Should Christians flee when threatened because of their faith? Should they not remain and maintain a bold, resolute, active gospel witness, come what may?
While maintaining a Christian presence and witness is preferable, there are, in life, times when an ongoing witness is simply not an option. Furthermore, while denying Christ in the face of hostility is not to be encouraged, neither is a masochism that actively seeks persecution.
In the Book of Acts there are times when the Apostles fled – we might say ‘to fight another day’ and to continue in gospel ministry. Famously, at the beginning of his ministry, the Apostle Paul was lowered down the city wall of Damascus by friends, to escape a plot to kill him (see Acts 9:23-25). Shortly after Paul faced a similar threat in Jerusalem and was sent by his fellow Christians to Tarsus (Acts 9:26-30). This pattern continued later in his ministry (e.g., Acts 17:10; 17:14).
When Christians are forced to flee, in the face of violence around them, or because of the threat of violence (if, for example, they refuse to convert to another religion), it usually means leaving almost everything behind: treasured possessions, even the basic necessities of life.
In such situations Christians – like others who flee warzones – become refugees with desperate needs. Christians from Iraq and Syria, for example, have fled in considerable numbers in recent years to the northern region of Kurdistan. Christians in Nigeria often flee areas ravaged by the Islamist group Boko Haram and end up refugees in their own country, in what are often referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. In the past two decades Christians from Eritrea have fled their nation’s authoritarian regime and ended up in refugee camps in neighbouring Ethiopia.
Supporting Christians who have been forced to flee because of their faith is part of the ongoing work of Release International. Through key partners in these critical areas in the world we provide practical, life-sustaining support – but this is also combined with spiritual support and discipleship.
Christians in the UK and Ireland are unlikely ever to find themselves in similar situations of deprivation occasioned by the need to flee. They can, however, express the reality of Christian fellowship within the Body of Christ by supporting those who are currently living in those conditions.