Last year was a relatively “good” year for Christians. Only 90 thousand were killed for their faith in 2016, down from 105 thousand in 2015, according to the highly respected Center for the Study of Global Christianity at the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary near Boston. That’s one every six minutes. From 2000 to 2010, 100 thousand Christians were murdered each year.
Half a billion Christians are not free to express their faith freely according to a Radio Vaticana report aired December 26, 2016.
Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. In some African and Middle Eastern countries, they are hunted and slaughtered like animals. Christmas and Easter church-bombings are de rigueur in Egypt, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Still, believers are clinging to the words of Joshua: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (1:9).
It is an inescapable irony that believers are dying for their faith while celebrating the Resurrection. In Syria, the Christian population has been reduced from 1.5 million five years ago to half a million today.
The Palm Sunday church bombings in Egypt made inter-national headlines, but five other church attacks in India during Easter Week were ignored by the mainstream liberal news media. In many cases, governments would rather hush publication of the embarrassing details.
For Jews, the oft-expressed sympathy for Christian suffering is sincere. After all, Jews were murdered in, or expelled from, many of those same countries seventy years ago.
Around the world, Muslim attacks on Jews persist without letup. Every week in Israel, there are news reports of fatalities, victims of brutal assaults.
The hatred is deep-seated. This is supported by the research of Dr. Daniel Polisar (provost of Shalem College, Jerusalem), who made a massive multi-year study of 400 opinion polls of Palestinian-Arabs (Mosaic, “Do Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution?”, April 3, 2017). Consistently, the polls reveal that Palestinians believe Israel has no historical or moral claim to exist and that it is doomed to extinction. They also reveal unwavering rejection of peace deals or any division of Jerusalem.
But Israel will survive. Many civilizations have disappeared: The Mayans of Central America (numbering up to 15 million persons), the Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans (their modern-day namesakes are, at best, remote ancestors). But God has protected His chosen nation as the apple of His eye (Zech. 2:8). God has been faithful to His word and prevented their annihilation, despite all efforts by men to do so.
The rabbis have noted that other civilizations resorted to human sacrifices as a means of sating their gods’ lusts in order to solve their societal problems. This augured their own destruction.
Jews who kept the Torah offered animal sacrifices, but never human sacrifices. And when the Temples were destroyed, they prayed, fasted, repented, practiced acts of kindness, studied Torah and taught it to their children, recalling the words: “I desire mercy [kindness], not sacrifice” (Hos. 6:6). “Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously, and let our lips substitute for bulls” (14:2 ). “The sacrifices God desires are a broken spirit” (Ps. 51:17 ).
Today, Israel rejoices as a restored nation with an undivided capital. This year, Jerusalem celebrates 50 years of reunification. For many of those suffering around the world, God’s faithfulness to Israel is a great comfort.