The brutal, worldwide persecution of Christians during the past year makes 2015 “the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” according to a watchdog organization that has been monitoring Christian persecution for decades.
Open Doors, an organization founded in 1955 to assist persecuted Christians, publishes an annual “World Watch List,” documenting attacks on Christians and ranking the most hostile national environments for believers.
“The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said at the rollout of the list.
Persecution in “continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe,” he said.
At the top of the Watch List, for the 14th consecutive year, stands North Korea, where an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 Christians are imprisoned in labor camps. Carrying on as one of the last holdouts of Communist totalitarianism, North Korea bears a particular hatred for Christians, who are a constant reminder of accountability to a higher power than the state.
“Christianity is not only seen as ‘opium for the people’ as is normal for all communist states,” the report says. “It is also seen as deeply Western and despicable.” During 2015, thousands of Christians living in North Korea were forced to renounce their faith or flee under threat of death.
As in the case with last year’s report, the vast majority of countries experiencing acute Christian persecution are Muslim nations. In 2015, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim, a phenomenon replicated in 2016.
The 2015 report found that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”
The 2016 list places Iraq in second place, immediately after North Korea, with horrific Islamic violence dominating news headlines during 2015. Throughout the year, Christians were forced to flee their homes by the thousands or be killed.
Just this week, the United Nations released an extensive report on Islamic State violence in Iraq, and estimates that ISIS currently holds some 3,500 people, mostly women and children, in the country.
The report, jointly issued by U.N. Assistance Mission for Iraq and U.N. human rights office in Geneva, declared ISIS atrocities in Iraq to be “war crimes, crimes against humanity, and possibly genocide.”
Some of the crimes described in the report include executions by shooting, beheading, bulldozing, burning alive and throwing people off the top of buildings.
The other nations making the top ten in Christian persecution are Eritrea, Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya, all of which have Muslim majorities.
The report underscores the geographical extent of Christian persecution, and Curry highlighted the global nature of the problem, noting that it has become more acute not just in a few isolated regions, but “in every continent in every country.”
“The levels of exclusion, discrimination and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying,” Curry added. “Christians, longing to stay in their home countries, are being forced to flee for their lives and for their children’s lives,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome
“Carterization” has a specific meaning in American politics. In 1980, Ronald Reagan delivered an August speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Chicago, just as he was starting his campaign to unseat Jimmy Carter, trapped then in the Iranian hostage crisis.
“The response from the administration in Washington” to foreign threats, said Reagan, “has been one of weakness, inconsistency, vacillation and bluff.”
“Our allies are losing confidence in us, and our adversaries no longer respect us,” he said. Our partners “are confused by the lack of a coherent, principled policy from the Carter administration.”
The characterization stuck, helped by Mr. Carter’s foreign adventures after his presidency. And in truth, Mr. Carter’s team included sterner ballast in Defense Secretary Harold Brown and National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Nothing similar exists today in the Obama administration.
The consequences of Mr. Obama’s Carterization overseas are coming so fast it’s hard to keep track. Ukraine, though important, is the tip of the iceberg. Here’s what else happened in the week Mr. Putin captured Crimea.
-Israel on Wednesday intercepted in the Red Sea an Iranian shipment to Gaza of dozens of Syrian-made surface-to-surface rockets. These are our new Iranian negotiating partners.
–North Korea last Thursday test-fired four short-range ballistic missiles and another this Monday. Then on Tuesday it deployed a new multiple-rocket launcher that fired four missiles with enough range to hit American and South Korean military bases near Seoul.
-In Moscow last Wednesday,Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia plans to use military bases in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua for its navy and to refuel strategic bombers.
-Three months ago, Secretary Kerry ostentatiously announced in a Washington speech, “The era of the Monroe Doctrine is over.” Naturally the Russians took this as a green light to return to one of the Soviet Union’s favorite playpens. The next day, a Russian spy ship, the Viktor Leonov SSV-175, slipped unannounced into Havana Harbor.
-Then this Wednesday, a news bulletin: “China announces 12.2% increase in military budget.” That boost comes within 24 hours of the Obama budget proposing a decline in U.S. defense spending.
This is all in one week!
Ah, one more thing happened. With Ukraine, in Vladimir Putin’s word “stabilized,” Mr. Obama went to Connecticut to campaign for an increase in the federal minimum wage and from there to Boston for a Democratic fundraiser. What, me worry?
Our allies have noticed. In December, Saudi Arabia separated itself from a decades-long alliance with the U.S. to arm the Syrian opposition because the Obama administration would not. That same month Vice President Joe Biden made a trip to Asia to reassure our allies there that the U.S. “pivot” to the Pacific is real. In February Secretary Kerry went to Asia to say it all again. This is unprecedented. Until now.
Democrats spent years trying to dig out from under the Carter foreign policy image and the blame-America-first Vietnam Syndrome. Because of the Obama determination to lead from behind—which is modern Democratic foreign-policy doctrine, not just one man’s whim—they are politically vulnerable again on handling the world.
But Hillary Clinton, who has managed never to articulate anything resembling a strategic vision, may get lucky. Because opinion polls say Americans have foreign-commitment fatigue (the actual number in the oft-cited Pew poll is 52%), Republicans have gone into a defensive crouch over the U.S.’s world role. Every prominent Republican commenting on Ukraine felt obliged to disavow military action. That disavowal is dangerous. Any Republican thinking of being a successful U.S. president should read that Chicago speech.
A realistic hope for peace, Reagan said, is possible only if the U.S. maintains “the vital margin of safety.” The margin of safety wasn’t about public threats of war. It is about the marginal advantage gained when an adversary negotiating with a strong U.S. believed we might act militarily. If friends and foes conclude no one in the U.S. believes this in 2014, the margin of safety is gone.
One of the greatest mistakes that modern preaching made was getting us all to seek peace and joy. Peace and Joy are not things we are to go after. They are things that God adds to those who are going after the right things.
Let me make the case by using the story of the Wise Men. Imagine the world they knew. Tradition says they were from the school of the Magi in Persia. They were Kings and likely billionaires.
They came under the influence of Judaism because of Daniel centuries before and because an edict from Solomon that the whole world should have knowledge of the Lord God Jehovah.
Let’s imagine the turmoil in their souls when they saw the star. They knew it signaled the birth of the King of Kings because they had long before come under the Spirit’s influence.
Should we go or not? How do you prepare your kingdom for a prolonged absence? What if our enemies invade?
Then the real question hit them. “What if we do not go? Imagine living out the rest of our days knowing that we were invited to the greatest event in history and we stayed home.”
They found profound peace because they said yes. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.
The person kept in perfect peace is not focusing on peace, they are focusing on God and in trusting God.
The Wise Men learned that God gives peace to those who willingly endanger themselves in a divine quest. Peace has no place with bored believers seeking escape. Matthew Henry said, “we cannot be safe so long as we are secure.” No matter how hard you try to secure yourself against the upheaval in the world you will still battle anxiety. You cannot ask life to leave you alone and think God will add peace.
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Peace is clearly a byproduct in this verse. It comes from believing in what Christ did on the Cross and what He did before His Father.
Here is the danger of seeking peace while ignoring God’s call: Luke 19:41 “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, ‘If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Let that be a warning to us all. We must pursue the things that make for our peace.
Joy overtakes those who obey orders. Matthew 2: 9 “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
Again, joy is not a feeling you work up but a gift God adds to those who are walking by faith and not by sight. Two years before the star rose signaling the location. It was their duty to get there and then they could see the star once more.
1 Peter 1:8 says, “whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.” Loving Him even though you cannot see Him releases joy.
Zephaniah 3:17 The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.
Never forget: Peace and Joy are not things we are to go after. They are things that God adds to those who are going after the right things.