who were not present at the Pattaya conference.

5.6 Development of theological resources, training and exchange

It is essential to facilitate theological exchange in contexts of persecution in the recent past and present, to enable Christians from different persecution contexts to share theological insights with each other and with those who have not yet faced persecution. Important questions to address include:

(1) what lessons can be learned from churches emerging from persecution, especially with regard to missiology; and

(2) how do insights gained under persecution help to balance theological thinking from outside persecution situations?


The following action steps are recommended:

  1. The development of a curriculum and syllabus is needed both outside and inside persecution contexts. In particular, it is necessary for those outside to learn from those inside. There is a need to collect curricula from different institutions and develop a model curriculum. One such initiative is at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, which is developing a programme and centre for ‘Persecuted Church Studies’ (okwu.edu/persecutedchurch).
  2. Reflection could be facilitated by establishing a forum for the exchange of ideas such as an email forum or an internet chatroom.
  3. The development of resources should include textbooks, collections of texts, correspondence courses, and in particular an ongoing bibliography which lists relevant books and articles and any kind of media.
  4. Particular attention should be paid to the enculturation of theology.

5.7 Resources

When considering the topic of ‘resourcing the Persecuted Church’, we must begin with the encouraging truth that God is resourcing His Church. He alone is the One who provides the resources to sustain, encourage and build His church, and we are merely vessels being used by Him to complete this task.

There is a particular concern among the Church in persecuted contexts that it is sometimes facing even greater isolation by the methods and means of assistance being employed by many Christian aid agencies and non-governmental organizations. Increasingly, some of these agencies are seeking to be a ‘silent witness’ in contexts where religious freedoms to evangelize are quite limited. The method that many are using is to provide relief and assistance to the populations of other faiths. Often, this assistance comes with regulations that exclude the Christian communities from receiving this same assistance. Many from the persecuted Church are feeling even greater isolation, as the basic assistance that could also be used by the Christian communities is being denied to them.

5.7.1 Assistance for refugees

The UN, through its body the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, has the authority to confer refugee status. Victims of religious persecution may qualify under ‘well-founded fear of persecution for religion…’. Those who work with advocacy and international organisations should be aware of how they may help the persecuted in this process.

(a) Christian collaboration on refugees

The persecuted Church community needs to be aware of the Refugee Highway Initiative. The RHI is a large partnership of Christian organizations working with refugees at the many points of their flight and journey. The RHI can help our community to help refugees along “the highway”.

(b) Other UN resources for the persecuted

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has Special Rapporteurs on:

It also has a working group on arbitrary detention.


The persecuted Church community needs to know how to access these.

5.7.2 Church history resources

Appropriate resources which will help to strengthen the persecuted Church should be researched.

5.7.3 Hierarchical listings of religious freedom

A number of studies have attempted to rank the countries of the world according to religious freedom. Two such are included here, which use different criteria and methodology, thus producing different results. The first is Open Doors ‘World Watch List’ from January 2004, which can be found in Appendix 3. It focuses on the situation for the calendar year 2003 with accompanying notes on the ‘Top Ten’ countries where religious freedom is most restricted, as well as comments on certain countries where the situation had deteriorated or improved since the previous year.

A complex statistical index of religious freedom prepared for the twelve-month period 1st July 2002 to 30th June 2003 has been created by Brian Grim of Pennsylvania State University with assistance from Todd M. Johnson of the World Christian Database based at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. This index, called the ‘Restriction of Religious Freedom Index’, can be found in Appendix 4, together with a paper by Brian Grim explaining how it was calculated and how the results should be understood.

These resources could be of help in advocacy by or on behalf of the persecuted Church, but need to be used with care and with a consideration of the possible consequences in terms of international politics and security.

5.8 Security

5.8.1 Be alert to disinformation

Another component that must be increasingly noted is the issue of security. This has come even more to the fore since 9/11. It is important that persecuted Christians and those who have a concern for them should to be alert to the possibility of disinformation and deliberate attempts to infiltrate their ministries. Such disinformation can include circulating sensational reports about church growth or Christian activities or inflated figures for the number of converts from Islam to Christianity in order to stir up the resentment of the non-Christian population.

Equally, those who oppose the Church are very active in seeking information about Christians and their activities, especially in China and the Muslim world. This can range from surfing the internet (China has a ‘Golden Shield’ of 100,000 police officers employed in this) to scrutinising local church bulletins for missionary news. There are at least two major database projects in the Muslim world to track converts from Islam.

Nationalism and religious fundamentalism continues to put the Church at great risk. If security does not become a universal priority for all organizations involved in the release of information, the Church is likely to see increased persecution as a result.

There have been a few recent examples where some information has been released to the public and as a result, has put the Church in even greater danger. In Iran a number of pastors and Church leaders were arrested after information that had been made public landed in the hands of the Iranian authorities. This is just one of many examples all around the world where the ‘free’ Church has put the persecuted Church in greater danger. We must seek to minimize these situations at all costs.

Each Christian organization should develop its own internal security guidelines, bearing in mind concepts such as levels of security and ‘the need to know’, and consider how to create amongst staff an awareness of the need for security. At the very least staff should sign confidentiality agreements. There have been examples of the deliberate infiltration of Christian organisations, so all staff must be carefully vetted. Organizations could assist each other by helping to evaluate each other’s information on areas of the world in which they have expertise.

Another problem is to decide how much information to release to those outside the organization, especially individuals who have no organizational affiliation. Even sincere prayer partners may unwittingly cause problems by leaving information around which is picked up and read by family or visitors, by passing on prayer information to Christian friends who have less understanding of security needs, or even by deliberately raising issues of persecution with, for example, Muslim friends. In some contexts financial hardship may create a temptation to sell information.

Western legislation may not always be supportive. For example the UK’s data protection law allows people to access any information held about them by an organization. It should also be borne in mind that Muslims in the West have access to plentiful funds from Saudi Arabia etc. to hire the best lawyers in any lawsuits against non-Muslims.

It should be remembered that hard copy is often safer than e-mail, but there is no truly secure way to pass on information. A face to face meeting may be the safest way, but bringing together a group of individuals from various contexts and organisations for a conference or other kind of meeting raises important questions of how to ensure that all present are genuine and trustworthy.

5.8.2 Guidelines on reporting for publicity and advocacy

Because security and accuracy are of the highest importance when seeking to educate the public and/or to engage in advocacy, there is a need for the adoption of suitable guidelines by all who relate to and work with the persecuted Church. These guidelines should seek to prioritize the safety and security of the Church, and should have enough influence and authority to be implemented so that the desired effects might be obtained. A suggested set of such guidelines, derived from the experience of several agencies involved in this field, is given in Appendix 5.

5.8.3 Guidelines on security

While some western sending agencies have prepared guidelines for the protection of their missionaries and are permitting increased expenditure on security needs, there seems to be little equivalent action on behalf of national Christians. It is important that the security of national Christians is not neglected.

6. Conclusion

Suffering, persecution and martyrdom are promised to the Body of Christ, and such has been the experience of most Christians from New Testament times onwards, to a greater or lesser extent. In our own time, we have seen the fall of the Iron Curtain, but now we are seeing opposition and persecution on the increase in many contexts, facilitated by such factors as globalization, religious fundamentalism and revival, nationalism, economic and environmental issues, and an aggressive and intolerant new brand of secularism in the post-modern West. Despite the wide variety of causes of oppression, the methodologies are often very similar. It is relevant to note here that one of the main strategies of persecutors is to divide Christians and set them against each other. Another is to attack Christian leaders. Although there are encouragements in terms of restrictions lifted here and there, and certain threats averted, the overall picture is bleak, albeit that persecution often brings purification and deepens faith.

As we approach the subject of what should be done in the context of the persecuted Church, it is important to note the difference between a Christian approach and a purely human rights approach. Prayer must infuse and surround every effort that is made on behalf of the persecuted Church whether from inside a context of persecution or from outside.

6.1 Recommendations

With regard to practical recommendations for the way ahead, the most important single initiative must be capacity building within and for the persecuted Church. This should be primarily in terms of training, both spiritual and ministry training for all Christians from senior leaders to children as well as vocational and practical training. In terms of theology and spirituality, new-found freedoms can be a challenge as well as repression and persecution.

Other ways to assist the persecuted Church include advocacy and legal representation, which could be made more effective through training and the preparation of guidelines to assist all involved in this area of ministry. Intercessory prayer is vital, and a knowledge of spiritual warfare as well as practical methods to make prayer more strategic can help to make our prayers, by God’s grace, more effective. There are various ways in which the more affluent and non-persecuted Church can assist those who are in situations of suffering (as well as those who have fled suffering), for example, by relief and aid, support for those in ministry, assistance with emergency needs, the provision of buildings and infrastructure, and practical and spiritual care for converts to Christianity. Practical resources such as assistance for refugees, information on situations of persecution, and relevant church history material should be located and made available. Security is of course a main concern in all ministry and communication, and appropriate guidelines for various situations (especially regarding security of data) should be developed and put into practice.

A real partnership must be developed and fostered between the non-persecuted Church and the persecuted, whose primary results should be the encouragement of the persecuted and the edification of the non-persecuted. Christians from different persecuted contexts can also be of assistance to each other, exchanging their own experiences and the ways in which they have managed to endure. To facilitate this partnership a new religious freedom forum was proposed, to function under the umbrella of the LCWE.

While the Church has developed a theology of suffering, it is clear that much reflection is needed in order to develop a theology of persecution. The question of whether there can be a theology of religious freedom or of human rights also needs to be examined. Resources, including a bibliography and curricula, should be compiled and developed. An (electronic) forum for exchanging ideas would facilitate this process.

6.2 A biblical perspective

More than ever, the gospel as Good News must be held forth. Elsewhere around the world conflicts arise and atrocities prevail from other worldviews as well. In this context, Christ calls us to serve Him as Kingdom people!

Issues arising from each of these situations call for a Christian response – a prophetic voice of the Church calling for a return to God at both national and individual level. Persecution is an evidence of sin at work in a fallen world. Prayer is offered for revival. Redemption is needed. The Holy Scriptures provide the way forward for us as we address the various assaults on God’s people. The biblical word ‘persecute’ encompasses multiple meaning surrounding the words ‘pursue, hound, harass, bully, hunt, single out, and discriminate against’. Each represents persecution experienced by believers today around the world.

The Bible provides divine perspective on the subject, reminding us of at least four conditioning factors for our persecution perspective;

6.2.1 Suffering provides the doorway to glory

God’s purposes are fulfilled with suffering as a step in the process, leading us to glory. This is not an admission to fatalism but an announcement of christus victor, Christ the conqueror of sin, death and hell! In the interim before our victory celebration we pledge ourselves to ‘engage persecution’ as part of the enemy’s arsenal.

6.2.2 Suffering provides the occasion for comfort

Suffering provides the opportunity within the Church to ‘come alongside and help’. Paul said to the Corinthians:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, emphasis added)

6.2.3 Suffering provides the opportunity for witness

The North African church father, Tertullian, reminded us that ‘It is the blood of the martyrs that is the seed of the Church.’ The very word in the New Testament for witness is martys, providing a biblical link between witness and the ultimate persecution blow … martyrdom! The history of the Church through the ages and continuing until today worldwide proves the accuracy of this assessment. We expect no less for the cost of witness.

6.2.4 Suffering provides the context for sanctification

We recognize that there is a refining that takes place in both personal and communal faith when the fires of persecution burn. We are reminded of the words of James who said:

“Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12)

We are also reminded of David who said:

“I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)

Together we call upon the Church to hear the voice of the persecuted Church, to stand with that Church in victorious statement declaring Jesus as LORD, and to persevere with the Church to the very end … proclaiming salvation as Good News to the nations!

6.3 Prayers for the persecuted Church

The Lord’s Prayer for the Persecuted Church

Our Father in heaven
Thank you that we may approach you as our Father.
Hallowed be your Name
May your Name be honoured by our lives, in our suffering and dying for Christ’s sake.
Your kingdom come
May this world order pass away and your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven
May you build your Church through suffering. Help us to confess your Name faithfully and grant that our persecutors may turn to you.
Give us today our daily bread
Supply the needs of your witnesses in prison and their families at home, the widows and the orphans of the persecuted.
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
Forgive us when we have been ashamed of your witnesses and when we have forgotten them.
Forgive us where we have betrayed you, and lead us back into fellowship with you. Help us to choose to forgive those who hurt or harm us.
And lead us not into temptation
Keep us from trials which we cannot bear and give us patience to remain steadfast and keep the faith.
But deliver us from the evil one
Deliver us from the adversary who roams around us, and from his helpers.
For yours is the Kingdom
You will establish your reign and you will judge in your time.
The power
You are helping us to remain steadfast unto death.
And the glory forever
For in the end all will have to honour you, and every knee will have to bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Yes, come Lord Jesus!

(adapted from the Lord’s Prayer by Christof Sauer)

A Morning Prayer for the Persecuted Church

May the cross of the Son of God,
which is mightier than all the hosts of Satan,
and more glorious than all the hosts of heaven,
abide with God’s Church in its going out and its coming in.

By day and by night,
at morning and at evening,
at all times and in all places
may it protect and defend God’s Church.

From the wrath of evildoers,
from the assaults of evil spirits,.
from foes visible and invisible,
from the snares of the devil,
from all the passions that beguile the soul and body
may it guard, protect and deliver God’s Church.


(from India and Pakistan)

An Evening Prayer for the Persecuted Church

O Jesus, King of the poor, shield this night
those who are imprisoned without charge,
those who have ‘disappeared’.
Cast a halo of your presence around those who groan in sorrow or pain.

Protect those whose livelihoods are threatened.
Encourage those forbidden to worship.
Encompass your little ones gone hungry to sleep, cold and fitfully waking.
Guide your witnesses for peace.
Safeguard your workers for justice.

Encircle us with your power,
compass us with your grace,
embrace your dying ones,
support your weary ones,
calm your frightened ones –

and as the sun scatters the mist on the hills,
bring us to a new dawn,
when all shall freely sit at table in your kingdom,
rejoicing in a God who saves them.


(Kate McIlhagga, from The SPCK Book of Christian Prayer)


Appendix 1: Terminology and Definitions of Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom

There is a wide non-theological vocabulary used on the subject of suffering, persecution and martyrdom. It ranges from discrimination, hostility and oppression, to prisoner of conscience and underground church. A group of theologians called for a theology of the pathway of the cross leading to glory.1

Suffering is the broadest term.

Christians may suffer for a variety of reasons.

Christians suffer:

  1. in the world in the same way as all other people when they encounter war, natural disasters, poverty or sickness;
  2. with the world, as they have compassion for the world as God does;
  3. for the world, in fulfilling their service;
  4. because of the world, being ridiculed for their faith in Christ, or even being persecuted.

Persecution is a more specific term, as it necessarily includes a second person who is causing the suffering. However, not all persecution happens for the sake of Christ. Jews, Muslims or Hindus can equally be persecuted because of their religions. Other people are persecuted because of belonging to a certain people group (for example, Armenians) or a particular political party and conviction.

When we talk about persecution in this document, we mean persecution for Christ’s sake, if not otherwise specified.

Martyrdom is an even narrower term. In some cases it is preceded by suffering and persecution, but it encompasses more. Not only comfort, wellbeing, health and security are at stake, but life is taken. This is irreversible and unrepeatable to the same person. Again the term is widely used beyond a Christian context for martyrs of any political or religious system and even terrorists.

Because of this secularization of the terms ‘martyr’ and ‘martyrdom’ we should always specify when we apply them to Christ or His followers. Following David Barrett we may define a Christian martyr as a Christian who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty for witnessing to and refusing to renounce his faith, or a tenet, principle or practice belonging to it. 2

Appendix 2: Six New Testament Aspects of Martyrdom

1. Jesus is the prototype of the martyr (archetypical aspect)

Jesus’ pathway through suffering to glory is exemplary for His disciples. His disciples are treated today as He once was, because Christ lives in them and they speak and act with His authority. Their fate is united with His. In the many New Testament statements on the subject, the suffering of Christians is firmly rooted in the suffering of Christ.

2. The martyr and his enemies (antagonistic aspect)

Jesus was rejected as Messiah in His earthly life and crucified. He foretold struggles and persecution for His followers, not peace. The preaching of the gospel is the reason for much of Christian suffering. The persecuted are supposed to bless their enemies. God Himself will righteously punish the persecutors in His time. Behind the persecutors stand the rulers of the world that come out of darkness and the adversary of God. No enemy or adversity can separate the believer from Christ.

3. The salvation of the martyr and his persecutor (soteriological aspect)

Salvation is at stake for the martyr in confession or denial. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as God’s angels comfort and help the martyr. The persecutors will either be hardened further or led to repentance through the witness of the martyr. The martyr can contribute to the salvation of others, but only by mediating the salvation Christ has already worked.

4. The body of Christ and the martyr (ecclesiological aspect)

The martyr belongs to the fellowship of the body of Christ throughout time and has many forerunners. The body of Christ throughout the world participates in the suffering of the martyrs of its time, through information, prayer, suffering with them and rejoicing with them, and support. Martyrdom serves to edify the Church, because the martyr is blessed by God.

5. The victory of the kingdom of God and the martyr (eschatological aspect)

The suffering of the martyr occurs before the completion of the kingdom of God. The martyr is watched and expected outside this world. Distress reaches a climax with the passing away of the old world and the completion of the new. The Christian should be bound to the coming world, not the one passing away. Nothing is in vain, because the dead will rise one day. God keeps His disciples and turns their suffering into good. God rewards His servants and takes them to be with Him. God comforts His servants and punishes their torturers. God’s ultimate victory must not be hurried, because He wants the salvation of many. Since the promise is not fulfilled immediately, patience is needed to await it.

6. God and the martyr honour each other (doxological 6. aspect)

God is honoured by:

  • the name and the life of His witnesses;
  • the witness in weakness and the death of the martyr;
  • the foolishness of the gospel;
  • the Church’s confidence in His reign;
  • the conversion of the persecutor.

In the end God must even be worshipped by His enemies. Honouring God is the eternal destiny of God’s children. The spirit of glory rests on those suffering for Christ. Some martyrs get a glimpse of God’s glory as Stephen did. The martyr is led through suffering to glory and is honoured by God.

Appendix 3: Open Doors World Watch List, January 2004

Explanation of the World Watch List

A specially-designed questionnaire is used to compile the World Watch List. The questionnaire contains 49 questions. A point value is assigned depending on how each question is answered. The total number of points per country determines its position on the WWL.

The questions cover various aspects of religious freedom, differentiating between the legal, official status of Christians (e.g. Does the constitution and/or national laws provide for freedom of religion?; Are individuals allowed to convert to Christianity by law?) and the actual situation of individual Christians (Are Christians being killed because of their faith?; Are Christians being sentenced to jail, labour camp or sent to a psychiatric hospital, etc. because of their faith?). Attention is paid to the role of the church in society (Do Christians have the freedom to print and distribute Christian literature?; Are Christian publications censured/prohibited in this country?) and to factors that may obstruct the freedom of religion in a country (Are Christian meeting places and/or Christian homes attacked because of anti-Christian motives?).

The “variation” column gives an indication of how certain we are about the information obtained. Sometimes information is unconfirmed or incomplete. In that case, the “variation” will rise. Thus some countries may be ranked lower on the list because complete information is not available.

The WWL ranking

The deplorable situation facing North Korea’s Christians again causes the country to hold first position on the World Watch List. Saudi Arabia is ranked second, followed by Laos and Vietnam. Iran climbed five places, to number five, due to massive arrests of Christian converts, which took place last year. As a result, Turkmenistan moved down one place, to number six, followed by the Maldives. Bhutan, Myanmar and China complete the top 10.

Islam is the majority religion in four of the top 10 countries: Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, Maldives and Iran. Four countries have communist governments: North Korea, Laos, Vietnam and China. Two countries, Bhutan and Myanmar, are Buddhist.

Changes for the worse

The status of religious freedom deteriorated in Eritrea, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Eritrea, the government began actively applying a law which prohibits the practice of “new religion”. Hundreds of evangelical Christians were imprisoned as a consequence. In India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, the freedom to evangelize and to choose one’s own faith are coming under fire. Anti-conversion legislation has already been implemented in several States in India, and attempts are being made to introduce it in Sri Lanka as well. The legislation appears to lead to increasing tensions between Hindus and Christians.

Changes for the better

Due to the absence of major attacks against Christians and Christian institutions during 2003 in comparison to previous years, the total number of points for Pakistan and Nigeria decreased. This does not mean, however, that the situation of religious freedom for Christians is favourable.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, pressure on Christians from the government in Iraq and its northern region of Kurdistan has disappeared. Nevertheless, a situation of lawlessness and chaos causes Christians to feel insecure.

World Watch List

Country Name | Jan 2004 | Jan 2003 | Trend

  1. North Korea | 82.5 | 82.5 | 7.0
  2. Saudi Arabia | 70.5 | 77.0 | 0
  3. Laos | 69.5 | 70.0 | 0
  4. Vietnam (Highlands) | 68.0 | 70.0 | 0
  5. Iran | 63.0 | 59.0 | 1.5
  6. Turkmenistan | 62.0 | 62.0 | 0
  7. Maldives | 60.5 | 60.5 | 0
  8. Bhutan | 59.5 | 60.0 | 0
  9. Myanmar (Burma) | 58.5 | 57.5 | 0
  10. China | 57.5 | 56.5 | 0
  11. Somalia | 57.0 | 58.5 | 0
  12. Pakistan | 53.5 | 61.0 | +
  13. Afghanistan | 53.5 | 56.0 | 0
  14. Comoros | 52.0 | 50.5 | 0
  15. Sudan | 50.5 | 52.5 | 0
  16. Uzbekistan | 49.0 | 48.5 | 0
  17. Yemen | 46.5 | 48.0 | 0
  18. Eritrea | 46.5 | 34.5 | 0
  19. Egypt | 46.0 | 46.0 | 0
  20. Azerbaijan | 45.0 | 47.0 | 0
  21. Nigeria (North) | 43.0 | 45.5 | +
  22. Libya | 43.0 | 42.5 | 0
  23. Morocco | 42.5 | 40.5 | 0
  24. Cuba | 41.0 | 42.5 | 0
  25. Brunei | 40.5 | 42.0 | 0
  26. Colombia (Conflict Areas) | 39.0 | 43.0 | 0
  27. Qatar | 39.0 | 39.0 | 0
  28. Tunisia | 38.5 | 40.0 | 0
  29. Russian (Mus.)3 | 37.5 | 40.0 | 0
  30. Mexico (South)4 | 36.5 | 37.5 | 0
  31. Tajikistan | 36.0 | 35.0 | 0
  32. Iraq | 35.5 | 44.5 | +
  33. India | 35.5 | 32.0 | –
  34. Sri Lanka | 35.0 | 31.0 | –
  35. Djibouti | 34.0 | 33.5 | 0
  36. Indonesia | 33.5 | 33.0 | 0
  37. Algeria | 33.5 | 32.5 | 0
  38. Nepal | 33.5 | 31.0 | –
  39. Turkey | 32.5 | 34.5 | 0
  40. Mauritania | 31.5 | 31.5 | 0
  41. United Arab Emirates | 30.5 | 30.5 | 0
  42. Kurdistan | 28.0 | 32.5 | +
  43. Oman | 27.0 | 28.5 | 0
  44. Kuwait | 26.5 | 26.5 | 0
  45. Belarus | 26.0 | 24.0 | 0
  46. Jordan | 25.5 | 23.5 | 0
  47. Bangladesh | 25.5 | 22.5 | –
  48. Syria | 24.5 | 26.0 | 0
  49. Bahrain | 22.5 | 23.0 | 0
  50. Malaysia | 22.5 | 23.0 | 0

Copyright © 2004 Open Doors International

Focus on the Top Ten

  1. North Korea

There was no change in the deplorable lack of religious freedom in Stalinist North Korea. The North Korean regime still runs the main politico-labour camps where about 200,000 prisoners are held. Tens of thousands of them are Christians, imprisoned for their faith, who face torture, starvation and death in the camps. According to our local co-workers, their number is increasing as the high number of North Korean refugees being arrested in China are returned and sent to labour camps. Many became Christians after they received support from Korean and Chinese missionaries and were tortured or killed when their contacts with Christians were discovered.

  1. Saudi Arabia

There is hardly any religious freedom in the strict Islamic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Christians and other non-Muslims are not allowed to meet for public worship in the country. During 2003, several foreign Christians were jailed. Some of them were subsequently deported to their home countries in connection with Christian activities such as involvement in house churches. Christians are not allowed to hold any position of authority over a Muslim. The fact that one of the Christian prisoners had become a manager at his workplace could have played a role in his detention. However, the number of prisoners was lower than last year, which explains the drop of points.

  1. Laos

The Laotian government continued to put pressure upon Christians in the country. Many were arrested and later released, and several churches were closed in 2003. As one of our local coworkers put it: “Christians look at prisons as revolving doors, as many leaders were imprisoned several times in the year.” There was also an increase in physical abuse of believers to make them renounce their faith. Several families were evicted from their homes for refusing to give up their beliefs. One Laotian believer was even killed for his faith.

  1. Vietnam

Persecution of tribal Christians in the highlands of Vietnam continued unabated during the past year. At the beginning of the year, the powerful central committee of the Communist Party announced it would take harsh measures to better control religion. During the year, many Christians from ethnic minority communities were forced to renounce their faith and many were arrested when they refused to do so. At one time, an estimated 300 Christian pastors were imprisoned for holding church meetings. According to our local co-workers, at least four Christians died as a result of persecution. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government continues to consistently deny well-documented incidents of religious persecution.

  1. Iran

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continued to restrict freedom of religion during 2003. Religious minorities in the country are regularly harassed, intimidated and discriminated against because of their faith. In the new WWL, Iran rose from number 10 to number five, which indicates a clear increase in the extent of persecution. The reason is that we observed a considerable increase in the number of Christians being arrested and held without trial for their religious beliefs during the past year. In December, a large number of Christians with an Islamic background were also physically harmed in connection with their new-found faith.

  1. Turkmenistan

Religious liberty has been severely restricted in the virtually closed country of Turkmenistan. As a result of the assassination attempt on President Niyazov at the end of 2002 and a resulting increase in government control, the situation got even tighter for Christians. During the past year, believers have been harassed, threatened, fined and detained because of their faith. Turkmenistan further increased its pressure on unregistered believers by adopting a new religion law which outlaws all unregistered religious activity. Members of minority faiths are now vulnerable to criminal charges, and penalties for breaking the law range up to a year of “corrective labour.” By forbidding unregistered religious activity, Turkmenistan is violating the international human rights agreement it has signed.

  1. Maldives

There was no change in the lack of religious freedom in the archipelago of the Maldives. Islam is the official state religion and religious liberty is severely restricted. The government requires that all citizens be Muslims, and the public practice of any other religion is prohibited. Non-Muslim foreigners are allowed to practice their religion in private, without inviting citizens to join. There are no churches allowed in the country, and the importation of non-Muslim religious materials is forbidden, apart from those for personal use by non-citizens. The few indigenous Christians live their faith in secrecy and extreme isolation. When discovered, they risk loosing their citizenship.

  1. Bhutan

Buddhism is the state religion of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and adherents of this religion are clearly favoured over followers of other religions. There was no change in the situation of religious freedom during 2003. Christians are suffering from harassment and discrimination by the government, local authorities and other citizens. According to local sources, mental tortures are heavily inflicted on those who become Christians. They lose all their rights and are denied access to facilities and services of the government, such as education for their children and job opportunities. Some lose their rented facilities once their landlords – who fear government reprisal — know they are Christians. No religious materials except for Buddhist religious texts were allowed to enter the country.

  1. Myanmar

Myanmar has no constitution or laws to protect freedom of religion. The government imposes restrictions on certain religious activities and often violates the right to religious freedom. In this mainly Buddhist country, Christians face discrimination and restriction of education, evangelism and church construction activities. The government is opposed to the spread of Christianity. Thousands of young Christians are unemployed because of their faith and are pressured to convert to Buddhism. Several Christian churches and homes were burned during 2003. Persecution is more severe among ethnic tribes such as the Karen. Apart from the ethnical motivations, there are also elements of anti-Christian persecution.

  1. China

There was no significant change in the situation of religious liberty in China. Unregistered religious groups are considered illegal in the country. Registered churches, however, are controlled and regulated to prevent the rise of groups that could form an authority outside of the State’s control. Nevertheless, the membership of many Christian groups is growing. Under the new president, Hu Jintao, persecution of Christians has not decreased. House church raids and arrests of Christian house church leaders and members continued. A Christian woman was even beaten to death in custody. A national campaign to register house churches – and thereby to place them under government control and supervision – is in operation. Also, the government started a campaign to actively promote “orthodox atheist” communism through state media and denounce “deviant” beliefs in an effort to restrict the influence of religious activity.

Countries where the situation deteriorated

The status of religious freedom deteriorated in Eritrea, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh. In Eritrea, more than 300 evangelical Christians are currently imprisoned for their faith, as Eritrean authorities massively applied a law which prohibits the practice of “new religion.” Mostly Pentecostal believers are victimized by this law. Several believers were beaten and more than 60 teenage Christians were locked in metal shipping containers. They were pressured to renounce their faith in exchange for freedom. Meanwhile, the Eritrean government continues to deny the existence of religious persecution.

In India, anti-conversion legislation, which has been introduced in five states, has emboldened militant Hindu groups to target churches and Christian institutions on several occasions during the past year. The coalition government led by the Hindu nationalist BJP is attempting to introduce the anticonversion rule on a national level to stop low caste Hindus from embracing Islam, Christianity or Buddhism.

Violent persecution of Christians increased in Sri Lanka. Also, there have been moves to introduce an anti-conversion law. Churches and houses of Christians have been attacked, and it is suspected that the increase of incidents finds its roots in this law. Anti-Christian hostility increased at the end of the year when a Buddhist monk’s death was labeled a Christian conspiracy. Fourteen incidents of violent attacks against churches, house churches, pastors and Christian families were documented.

In the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal, Christian persecution is increasing. During 2003, eight Christians were jailed for engaging in illegal religious activities after police found Bibles and Christian literature in their bags. They were later released. Several churches were attacked, and in one village, Christians were pressured by authorities to give up their faith. When they refused, their houses and cornfields were attacked.

The murder of a Christian evangelist highlights growing violence against Christians in Bangladesh during the past year. The evangelist was killed after showing a Christian film. A surge in Islamic nationalism has been observed since the election of a fundamentalist Islamic government in October 2001.

Countries where the situation improved

Pakistan received a few points less than last year, which is explained by the absence of large attacks on churches or Christian institutions as in 2002, when many Christians were injured or killed. This does not mean that the situation of the Christians has improved substantially. The situation is still tight with Islamist sentiments rising, especially since the U.S.-led war in Iraq. A Catholic priest was murdered in July, possibly since the government decided to return ownership of a former church school to the priest’s Catholic parish. Blasphemy charges against three Christians were lifted, whereas life sentences were upheld for two other Christians accused of burning the Quran. Another Christian was sentenced to life in prison in April on blasphemy charges.

The absence of major attacks against Christians and massive killings also led to a slight decrease in points for Nigeria in comparison to previous years. Tensions between Muslims and Christians, especially in the northern Shari’a States, did not diminish. Several Christian schools were attacked by Muslim extremists, who required female students to wear the Muslim head covering. Hundreds of students and teachers were injured in the attacks. In Kano State, all school girls in stategovernment-run schools are now obliged to wear the scarf. The enforcement of shari’a, which should initially only affect Muslims, is now trampling on the rights of non-Muslims, as Christians are being convicted by shari’a courts in several States. Also during the past year, Christians were killed for their faith and churches attacked or demolished, though to a lesser extent than in previous years.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, pressure on Christians from the government in Iraq and its northern region of Kurdistan has disappeared. Pressure at the grassroots level still exists, however. Religious minorities are the main victims of the current post war lawlessness and unrest in the country. In February, a Kurdish convert was killed when he refused to return to Islam. The general insecurity is providing an ideal opportunity for crimes such as killings, rapes and property confiscations to go unpunished. A draft constitution was presented in London last year, and its reference to Islam appears to be much stronger than in the former Iraqi Constitution. Christians have faced overt discrimination from Islamist elements. Two Christians were even murdered for their involvement in the sale of alcohol, a job which was forbidden to Muslims but permitted to Christians under Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Appendix 4

(In the analysis in this Appendix you will find some helpful ideas for working out how to challenge a government about protecting its citizens from persecution.)


This paper is an adapted version of a paper presented at the annual convention of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, October 21, 2004. For a full version of this paper go to:

© Brian Jeffrey Grim 2005
Pennsylvania State University
[email protected]

If there were only one religion … there would be danger of despotism, if there were two, they would cut each other’s throats, but there are thirty, and they live in peace and happiness.

— Voltaire (François Marie Arouet)
Letters on England, 6 (1732)

… a lot of the conflict in the world today is not between nations but between nations and people who feel they are commanded by God to shoot children and blow up buses.

— John C. Danforth,
US Ambassador to the United Nation
The New York Times interview (13 September 2004)

For who knows the will of God concerning this matter?

— Augustine of Hippo
The City of God, Book IV.7 (circa 413)

The ‘Cities of God’ are religious brands (sects, churches, denominations, brotherhoods, orders, missions, movements, etc.) which seek to extend their influence over people. The ‘Countries of Earth’ seek to keep law and order among the people within their boundaries (and beyond) and thus react in various ways towards the Cities of God depending on whether they are viewed as threats or benefits. The interplay within and between the different Cities of God as well as the relationships between the Cities of God and the Countries of Earth engender religious regulation and restrict religious freedom.

This paper will briefly describe the process used to create a measure of the worldwide restriction of religious freedom for 196 countries and regions for the period of July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003. Three things are important to keep in mind when considering the measure of religious freedom presented in this paper.

First, the data used to create this index come from my numeric coding of the extensive U.S. State Department Reports on International Religious Freedom. The State Department Reports are not without bias (cf. Marshall 2000). Nonetheless, there does seem to be some consensus that they represent the best single source on religious freedom (cf. Aikman 2003). Thus, the index proposed should be viewed only as a beginning measure that must be updated annually and crosschecked with other data sources.

Secondly, most freedom indexes (including religious, press, political, civil and economic) are set up with high scores indicating low freedom. In other words, ‘freedom indexes’ are measures of freedom restriction or deficiency. I follow this convention.

Thirdly, the concepts of religious brand and socio-religious protectionism have become more important with the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, religion was seen as mostly responding to oppression. Today, religion is part of the oppression, as noted in the quote above by John C. Danforth, a clergyman and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Religious Brands

To date, there is no agreed upon definition for the term religion among social scientists (Christiano, Swatos, and Kivisto 2002) or among those involved with Human Rights law (Lerner 2000). When considering such things as religious freedom and persecution, the general concept of ‘religion’ is too broad. Struggles between rival factions within the same general ‘religion’ are often the place where religious freedom is threatened. Historically, this can be seen not only in the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Europe but also within Catholicism and Protestantism. The Catholic suppression of the Jesuits and the Protestant suppression of the Anabaptists are historical examples of persecution within religious traditions. The violent house church rivalries in China (described in David Aikman’s 2003 book, Jesus in Beijing) are contemporary examples of persecution5 within a religious tradition.

To capture the reality of the rivalries between different strands of common religious traditions, the term religious brand6 is useful. Combining religious with brand indicates that religious groups such as Baptists or Presbyterians inherently have a commitment to their ‘brand’ that sets them apart from and in competition with other ‘brands.’ I define a religious brand as an organized group of loyally committed individuals that adhere to and propagate a specific interpretation of explanations of existence based on supernatural assumptions through statements about the nature and workings of the supernatural and about ultimate meaning.7

Brand loyalty, of course, is not just a Protestant phenomenon. Catholicism’s religious orders function as brands that compete with dioceses for sponsors and participants. Using the term religious brand also allows distinctions between ‘brands’ of Islam, which are far more numerous than Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Islamist, etc. For example, Muktada al-Sadr’s mosque-based religious brand, though Shi’a, competes with other Shi’a brands for sponsors and participants, as do global religious brands such as the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.8 Competition is not by nature acrimonious. Meaningful cooperation often happens between competing religious brands, such as described in Allen Hertzke’s (2004) recent account of how the heightened awareness of religious human rights in the U.S. resulted from a coalition of various religious brands within evangelicalism and Judaism.

Religious freedom as envisioned here is less a matter of a person being able to choose a belief (or no belief) and more a matter of the unconstrained ability to make a choice for or against a particular religious brand without suffering negative social, civic or political consequences. Freedom is intrinsically a social concept. Freedom exists or does not exist within societies.9 For freedom in general to exist in a society, there must be a balance between a general social concern for the common good and a concern for individual (or group) advancement. Concern for the common good without the concern for individual advancement is a failed communist experiment. Competitive individual advancement without concern for the common good is a cutthroat island.

Religious freedom is dependent upon each religious brand (a) being committed to the common good of all in society and (b) being willing to let rival religious brands ‘compete’ freely for a place in society and for the hearts of people. Thus, religious freedom is the ‘real opportunity’ for religious brand choice within the security provided by the dynamic social processes of commitment to the common good and to fair religious brand competition. When this is absent, there is likely to be a legal/policy structure that favors one religious brand above another or restricts the ability of certain religious brands to operate freely (within the parameters of commitment to the common good and fair competition).

The Countries of Earth—Regulatory Actions of Governments

Religious freedom is diminished when the legal and policy framework of a country inequitably favors (subsidizes) or restricts (regulates) religious brand activity. Unfair and protectionist legal regulation of religion limits choice and subverts the process of each religious brands being able to pursue its own course. The extreme form this can take is when governments campaign against certain religious brands or sects, as the smaller religious brands are derisively called. This occurred in 69 different countries of the world in 2002-2003.10 Campaigns include such things as the stigmatization of Scientology in Germany, whose Economics and Labor Ministry required that an “S” be placed in government records beside the names of firms suspected of employing members of the Church of Scientology. More violent campaigns include the imprisonment and torture of Hizb ut-Tahrir members in Uzbekistan.

Such anti-religious brand campaigns can also include refusing to recognize the religious brand leaders elected by the brand’s members, such as Israel’s refusal to recognize the duly elected Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Israel, Eirinaios I. Less dramatic forms of regulation are rampant. For example, governments of 101 different countries have offices charged with supervising or overseeing religious brands. Similar in effect to regulation is subsidy of religious brands. 119 different countries subsidize religion in one form or another, including Venezuela, which disbursed State funds directly to the Catholic Church.

The Cities of God — Socio-Religious Protectionism

Religious freedom is likewise diminished when there is socio-religious protectionism, i.e., when there are movements or organizations within society that try to keep out or limit the actions of certain religious brands. When this occurs, security for certain religious brands and their members is threatened. Such socio-religious protectionism can be the actions of an established religious brand or the actions of other religious brands seeking to dominate some part of the religious situation of the country.

Socio-religious protectionism is revealed in attitudes towards other religious brands. One of the starkest indicators of such protectionism is violence towards other religious brands. Violence related to religion occurred in more than 100 different countries in recent years, including 71 countries where abuses included assault, beatings, rape, torture, murder, or armed conflict. Such abuses ranged from isolated violent acts such as the recent murder of filmmaker van Gogh in the Netherlands to simmering states of stalemated war, e.g., Armenia versus Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, to unrelenting bloody conflict, e.g., the Intifada in Israel and the Occupied Territories. Another indicator of socio-religious protectionism is the extent of anti-religious brand movements in a country. When there are social movements that seek to obtain a privileged position for their religious brand or campaign against other religious brands, they do so to gain security for themselves at the expense of the security of other brands. Specifically, they oppose real choice. Such socio-religious movements were present in over 125 countries. Another indictor of socio-religious protectionism is the type of bias a religious brand has towards other religious brands, such as whether it tries to shut out other religious brands, prevent proselytism, or forbid conversions to other religions. Such biases were reported to varying degrees in 140 different countries.

In the next section I will describe how I have utilized the U.S. State Department Reports on international religious freedom to create numeric measurements of both socio-religious protectionism and legal restrictions of religion. As mentioned above, while the State Department Reports do contain certain inherent biases, they seem to be the best single source on the situation of religious freedom worldwide. My overall goal was to extract as much reliable and valid information from the Reports as possible within the limitations of the Reports.

Data and Methods11

My quantitative data on international religious freedom come from my coding of the reports on 196 countries12 covered in the US State Department’s 2003 annual International Religious Freedom Report. The Reports became available on December 18, 2003, at www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf. I use these data because of their fresh currency, breadth of coverage, incorporation of trend information, depth of inquiry specifically related to religious freedom, and high degree of vetting guided by U.S. law under the direction of the special U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom.

The Reports cover the following standard reporting fields for each country: religious demography, legal/policy issues, restrictions of religious freedom, abuses of religious freedom, forced conversions, improvements in respect for religious freedom, societal attitudes, and the US Government’s actions.

The Reports were quantitatively coded using a 243-item Codebook, essentially a survey questionnaire, as the research instrument. Strict procedures including double-blind coding for reliability were used.

The RRF Index is composed of two sub-indexes each on a scale of 1-18. The first is a measure of Socio-Religious Protectionism. The second is an index of the Legal/Policy Restriction on religion by the government. The RRF Index is calculated by adding these components together — but not in their raw form. The sub-indexes are weighted by their statistical correlation with a concrete “indicator” of the level of abuse in each country. This indicator is Abuse due to Low Religious Freedom.13 The State Department Reports specifically enumerated the people abused and displaced due to violations of religious freedom, frequently citing names, places and specific situations. 58.2 percent of the countries had no physical abuses or displacements reported, but the remaining 41.8 percent of the countries had abuses with continuing effects reported, including 8.2 percent (16 countries) with more than 10,000 people abused or displaced due to a lack of religious freedom. This measure represents the effects of low religious freedom. The two sub-indexes, however, represent the processes which lead to low religious freedom, i.e., socio-religious protectionism (SRP) and legal/policy restrictions (LPR).

Formula 1: Weighted Index according to Correlation to Abuse due to Low Religious Freedom

(Restriction of Religious Freedom Index): RRF = (SRP * .688) + (LPR * .587)
Correlation of Abuse due to Low Religious Freedom with SRP is .688, and with LPR is .587.
Both correlations are highly significant statistically (p<.001, two-tailed).

Socio- Religious Protectionism Index The first sub-index is socio-religious protectionism. It has three component measures: AntiBrand Movements, Conflict with Other Brands, and Negativity to Other Brands. The common element in these measures is that they present data on socio-religious forces that constrain religious freedom by seeking to dominate the religious situation in the country.

The first component measure is Anti-Religious Brand Movements. This component identifies two different types of such social movements. The first type of anti-religious brand movements aims to protect an existing order by campaigning against religious brands viewed as a threat. Such movements often target religious brands such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not pledge national flags. The second type of anti-religious brand movement opposes a secular ordering of society and seeks to establish dominance over the country or some part of the country. Examples of this type are the numerous movements to adopt Shari’a Law throughout the world, as well as Hindutva movements in India. Such movements violate religious freedom in that they are premised on ensuring security only for their favored religious brand(s). Rather than promote real religious brand choice, such movements seek to circumscribe choice.

Conflict with Other Brands, the second measure, captures the varying levels of societal attitudes which impinge upon religious freedom, i.e., attitudes which demonstrate a one-sided pursuit of security. The subjective nature of these attitudes is reflected in the first two levels of this scale: insensitivity (1) and prejudice (2). Prejudice (level 2), for example, is sometimes captured directly in the Reports. For example, in the Societal Attitudes section of the Report on Iceland, there is no ambiguity for the coder: “If members of religious minorities face discrimination, it is more indirect in nature, taking the form of prejudice and lack of interfaith or intercultural understanding” (U.S. State Department 2003: Iceland). Iceland was coded as “2,” which on the scale incorporates level 1, inadvertent insensitivity to other religious brands than the dominant religious brand (Lutheranism). Levels 3-6 on the scale reflect the substantive (documented) categories of discrimination (3), aggression (4), fatal aggression (5) and open warfare or ongoing violent conflict along religious lines or between religious brands (6).

The third measure of Socio-Religious Protectionism is Negativity to Other Brands. This additive index of five different measures which capture specific attitudes within society towards other religious brands. It includes items measuring the views of minority religious brands, relations between religious brands, attitudes toward conversions to other religious brands and other forms of negative exclusivity. Such attitudes reflect whether religious brands feel that their security is threatened by other religious brands. Attitudes especially towards conversion and proselytism are indicators of religious brand protectionism which reflect whether there is real choice.

Legal/Policy Regulation Index

The Legal/Policy Regulation index is the second main sub-index of the RRF. It also has three component measures: Restrictions on Brands, Legal/Policy Impetus and Macro Legal System. The common element in these measures is that they present data on the restrictions that a country’s legal/policy framework places upon religious brands.

The first, Restrictions on Brands, is a measure of the level of restrictions a government places on religion and religious brands. It ranges from 0 (no restrictions reported) to 6 (prohibition of religious practice except for that which is approved by the government).

The second measure is the Legal/Policy Impetus scale. This measure taps into the reported motivations for government Restrictions on Religious Brands. It also taps into the social moods that motivate laws on religion.

The third measure of Legal/Policy Regulation is Macro Legal Systems. This measure represents breaches in legal and policy safeguards for religious freedom in a country. While it includes the presence of Constitutional guarantees, it focuses primarily on how well these guarantees are actualized, including whether there is an official religious bias, e.g., a State religion. It is an additive index composed of five measures.14

Discussion of the RRF Index

The RRF Index is designed to reflect the ‘real opportunity’ for religious brand choice within the security provided by the dynamic social processes of commitment to the common good and to fair religious brand competition. A discussion of a three examples is useful.

First, RRF component scores are especially useful in revealing the tenuous situation in countries where there is both high socio-religious protectionism and high legal/policy regulations. In the case of Iraq, it was the Legal/Policy Regulations on religious freedom under the former regime that kept the bloodletting forces of Socio-Religious Protectionism from spilling into the streets. Now that the restrictions have been eased, such violence is on the rise. The bombing of mosques by rival religious brands is one fatal example. The success of current ‘freedom-building’ endeavors by the U.S. is dependent on the parties within Iraq allowing real religious brand choice, a very tall order indeed.

Second, the RRF component scores highlight potential areas of progress in removing unnecessary legal/policy restrictions on religious freedom. The most notable finding in this regard is for the People’s Republic of China. While China has oppressive legal/policy regulations on religion (14.73), there is relatively moderate socio-religious protectionism (7.69). Using Formula 1 above, China’s overall score is 13.94. This score indicates that people in China often have the opportunity to make their own religious brand choices. The phenomenal growth of religion in China supports this interpretation. The Chinese Government officially acknowledges that there are now more than 200 million religious adherents with more than 100,000 sites for religious activity and 300,000 clergy (cited in U.S. State Department Report on China 2003). There is “relative” religious freedom in China (cf. Aikman 2003) most likely because the general social attitude is quite positive to religious brand choice. This general positive attitude by Chinese society to religious freedom is reflected in the extremely good RRF scores of China-Hong Kong (2.99) and China-Taiwan (0.59).

These data suggest that Mainland Chinese society can handle religious freedom. If Beijing accepts this, as Taiwan and Hong Kong have, the security generated will produce a stronger commonwealth. While there are protectionist socio-religious forces in China, e.g., in Tibet and Xinjiang, loosening religious restrictions seems a risk worth taking, especially considering the overwhelmingly positive reaction that will come from the international community. Interestingly, in 1945 China was ranked as one of the freest countries in the world regarding religion (Bates 1945). The evidence suggests that this could happen again.

Third, a note on countries generally viewed as ‘free’ is useful. Canada, for example, is more or less in the middle of the pack. Why is it there and not closer to the free end of the index? It could be due to the potential bias where generally free countries are more apt to reveal abuses than are less free countries. The State Department may have had access to more information in Canada than it did in Mongolia, and thus Canada’s score relative to Mongolia is biased. If this is true, it does not necessarily mean that Canada’s score should change. Rather, it might be that a more precise measure for Mongolia is needed. Having said this, let me highlight the types of information that went into Canada’s RRF score of 8.85. The Canada Report cites a survey released in September 2002 where 60 percent of Canadian Muslims said that they had experienced discrimination or bias since September 2001.

Among other things, the Report also cited 459 instances of anti-Semitism during the Report period, of which 39 percent involved violence to property or persons, including a religiously-related murder in Toronto. In addition, pro-Palestinian riots erupted in connection with a visit by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Montreal. Coding this information puts Canada at 5 on the Conflict with Other Brands scale, 3 on the Anti-Brand Movements scale, and 1.38 on the Negativity to Other Brands additive index. Thus Canada’s Socio-Religious Protectionism score is 9.38. The component of the RRF that more closely relates to the ‘free’ aspect of Canadian society is its Legal/Policy Regulation component. On that scale, Canada scores relatively low (4.09, where low = free). Because of this, the general public perception of religious freedom may be greater than the freedom experienced by those out of the mainstream. The middle-of-the-pack RRF score for Canada may seem accurate, however, when looked at from a Muslim or Jewish perspective. This discussion is not to single out Canada, but it serves to explain other similar scores which run counter to common expectations.

Finally, I must note that there is unfortunately no score for the United States because the State Department does not report on the U.S. If it did, it would need at least two ratings: one for lands it currently occupies (e.g., Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) and another for the country itself. The current pressures of Islamist religious brands upon U.S. policy and public opinion show how the demand for security after religious brand aggression results in higher legal/policy restrictions on members of certain religious brands. The dramatic detention of Yusuf Islam (musician Cat Stevens) who was taken off a diverted trans-Atlantic flight by U.S. officials on September 22, 2004, due to his religious brand associations is an anecdotal example of a potential swing away from religious freedom in the U.S. today (reported in BBC News 2004).

Conclusion to this Appendix

Religious freedom is negatively affected by both the inequitable regulation of religion by governments and the protectionist actions of religious brands in societies. A measure of religious freedom today must pay equal attention to both of these factors in order to more accurately reflect the actual ability of people to freely choose and/or maintain their religious brand affiliation (or no affiliation) without fear or abuse. Freedom for the majority to do what they want is not the measurement provided. Rather, the RRF is a measure of the restriction of freedom that various religious brands in a country experience.

References for this Appendix

Aikman, David. Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2003

Barrett, David B., George T. Kurian and Todd M. Johnson. World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. 2d ed. New York: Oxford University Press. 2001

Bates, M. Searle. Religious Liberty: An Inquiry. New York: International Missionary Council. 1945

BBC News. “Cat Stevens Refused Entry to the U.S.” Internet last accessed on September 27, 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/3678694.stm

Christiano, Kevin J., William H. Swatos, Jr. and Peter Kivisto. Sociology of Religion: Contemporary Developments. New York: AltaMira Press. 2002

Danforth, John C. Quoted in The New York Times, “U.N. Envoy Seeks to Enlist The Clergy to Ease Conflicts,” interview by Warren Hoge, Section A , page 9 , column 3 (September 13, 2004).

Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press. 2002

Hertzke, Allen D. Freeing God’s Children: The unlikely alliance for global human rights. Lanham, MD: Roman & Littlefield. 2004

Kwitny, Jonathan. The Life and Times of Pope John Paul II. New York: Henry Holt. 1997

Lerner, Natan. Religion, Beliefs, and International Human Rights. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis. 2000

Marshall, Paul, ed. Religious Freedom in the World: Global Report on Freedom and Persecution. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holdman. 2000

Sen, Amartya K. Development as Freedom. New York: Knopf. 1999

_____________. Rationality and Freedom. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University. 2002

Stark, Rodney. For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2003

Stark, Rodney and Roger Finke. Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion. Berkley, CA: California University Press. 2000

U.S. State Department. International Religious Freedom Report. Retrieved December 19, 2004 (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/).

Restriction of Religious Freedom (RRF) Index

This index is based on data reported by the U.S. State Department in 2003; it should be viewed as a beginning measure that should be updated annually and crosschecked with other data sources. B.J. Grim

[There is a table here that I’m not quite sure how to insert.]

Appendix 5: Guidelines on Reporting for Publicity and Advocacy

These guidelines relate to:

  • information gathering
  • dissemination of information for advocacy or publicity purposes

Guiding principle

Anyone who is involved with the persecuted Church can cite stories of information that has been disseminated that falls under any of the following categories: partly inaccurate, mostly inaccurate or completely inaccurate.

The cause can be:

  • the information gathering process: our sources prove to have been unreliable
  • the information dissemination process: media or advocacy organizations that misquote (or take out of context in a way which changes the meaning of the quote), inflated numbers etc.

Whether we are involved in the information gathering process or in the information disseminating process it is imperative that we make every effort to ensure the information does not contain any inaccuracy.

This is important for two reasons:

(a) Biblical imperative

The bible commands us not to ‘give false testimony’ (Exodus 20:16) but to rejoice with the truth (1 Corinthians 13:6)

(b) Practical imperative

Inaccuracies will have a negative impact for the:

  • victims of persecution: people will become reluctant to help because they do not know what to believe any more.
  • source of the inaccurate information: he/she will be labelled as an unreliable source.
  • disseminator of the information (media or advocacy group): they will lose their credibility which will impair the assistance they can give in current and future cases.

Information gathering process

Every effort must be made to make sure the information is:

  1. Accurate (verification)
  2. Timely (promptness and updates)
  3. Usable (what information is needed)

1. Accurate

We have to make sure that every aspect of the information that we gather is accurate. That includes information about the victim(s), the perpetrators and the act(s) of persecution. Some guidelines that could increase the accuracy of information:

  • Assess the reliability of your sources of information: are they known to you, what is their track record, would they benefit in any way from giving inflated or incorrect information, etc?
  • Get as much information as possible from personal sources. Possible sources are: victim(s), eye witnesses, relatives and friends, media or human rights activists and religious or community leaders. Where possible also try to get information from the perpetrator(s).
  • As much as possible cross-check every piece of information you have gathered with documentary evidence (court papers, police statements, medical statements, etc.)
  • Assess the information and establish if certain evidence is missing (see also below on “3. Usable”)
  • Compare the alleged violation with similar cases to see if it is part of pattern.

2. Timely

Usually it is not possible to obtain all the data mentioned above in a short time. It is important though to communicate the minimum of information as soon as possible. If advocacy is requested the minimum required information is:

  • the full name of the victim (if possible also the ID or passport number)
  • real reason for the persecution and why that is assumed to be the real reason (this is important because governments often claim people are arrested for committing a crime).

It is important to communicate more or new information as it becomes available. Also changes in the situation should be communicated as soon as possible.

3. Usable

Information should try to answer the following basic question:

Who did what to whom, when, where and why?

Below is a more detailed list of helpful information:

  • Date of baptism (when convert)
  • Denomination (or house church)
  • Name of church
    1.1. Full name (as specified on identity card or passport)
    1.2. Number of passport or identity card
    1.3. Assumed or adopted name
    1.4. Profession
    1.5. Date of birth or approximate age
    1.6. Sex
    1.7. Nationality/ethnic group
    1.8. Religion on identity card
    1.9. Address
    1.10. Family details (marital status, number of dependants; give names and ages where possible)
    1.11. Details of church membership:
    2.1. Describe in chronological order what happened. Include time, date, location and agencies, groups and individuals involved.
    2.2. Explain the current situation.
    2.3. Does the victim have a history of persecution? (If so, please elaborate.)
    2.4. Reason for persecution, both
  • The real reason, and
  • The reason that is officially given, including relevant legislation that is applied.

2.5. In case of imprisonment:

  1. Place of arrest.
  2. Forces who carried out the arrest or are believed to have carried it out.
  3. Did they show a warrant or decision by a public authority? (If so who issued the warrant or decision?)
  4. Any detail of abuse, ill-treatment or illegality in the course of the arrest.
  5. Is the victim formally charged? If so what are these charges? (Include relevant legislation)
  6. Place of detention.
  7. Forces holding the victim under custody.
  8. Is the prisoner allowed visitors, especially family and lawyer (and, in the case of an expatriate, consular officers)?
  9. Does the victim have a lawyer (contact details)? If so, who chose the lawyer?
  10. Under what conditions is the victim held?
  11. What is the victim’s state of health? xii. Has the victim been subjected to torture or ill-treatment (either physical or psychological) since arrest?
  12. Has the victim been tried? If so, give details including date and place of trial(s), kind of court, court rulings.
  13. If not, is a trial scheduled?

3. Any other information that you believe may be relevant. If publicity is requested, it is very useful to include a photograph of the victim.

Information dissemination process

Before disseminating any information of events of persecution we need to ensure:

  1. Authorization
  2. Confidentiality
  3. Accuracy (try to check with source before dissemination)
  4. Information management (circulation codes)

1. Authorization

Before any action on behalf of the victim(s) of persecution can be taken we need to have authorization. We need to know what the relevant parties want us to do on behalf of the victim(s).

There are often three parties involved: the victim him/herself, the immediate family (if they have a favourable attitude towards the victim) and the Christian leadership they relate to (church leader or main discipler). Each might have a different perspective on the situation and consideration should be given to the genuine concerns of each party.

2. Confidentiality

We need to ensure that we provide the protection of our source(s) of information that they require. Confidentiality is important because it

  1. protects the source(s) from harm,
  2. strengthens a relationship of trust with the source, and
  3. ensures a continued flow of information from that source.
  • We can never use somebody’s name or information they have shared with us without their prior approval.
  • If people require confidentiality we should be very careful that pieces of information can not be traced back to persons by logical deduction and elimination.
  • Consider the use of initials or pseudonyms, geographical areas (e.g. province instead of a city), etc.

3. Accuracy

See item 1. under information gathering process.

Also, where possible we should give our sources the opportunity to review the information before it is disseminated so they can correct mistakes or misunderstandings.

4. Information management

In times of crisis, information falling into the wrong hands can often lead to serious consequences. Many problems have been caused by information that was disseminated for prayer or advocacy purposes that ended up in the media. The media is a powerful tool, but also a dangerous one.

Although complete control over information is very difficult, the use of circulation codes can be helpful. Also your mailing list for each circulation code should be limited to people who understand the limitations and have agreed to abide by them.

Possible circulation codes for prayer requests could be:


Limited to internal circulation. Do not circulate this outside your organization. May not be cited or quoted.


For internal circulation within your organization and with trusted groups or individuals known to you. This circulation code MUST be included. Not for release to the press.


May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organizations, the media and quoted from freely in reports.

Possible circulation codes for advocacy requests could be:

REQUEST FOR DISCREET ADVOCACY. May be circulated to selected politicians or human rights organizations. This circulation code MUST be included. Not for release to the press or for public letter-writing campaigns.

REQUEST FOR PUBLIC ADVOCACY. May be circulated to any politicians or human rights organizations. Can be used for public letter-writing or media campaigns.

Bibliography on Suffering, Persecution and Martyrdom

Structure of the Bibliography

  1. General
  2. Persecution in the bible (Biblical Studies)
  3. Christian teaching on persecution (Dogmatics/ Systematic Theology and Ethics)
  4. Accounts of persecution in the history of the Church up to 1899 (Church History)
  5. Accounts of persecution of the contemporary Church (1900 – )
  6. Persecution and the life of the Church (Practical Theology)
  7. Persecution and cross-cultural mission (Missiology)

1. General

1.1 Bibliographies

Barrett, David B. World Christian Trends. Pasadena: WCL 2001 – Martyrology 225-264; Futurescan 839ff; – definition, statistics, church historical, scenarios.

Jongeneel Jan A.B. Philosophy, Science and Theology of Mission. Vol. 1, second ed. New York:Lang 2002, Vol II – 1997. – some references in index to suffering, persecution and all word forms of “marty”.

Thomas, Norman, ed. International Mission Bibliography. Lanham: Scarecrow 2003 – Human Rights 333-335, possibly more.

1.2 Articles in Reference Works and Statistics

Barrett, David B. World Christian Encyclopedia. Nairobi:Oxford University Press, 1982.

Barrett, David, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson. World Christian Encyclopedia: A Comparative Survey of Churches and Religions in the Modern World. 2 vols. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001.

Grim, Brian Jeffrey. The cities of God versus the countries of earth: The Restriction of Religious Freedom (RRF) Index. MA Sociology Pennsylvania State University 2004. Abreviated paper, 47 p.: Retrieved October 14, 2004 (http://gunston.doit.gmu.edu/liannacc/ERel/S5SREC/S51_REC2004.htm). – Develops a scientific measurement for religious freedom and a global index. The substantive thesis of this research is that religious freedom is most powerfully restricted by socio-religious pursuits of (other) religions. The legal/policy regulation of religion by countries is largely a reaction to those socio-religious pursuits. See Appendix 4 above.

Open Doors. World Watch List: January 2004. Retrieved February 28, 2004 (http://www.opendoorsuk.org/wwl.php). See Appendix 3 above.

1.3 Religious Freedom, Human Rights and Politics

Cookson, Catharine, ed. Encyclopedia of religious freedom. New York: Routledge, 2003. 555 p. – ISBN 0-415-94181-4.

Hertzke, Allen D. Freeing God’s Children: The unlikely alliance for global human rights. Rowman & Littlefield 2004. 440 p. – Review in Christianity Today 22/09/2004. On the development of a political advocacy movement in the US on behalf of persecuted Christians, which has issued two statements of conscience (1996 and 2002) and has lead to the International Religious Freedom Act, the institution of a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and mandatory annual reports by the State Department.

Van der Vyver, J.D. & J.Witte, Jr., eds. Religious human rights in global perspective. The Hague: M. Nijhoff, c1996. 2 vols: Vol. 1. Religious perspectives :Vol. 2. Legal perspectives.

1.4 Judaism

Boyarin, Daniel. Dying for God : martyrdom and the making of Christianity and Judaism. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999. xi, 247 p.

2 Persecution in the Bible (Biblical Studies)

Cunningham, Scott. “Through Many Tribulations: The Theology of Persecution in Luke-Acts.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 142. Sheffield, GB: Sheffield Academic Press (1997).

Cunningham, Scott. “The theology of persecution in Luke-Acts.” ETSI Journal – Journal of the Faculty of the ECWA Theological Seminary Igbaja [Nigeria] 1 (May/June 1995): 16-34. ISSN 1117-1073 – Summary of his doctoral disseration.

Gundry, Robert. Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 19821 ; 19942 .

Mittelstadt, Martin William. The Spirit and Suffering in Luke-Acts: Implications for a Pentecostal Pneumatology. (Continuum, 2004), 232 pp, ISBN 0826471641.

Penner, Glenn M. In the Shadow of the Cross: A Biblical Theology of Persecution and Discipleship. Bartlesville, Oklahoma: Living Sacrifice/ The Voice of the Martyrs, 2004. 320 pages, ISBN 0- 88264-346-0. – This is one of only a handful of attempts to identify and develop a biblical theology of persecution in the context of Christian discipleship. Penner does not systematise the scriptural teaching, but addresses and provides commentary on each passage that touches upon the subject. Rather than seeing persecution as a secondary theme in Scripture, Penner holds that persecution is the primary and normative context in which God’s reconciliation of the world takes place and that a cross-centred gospel requires cross-bearing messengers.

Pobee, John S. “Persecution and Martyrdom in the Theology of Paul.” Journal for the study of the New Testament Supplement Series 6. Sheffield: JSOT Press (1985): 155 p. – The NT scholar from Ghana researches Paul on the background of the forms of persecution mentioned in his writings and the theology of martyrdom in Judaism. The martyrs’ cross of Christ, which is a scandal to Greeks and Jews, is a thing of glory for the Christian. Paul expounds the implications for the relationship of God to His creation in christology, ecclesiology, eschatology and ethics. Paul’s own suffering is an imitation of Christ, yet without salvific value, it demonstrates his apostolic zeal, and is part of the cosmic struggle. Thereby Paul becomes an example to other Christians under persecution and strengthens their eschatological hope.

Tson, Josef [Ton, Josif]. Suffering, martyrdom and rewards in heaven. Diss. Heverlee, Belgium, 1996, Lanham, Md.: Univ. Press of America, 1997. 516pp. ISBN 0-7618-0832-9, 0-7618-0833-7 (pbk). Includes bibliographical references 461-490.

3 Christian teaching (Dogmatics/ Systematic Theology and Ethics)

3.1 Early Church

Baumeister, Theofried. “Martyrdom and Persecution in Early Christianity.” In Martyrdom Today, eds. Johannes Baptist Metz and Edward Schillebeeckx, 3-8.

Lesbaupin, Ivo. Blessed are the Persecuted: The Early Church Under Siege. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1987/ Sevenoaks, GB: Hodder & Stoughton, 1988 – Original Portuguese, Roman Catholic liberationist perspective; pp. 1-61 on the Early Church, pp. 62-95 on Revelation. The rest concerns present application.

Young, Robin Darling. In procession before the world: martyrdom as public liturgy in early Christianity. Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2001, 70 p. ISBN 0874625815. – Lecture of a specialist in Greek Patristics at the Catholic University of America reviewing the church fathers up to Origen. Martyrs need training to remain steadfast in their public testimony, and for some this also requires a long period of intellectual training and ascetic discipline.

3.2 Christian teaching – Current

Adeyemo, Tokunboh. “Persecution: A Permanent Feature of the Church.” In Destined to Suffer? African Christians Face the Future, ed. Brother Andrew, 23-36. Orange, CA: Open Doors, 1979.

Aixala, Jerome S.J. Witnessing and martyrdom in the Second Vatican Council, in the New Testament, and in the Early and modern Church. Bombay 1970, 324 pp.

Beyerhaus, Peter. “Martyrdom – Gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Chap. in God’s Kingdom and the utopian error. 163-179. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1992:

Gómez, Medardo Ernesto. Fire against Fire: Christian Ministry Face-to-Face with Persecution. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publ. 1990 – Original: Fuego contra fuego. (El Salvador: Ediciones Liberación: 1990) – Lutheran point of view.

Kyanda, Dan. “The Attitude of the Prepared Christian.” In Destined to Suffer? African Christians Face the Future, ed. Brother Andrew, 97-104. Orange, CA: Open Doors, 1979.

Laing, Mark T.B. Persecution and Suffering. Christian Reflections and Responses. Delhi: ISPCK, 2002, 137. ISBN 81-7214-665-5.

Pit, Jan. Persecution: It Will Never Happen Here? Orange, CA: Open Doors 1981. – Previously: Ready for the End Battle. Johannesburg, South Africa: Open Doors, n.d. [ca. 1980].

Okure, Teresa, Jon Sobrino and Felix Wilfred, eds. Rethinking martyrdom. London: SCM Press, c2003. 156 p.

Retief, Frank. Tragedy to triumph: a Christian response to trials and suffering. Milton Keynes: Word/Cape Town: Struik, 1994. 232. ISBN 0850096367. ISBN 1868231720. ISBN 1862583137. – Lessons from the Bible a church in Cape Town, South Africa learned in 1993, when their worship service was attacked by terrorists. This brings the experiences of the persecuted Church closer to the West.

Schirrmacher, Thomas. The Persecution of Christians concerns us all, Towards a theology of martyrdom. 70 biblical-theological theses …, Bonn: VKW / Wetzlar/idea 2001. 156 p. ISBN 3- 932829-41-7. – English translation of a compilation for the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

3.3 Christian teaching – Current – Ethical issues

Andrew, Brother. The Ethics of Smuggling. Coverdale House:London, 1974.

Davies, W. Elwyn. “When is it Legitimate to Disobey Government Edicts?” In Christ and Caesar in Christian Missions, eds. Edwin L. Frizen and Wade T. Coggins, 87-94. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1979.

Mangham, T. Grady. “Aftermath to Persecution.” In Christ and Caesar in Christian Missions, eds. Edwin L. Frizen and Wade T. Coggins, 61-73. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 1979. – Examples from Vietnam and Chad.

3.4 Christian Teaching – History & Current – Individual theologians & denominational thinking

Kitamori, Kazoh. Theology of the Pain of God. London: SCM Press, 1966.

Kolb, Robert. For all the Saints. Changing Perceptions of Martyrdom and Sainthood in the Lutheran Reformation. Mercer University Press:Macon GA, 1987.

Kolb, Robert. “God’s Gift of Martyrdom: The Early Reformation Understanding of Dying for the Faith.” In Church History, Vol. 64 (September 1995): 399 – 411.

Metz, Johannes Baptist and Edward Schillebeeckx, eds. Martyrdom Today. Edinburgh: Clark/ New York: Seabury 1983. 93. – A thematic issue of a Roman Catholic theological journal with 16 short contributions widening the concept of martyr from specific individuals to the collective martyrdom of anonymous masses,

Moltmann, Jürgen. The Crucified God. London: SCM, 1974.

Terry, David Jonathan. Martin Luther on the suffering of the Christian. (PhD Boston University 1990). 448 pp. UMI Pub No: 9016764.

4. Accounts of persecution in the history of the Church up to 1899

4.1 Collections (to the present)

Backhouse, Robert, comp. The new encyclopedia of Christian martyrs. Alresford: John Hunt, 2001. 956pp. ISBN 1-903019-98-2

Balasundaram, Franklyn J. ed. Martyrs in the history of Christianity. Delhi: ISPCK, 1997. 260 pp. ISBN 81-7214-346-X.

Chenu, Bruno, Claude Prud’homme, France Quere, and Jean-Claude Thomas. The Book of Martyrs. London:SCM, 1990. First published in French in Paris 1988. This book has an excellent introduction on the diversity of martyrdom and its meaning in history and today, showing the unity of martyrdom yesterday and today in the communion with Christ. It then shares the nature of the martyr by selected testimonies and situations of martyrdom from St. Polycarp of Smyrna in AD156 to the modern martyrs in the 20th century. The book has depth and brings together accounts of martyrdom from many periods of the Church, many cultures and many confessions.

The Voice of the Martyrs, ed. Extreme Devotion. W Publishing, 2002. 365 pp. ISBN 0849917395 – This daily devotional features 365 readings giving a brief account of a historical or modern-day believer who made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith. An inspirational challenge and Scripture accompany each selection.

Foxe, John. The New Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Rewritten and updated by Harold J. Chadwick, 411 pp. Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1997 ISBN: 0882708759 – This classic work has been edited with easy-to-read modern English.

Norwood, Frederick A. Strangers and exiles: A history of Religious Refugees. 2 vols. Nashville:Abingdon 1969. 496+527 pp. – A comprehensive history of religious refugees of any conviction from Old Testament roots, through history, to migrating masses in post World War II context. Individual chapters of particular interest.

4.2 Persecutions up to 1899 – Early Church

Frend, William H. C. Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church: A Study of a Conflict from the Maccabees to Donatus. Oxford: Blackwell, 1965; Garden City, NY: Anchor, 1967. 625 pp. – A classical scholarly treatment covering Judaism, the New Testament period and Church history up to the year 361.

Musurillo, Herbert, ed. The Acts of Christian Martyrs. Oxford: Clarendon Press 1972. 379 pp. – Critical edition of 28 of the earliest Acts of the Christian martyrs with English translation and Greek and Latin texts which the editor deems most reliable, or extremely important and instructive.

4.3 Persecutions up to 1899 – Reformation

Gregory, Brad Stephan. Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe. Harvard Historical Studies 134. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

4.4 Persecutions up to 1899 – Anabaptists & Dissenters

Jackson, Dave & Neta Jackson. On Fire for Christ: Stories of Anabaptist Martyrs, Retold from Martyrs Mirror. Scottdale, USA: Herald Press, 1989.

Stauffer, Ethelbert. “The anabaptist theology of martyrdom.” The Mennonite Quarterly Review 19 (1945): 179-194.

5. Accounts of persecutions in the contemporary Church (1900 to today)

Andrew, Brother & Verne Becker. For the Love of My Brothers: Unforgettable stories from God’s ambassador to the Suffering Church. Bethany, 1998.

Chandler, Andrew, ed. The terrible alternative: Christian martyrdom in the twentieth century. London/New York:Cassell, 1998, 186pp. ISBN 0304702870. – Has an excellent introduction on the subject and then focuses on the suffering and martyrdom of all the persons represented in the statutes of martyrs of the twentieth century which were erected at Westminster Abbey, London.

Companjen, Anneke. Hidden sorrow, lasting joy: The forgotten women of the persecuted church. London: Hodder & Stoughton 2000. 246 pp. ISBN 0-340-75675-6 – 21 – Factual accounts of the experiences of women under persecution.

Hefley, James C. & Marti. By Their Blood: Christian Martyrs of the Twentieth Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994. c600 pages – Arranged according to geographical regions, including an extensive bibliography.

Royal, Robert. The Catholic martyrs of the twentieth century: a comprehensive world history. New York, NY: Crossroad., 2000. – 430pp. ISBN 0-8245-1846-2 – Includes bibliographical references (p. 391-414).

Schlossberg, Herbert. Called to Suffer, Called to Triumph: Eighteen True Stories by Persecuted Christians. Portland, OR: Multnomah, 1990 – examples from 18 countries.

5.1 Surveys and Reports

Lipton, Edward P., ed. Religious freedom in the Near East, northern Africa, and the former Soviet states. New York, NY: Nova Science, 2002. 237pp. ISBN 1-59033-390-X.

Marshall, Paul A. with Lela Gilbert. Their Blood Cries Out. Dallas:Word, 1997. 335 pp. ISBN 0-8499- 1418-3 – An exposition of the history, causes and realities of today’s persecution of Christians around the world.

Marshall, Paul A., ed. Religious Freedom in the World: A Global Report on Freedom and Persecution. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000.

Regular email news can be obtained at [email protected] . Forum 18 News Service provides regular news update on threats and actions against religious freedom. Visit www.forum18.org

5.2 Important English-language web-sites

www.advocatesinternational.org [lawyers working for Religious Liberty Commission]

www.barnabasfund.org [mainly Islam, ‘Free to Choose’, ‘Indonesia’, Press Releases]

www.compassdirect.org [[email protected]]

www.csi-int.ch/index.html [Christian Solidarity International]

www.csw.org.uk [Christian Solidarity Worldwide]

www.domini.org/openbook [Islam]

www.forum18.org [Religious Liberty]

www.freedomhouse.org www.idop.org/ [IDOP – International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church]

www.isic-centre.org [Islam, Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity]

www.opendoorsuk.org [Open Doors] [email protected]

www.persecutedchurch.org [IDOP USA]

www.persecution.net [Voice of the Martyrs]

www.persecution.org [International Christian Concern]


www.starlight.co.uk/keston [Keston College]

www.state.gov/g/drl/irf [US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom]

www.uscirf.gov [US Commission on International Religious Freedom a federal commission that is not part of the US government]

www.worldevangelical.org/rlc.html [RLC of WEA – Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance]

5.3 Human rights organisations





5.4 Regular email news

[email protected] [English; write to moderator; researched news by Compass Direct]

[email protected] [English; analysis and interpretation of current issues relating to Islam, with special reference to their effect on the Church and western society; to subscribe visit www.isic-centre.org]

[email protected] [English; reports of persecution of Christian minorities, primarily in Islamic contexts; to subscribe visit www.barnabasfund.org]

[email protected] [English; Religious Liberty Commission of the World EvangelicalAlliance; moderator: [email protected]]

[email protected] [English; email conference for members of parliament etc.; write to moderator]

[email protected] [English; press releases and calls for urgent action from Christian Solidarity Worldwide]

[email protected] [English; Forum 18 News Service provides almost daily news as well as weekly news summary reports of threats and actions against religious freedom. To subscribe visit www.forum18.org ]

6. Accounts by continents

Africa, Sub-Saharan

Boer, Jan H. “Nigeria’s decades of blood.” Studies in Christian & Muslim Relations, 1. Jos, Nigeria: Stream 2003. 155 pp. (pp.107-140 sources) ISBN 1-55306-581-6 also ISBN 978-36780- 9-4 in Canada.

Kivengere, Festo. I Love Idi Amin: The Story or Triumph under Fire in the Midst of Suffering and Persecution in Uganda. London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott/ Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1977.

Lipton, Edward P., ed. Religious freedom in Africa. Hauppauge, N.Y.: Nova Sciences, c2002. 182 p. ISBN 1590333896.

Muhima, Edward Bakaitwako. ‘The fellowship of suffering’: a theological interpretation of Christian suffering under Idi Amin. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University Microfilms International, 1981. [microform] Audio Microfiche F79433


Cuba: Castro’s war on religion. Washington, D.C.:The Puebla Institute, May 1995. – See especially pp. 7-11.

Lawrence, Carl. The Cross and the Sword. Artesia, CA: Shannon, 1999. – The Rebellion and Revolution in Chiapas, Mexico.

Lopez, Dario. Evangelical Church & Human Rights in Peru: A Critical Evaluation of the Theology of Mission of the National Evangelical Council of Perú (CONEP) from 1980 to 1992, with Special Reference to its Understanding and Practice of Human Rights. [PhD Open University 1997] http://www.ocms.ac.uk/abstracts/index.php

Sigmund, Paul E., ed. Religious freedom and evangelization in Latin America: the challenge of religious pluralism. Maryknoll, N.Y.:Orbis, 1999. 359 pp. ISBN 1-570-75263-X (pbk).

Whalin, W. Terry & Chris Woehr. One Bright Shining Path. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway 1993 – Faith in the midst of terrorism. The Life and Testimony of Romulo Saune.

Asia and Oceania

Aikman, David. Jesus in Beijing. Regnery, 2003. 344 pp., ISBN 0895261286 –Written by former Beijing Bureau Chief for Times magazine, David Aikman, this book describes the state of the Church in today’s China.

Belke, Thomas J. Juche: A Christian Study of North Korea’s State Religion. Living Sacrifice, 1999. 418 pp. ISBN 0882643290.

Chao, Jonathan and Richard Van Houten. Wise as serpents, harmless as doves: Christians in China tell their story. Pasadena, CA: WCL/ Hong Kong: Chinese Church Research Center, 1988. 248 pp. ISBN 0-87808-212-3. Collections of interviews and testimonies of rural Chinese Christians from the house churches, partly among those emigrating via Hong Kong, partly in China, describing the periods between 1949 and 1984..

Lee, Min Choon. Freedom of Religion in Malaysia. Petaling Jaya:Kairos, 1999.

Lipton, Edward P., ed. Religious freedom in Asia. New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2002. 234 pp. ISBN 1-590-33391-8 Includes bibliographical references (p. [209]-217) – also treats Oceania.

Mangalwadi and others, eds. Burnt alive: The Staines and the God they loved. Mumbai: Gospel Literature Service.

Raj, Ebe Sunder, Sam Thambusamy and Ezra Samuel. Divide to rule: communal attacks on Christians in India during 1997-2000: full details, reasons, allegations, and answers. Rev. ed. Chennai: Bharat Jyoti, 2000. 149 pp.

Ro, Bong Rin, ed. Christian Suffering in Asia. Taichung, Taiwan: Evangelical Fellowship of Asia, 1989. Then they came for the Christians: a report to the nation: report of an all-India fact finding team, constituted by All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights (AIFOFDR). Mumbai:All India Federation of Organisations for Democratic Rights, 1999. 72 pp. – Persecution of Christians in India 1998-1999.

White, Tom. Between two tigers: testimonies of Vietnamese Christians. Bartlesville, OK:The Voice of the Martyrs, 1996. 178 p. ISBN 0-88264-322-3 Persecution in Vietnam.


Danchin, Peter G. & Elizabeth A. Cole, eds. Protecting the human rights of religious minorities in Eastern Europe. New York: Columbia University Press, c.2002, 546 p. ISBN 0231124740, ISBN 0231124759 (pbk).

Foster, Claude R. Paul Schneider – the Buchenwald apostle: a Christian martyr in Nazi Germany ; a sourcebook on the German Church Struggle. West Chester, Pa.:SSI Bookstore, 1995. – 902 pp., ISBN 1-887732-01-2.

Thomas, Theodore N. Women against Hitler: Christian resistance in the Third Reich. Westport, Conn.:Praeger, 1994. 166 p., ISBN 0275946193. – Well documented scholarly report about confessing laywomen, pastors’ wives and female theologians in the Protestant Church struggle of the Confessing Church in Germany 1933-1945.

Tokes, Lazlo and David Porter. The Fall of Tyrants. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990. – Romania.

Middle East and North Africa

Eibner, John, ed. Christians in Egypt: Church under Siege. Zürich/ Washington: Institute for Religious Minorities in the Islamic World, 1993.

Martyrs and Martyrdom in the Coptic Church. Los Angeles, CA:Saint Shenouda the Archimandrite Coptic Society 1984.

Olivera, Bernardo. How Far to Follow? The Martyrs of Atlas. Petersham, Mass.: St. Bede’s, 1997. 131 p., ISBN 1-879007-24-X – Martyrs of the Tibhirine monastery killed by Islamic Salvation Front terrorism in Algeria 1996.

Russia and CIS (former Soviet Union)

Bourdeaux, Michael. The gospel’s triumph over communism. Minneapolis, Minn: Bethany, 1991. 225 pp. ISBN 1556612281. – An updated version of ‘Gorbatchev, Glasnost and the Gospel’ (1990) by the authority of the church in Russia, covering all major groups, from Orthodox and Protestants to the Catholics in Ukraine, in what was then still the Soviet Union.

Bourdeaux, Michael, ed. The politics of religion in Russia and the new states of Eurasia. London:M.E. Sharpe 1995.

Corley, Felix, ed. Religion in the Soviet Union: an archival reader. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1996. 402 pp. ISBN 0-333-61659-6 – 199 sources on religion and its persecution in the Soviet Union. It gives the bureaucrats’ view of religion from the founding of the Soviet Union until its collapse in 1991.

7. Accounts of persecution/ freedom of religion by ideologies


Archive material from the ISIC Bulletin, a bi-monthly magazine published by the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity between 1992 and 1998. http://www.isic-centre.org/isic_bulletins.htm

Barnabas Fund – bi-monthly news and prayer needs from the persecuted Church, especially in the Muslim world, from February 1998 to the present (request from [email protected])

Ministry in Islamic Contexts. Report of a consultation sponsored by: Association of Evangelicals in Africa; Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization; Servants Fellowship International (IISIC), Facilitated by: Servants Fellowship International (IISIC), 3. – 8. December 1995, Nicosia, Cyprus, (London: LCWE & IISIC 1996). (Lausanne Occasional Paper, No. 28). See chapter 1 of this report.

Sookhdeo, Patrick. A People Betrayed: The Impact of Islamization on the Christian Community in Pakistan. London: Christian Focus & Isaac Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1 85792 7850 – Examines the historical development of Christianity in Pakistan, focusing particularly on the gradual erosion of their rights and freedoms after independence in 1947.

The Status of the Church in the Muslim World, Monograph No. 1, London: International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, 1992. Covers Egypt, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Turkey.

Ye’or, Bat. Islam and Dhimmitude, Where Civilizations Collide. Farleigh Dickinson University Press; Associated University Presses, 2002 – Original 2002 in French. The legal and social status of dhimmis (Christians and Jews) under Islam. Also examines the impact of westernization on the Muslim world in the present day and how Islamist revival is affecting Christian minorities and the West.

________. The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude – Seventh to Twentieth Century. Farleigh Dickinson University Press; Associated University Presses, 1996 – Original 1991 in French. An analysis of the Islamic doctrine and strategies of jihad and subjugation of Christians and Jews.

________. The Dhimmi, Jews and Christians under Islam, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press; Associated University Presses, 1985 – Original 1980 in French. Survey of the situation of Christian and Jewish minorities in Muslim contexts from the seventh to the twentieth centuries, with many historical documents.


Courtois, Stéphane et.al., eds. The Black Book of Communism. Cambridge, MA /London: Harvard University Press, 1999, 857 p., ISBN 0674076087 – (French Original 1997). The authors of this book extensively searched the archives of the former Soviet block to reveal the actual accomplishments of communism around the world: torture, famine, mass deportation and massacres. This book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of communism over 70 years.

8. Persecution and the life of the Church (Practical Theology) – Declarations

“Christian Suffering and Persecution.’” In Asian Perspectives, issue 9 (1984) (Taichung, Taiwan: Asia Theological Association, ATA). – The Declaration of the 4th ATA Theological Consultation in Hong Kong.

‘Persecution in Missions’ in AICOME [All India Congress on Mission and Evangelism] 1988. Pune: Evangelical Fellowship in India, 1989, 147-149. Important guidelines are provided.

“Statement of Conscience of the National Association of Evangelicals.” In In The Lion’s Den Nina Shea, 95-102. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman 1997. ISBN 0-8054-6357-7 – A statement on advocacy for persecuted Christians geared towards political authorities of a non-persecuting country that could be emulated in other countries.

9. Courses and Textbooks

Ayee, Emmanuel S. A. “Persecution: A Bible Study Guide.” Evangelical Ministries/Ministères Evangélique (Association of Evangelicals of Africa and Madagascar) Mar-Aug 1985: 19-25.

Fitch, Peter Daniel. Using a study on suffering to develop spiritual growth, [DMin Fuller Theological Seminary] (Ann Arbor: UMI 1998). 239 p. UMI Pub No: 9918770; ISBN: 0-599-17807-8. – This paper introduces a devotional programme called Learning to Suffer Well.

Voice of the Martyrs, comp. The Triumphant Church. Living Sacrifice, 1999. No ISBN Spiralbound 112 pp. – A three-part study guide on suffering and persecution from the writings of Richard Wurmbrand, John Piper and Milton Martin.

9.1 Preaching/ Sermons

Wiersbe, Warren W., ed. Classic sermons on suffering. Grand Rapids: Kregel 1984.

9.2 Counselling

Buchan, Alex, ed. Quotes to Live By: Powerful quotes and teachings from Persecuted Christians. Open Doors International, 2001.

Estabrooks, Paul. Secrets to Spiritual Success: Learn victorious living from the suffering church. London, UK:Sovereign World, 1996. ISBN 185240190 7.

9.3 Prayer

Arnold, Duan W.H, and Robert Hudson, eds. Beyond Belief: What the martyrs said to God, L’Engle, Madeleine (afterword), Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan 2002, 136 p, ISBN 0-310-24248-7 – Martyrs’ prayers across Church history, with short biographical sketches.

Chan, Kim-Kwong and Alan Hunter, eds. Prayers and thoughts of Chinese Christians. Boston, MA: Cowley 1991. 105 pp. – ISBN 1561010391. – A collection across all Christian groups in China of prayers, hymns and letters; p.17-30 on perseverance in suffering.

Companjen, Johan & Justin Long, eds. Please Pray For Us. Minneapolis, USA: Bethany House Publishers, 2000. – Regional profiles and moving stories describing the top 52 countries where Christians are persecuted the most.

9.4 Martyrologies (on the lists and books of martyr remembrance)

Wood, Diana, ed. Martyrs and Martyrologies. Papers Read at the 1992 Summer Meeting and the 1993 Winter Meeting … Ecclesiastical History Society. B. Blackwell: Oxford, 1993.

9.5 Advocacy

Beltz, Allison. What Would You Do If You Knew? A Guide to Compassion and Action Points for the Persecuted Church. Santa Cruz, CA: Untold Story Publications, 1997.

Hertzke, Allen D. Freeing God’s Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights. Rowman & Littlefield, 2004, 440pp. – On political advocacy movement in the US on behalf of persecuted Christians. Has issued two statements of conscience (1996 and 2002) which led to the International Religious Freedom Act, the institution of a U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and mandatory annual reports by the State Department.

McQuaid, Elwood. Persecuted. Harvest House, 2004.

10. Persecution and cross-cultural mission (Missiology)

Bonk, Jonathan J. “Doing mission out of affluence: Reflections on recruiting ‘end of the procession’ missionaries from front of the procession Churches (1 Corinthians 4:1-13).” Missiology 17 (1989): 427-452.

Lee, Young Kee. God’s mission in suffering and martyrdom. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1999. 539 p. UMI Pub No: 9922407, ISBN: 0-599-21889-4.

Sterk, Vernon Jay. The dynamics of persecution. Ann Arbor: UMI, 1992. 382 pp. – See his article in IBMR.

Taber, Charles. “In the image of God: The gospel and human rights.” IBMR 26 (2002): 3, 98-104.

Valiquette, Hilaire. “Handed Over to the Gentiles: The Centrality of Persecution for Missiology.” Missiology 26 (October 1998): 431-443. For further information or for a more extensive version of this bibliography, please contact the Convenor at [email protected]

1.  Ministry in Islamic Contexts LOP No. 28 (Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization and International Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity, 1996) pp.58-60.

2. Huntington, Samuel P. The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of the World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

3. Muslim republics of the Russian Federation: Chechnya, Kabardino Balkarya, Dagestan and Tatarstan.

4. Southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

5. I consider religious persecution to be the abuse or displacement of people due to their religious brand loyalty or their disposition towards other religious brands. This can be at the hand of the government, other religious brands, or persons within a country that perceive that that religious brand and its members are a threat to the livelihood, security or sovereignty of others or other religious brands in the country.

6. Though the term ‘brand’ has economic connotations, it is increasingly used as a term at least in the United States to describe an organization which seeks to attract sponsors or participants, such as a university. An alternative word for brand could be group, but group loses the organizational and propagative connotations of brand. A more precise definition of ‘religious brand’ is given below.

7. This definition draws on definitions offered by Finke and Stark (2000) and Stark (2003). It emphasizes commitment to a group that offers supernatural explanations as opposed to, e.g., secular or materialistic explanations. It also emphasizes the dynamic nature of religion rather than its historical nature.

8. Website last accessed 07-Jan-05: www.alislam.org

9. Drawing on Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s opportunity and process aspects of freedom (1999, 2002), I define freedom as follows: Freedom is the ‘security’ provided by the dynamic social processes of commitment to the common good and to fair competition that make the ‘real opportunity’ for choice possible.

10. Numbers reported in this section and the next are from my quantitative coding of the 2003 International Religious Freedom Reports.

11.  A fuller description of the data, methods and measures can be found at: http://gunston.doit.gmu.edu/liannacc/ERel/S5-ASREC/S51_REC2004.htm. This link is to an expanded version of this current paper which I presented at the annual convention of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) in Kansas City, Missouri, USA, October 21, 2004.

12. Countries or unique parts of countries, i.e., Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Tibet are coded separately from China; the Occupied Territories are coded separately from Israel; and Western Sahara is coded separately from Morocco. Cyprus is coded as a single nation since it was reported as such.

13. Abuse due to Low Religious Freedom was coded as follows: Considering the entire Report, estimate the number of people who were physically abused or displaced due to a lack of religious freedom in this country (0 = none; 1 = > 0 < 10; 2 = 10 – 200; 3 = 201-1000; 4 = 1001 – 10,000; 5 = > 10,000).

14. See a fuller description of these measures in my paper on line at: http://gunston.doit.gmu.edu/liannacc/ERel/S5-ASREC/S51_REC2004.htm