The following are some of the most commonly asked questions about Christian persecution that we receive. If you have a question that you’d like to ask and which you cannot find an answer for on our website, contact us and we’ll try to respond to it in 3-4 days.
What is Christian persecution?
A situation where Christians are repetitively, persistently and systematically inflicted with grave or serious suffering or harm and deprived of (or significantly threatened with deprival of) their basic human rights because of a difference that comes from being a Christian that the persecutor will not tolerate. To distinguish religious persecution from other types, it is helpful to ask, “If a person had other religious beliefs or would change their religion to the majority religion of the country, would things get better for them?” If the answer is “yes”, then it seems that the persecution is on religious grounds.
What is a Christian martyr?
In ministering to the persecuted church, it is important that there be a common understanding of what exactly a “martyr” is. The word comes from the Greek (martus) and originally meant simply a witness. The word has a wide range of meaning in the New Testament ranging from:
- bearing witness in a court of justice (Matthew 18:16; 26:65; Acts 6:13; 7:58; Hebrews 10:28; 1 Timothy 5:19)
- one bearing testimony to the truth of what he has seen or known (Luke 24:48; Acts 1:8,22; Romans 1:9; 1 Thessalonians 2:5,10; 1 John 1:2)
- a more specialised meaning of one who bears witness of the truth and suffers even to the point of death in the cause of Christ (Acts 22:20, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 17:6).
As noted in the last meaning, by the end of the 1st century, the term had evolved into a proper title to refer to those who witnessed to the faithfulness of God and their commitment to Him by
- choosing to suffer death rather than to deny Christ or His work
- sacrificing something of importance to further the Kingdom of God
- enduring great suffering for their Christian witness and/or identity. The critical component is that a martyr suffers and/or is killed specifically because of his/her witness or identity as a Christian.
Is it possible for me to support a specific individual or family?
As a rule, this is not possible. For the sake of honesty and financial integrity we say this because we cannot always guarantee that we can get funds into certain restricted nations. The banking system in many countries is very different from our own, making such sponsorship programs difficult or impossible.
In addition, if certain governments were to learn that a family or individual was regularly receiving money from overseas through a sponsorship program, they could be in great danger. Release has, however, set up special funds like the Persecuted Pastors Fund, which provide encouragement and assistance to families left destitute by the imprisonment, exile, or death of a Pastor or Christian worker because of their faith.
Why doesn't my church talk about the persecution of Christians?
There are a number of reasons why Western Christians have tended to ignore or remain silent about the persecution of Christians worldwide:
- Popular forms of success theology which stress prosperity and personal inner peace as the inevitable results of spiritual virtue. We are often so preoccupied with our own personal peace, spirituality, and well-being that we have no time or motivating interest in the plight of others. This is clearly reflected in the literature, sermons, and teaching materials which are popular among many Western believers.
- Nationalist forms of Christianity that confuse God and country and/or cause us to, unjustly, equate our own problems with the plight of others who are being persecuted.
- Lack of relevant, up-to-date information and only a few good sources of information on the plight of persecuted Christians. The deafening silence of the secular media on the plight of persecuted Christians has contributed to limiting critical discussion of this issue to the few organisations who focus specifically on it.
- Oppressed Christians often do not tell their own stories, either due to the fact that persecution is such a part of their daily life that it doesn’t seem significant, or because of fear of retribution.
- Deliberate decisions by some Western Christian groups not to get involved in the plight of the persecuted because of a desire to retain access to restricted countries where persecution is occurring.
- A misunderstanding or inappropriate application of scripture passages that deal explicitly with persecution. Related to this is a neglect or lack of awareness of the original intent of the authors of Scripture and/or the social environment in which the New Testament was written.