Persecution of Christians Continues

On November 7 Asia Bibi was sentenced to die. I reported on Asia’s tragic plight just over a year ago in this paper. According to published reports Asia, a Pakistani Christian, got into a dispute with her Muslim colleagues who were pressuring her to convert to Islam. She allegedly told her co-workers that Jesus had died, but had risen from the dead, but that Mohammed, the founder of Islam, had died, and had not returned from the dead. Her co-workers regarded her comment as an insult to their prophet. An altercation broke out; Bibi was beaten and charged with blasphemy. The 38 year-old mother of two was held in prison for more than a year, and on November 7 she was sentenced to death by a Pakistani judge.

Even if she escapes the death penalty on appeal the future does not look bright for Bibi as she would still be facing imprisonment for life. And in the unlikely event that the charges were to be dropped she would still be in constant danger. For in July of this year two other Pakistani Christians were shot and killed on the way home from the courthouse even though they had been acquitted of blasphemy charges.

Unfortunately this is only one more incident in a long list of cases of Christians being harassed and persecuted around the world. On October 31 fifteen Muslim gunmen entered the Syrian Catholic Cathedral in Baghdad during Sunday evening Mass. The terrorists during a four-hour siege murdered some 60 innocent hostages, and wounded 78 others before they themselves were killed. Since then attacks on Christian neighborhoods in the city have continued.

We in Canada have the notion that persecution ended when the Roman Empire officially became Christian way back in the fourth century under Emperor Constantine. And of course in this country we take it for granted that people have the right to freely express their faith and not endanger their life by doing so. But that freedom simply does not exist in many parts of the world.

According to the World Evangelical Alliance approximately 200 million Christians worldwide are denied fundamental human rights solely because of their faith. And a conservative estimate of the number of Christians who are killed for their faith each year is somewhere around 150,000.

This massacre in the Baghdad cathedral recently provoked a white-hot response from an agonized churchman. Father Raymond J. de Souza for the National Post blazingly wrote, Vengeance is mine, says the Lord…But let us not blanch from raising our voices to the Lord, with righteous anger and hot tears, that He might visit His vengeance upon those who did this, bring down His wrath upon their heads and exact upon them a terrifying justice in full measure.” There are some Christians who would condemn de Souza for his cry for God’s justice on those who perpetrated this ghastly evil, but I am not among them.

Christians believe that Christ will execute perfect justice to all doers of evil when he returns as King and Judge. In the meantime surely we can emulate the prayers of many of the Psalms, asking that God would act sooner rather than later. Can it be wrong to pray to Christ as Judge that He would bring justice down on killers of the innocent, and on all who oppress through unjust laws?

Sunday, November 14 has been designated as International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Tomorrow, Christians will be especially praying for fellow believers who are being persecuted around the world in some 60 different countries. We do not know how or when God will choose to bring about his vengeance on evildoers, for that is his prerogative. But it is certainly appropriate that on one day of the year, at least, Christ-followers everywhere should particularly remember all the Asia Bibi’s living under the sentence of death. Let us never, never forget those living in dark places where to openly speak of Jesus Christ, Light of the world can land you in prison or put you in a hangman’s noose.

Published in Guelph Mercury on November 13, 2010

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