If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. But because you are not of the world, since I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his lord.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will keep yours also. John 15:18-20
|The Persecuted Church|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
Since the time of Jesus, many Christians have experienced persecution from both non-Christians and from other Christians during the history of Christianity. Persecution has included confiscation of Bibles, destruction, imprisonment, torture and even execution. Today, some of the worst persecution of Christians occurs in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia where Christians who openly profess their faith risk death.
Jesus himself is the ultimate example of persecution. He told his disciples that if people persecuted him, they would also persecute his disciples. In the early church, persecution, even to death, was common. Today, in much of the world, although there is freedom of religion, Christians are still hated, and in some places, killed for their faith.
Each year the organisation Open Doors compiles a list of the countries where severe persecution of Christians occur. For the last four years, communist North Korea has been the worst offender, closely followed by Islamic Saudi Arabia, Iran, Somalia and the Maldives. Its 2007 list of the ten countries where persecution of Christians is worst is as follows
History of persecution of Christians
Persecution of Christians has occurred sporadically from the time of Jesus. Jesus warned his disciples, and by implication, Christians through the ages, that they would face persecution.
For about 250 years after the death of Jesus there was almost a constant threat of persecution against the church. Christians suffered from persecutions for various reasons, including their refusal to worship the Roman emperor, considered treasonous and punishable by execution. There were persecutions under Nero, Domitian, Trajan and the other Antonines, Maximinus Thrax, Decius, Valerian, Diocletian and Galerius. Many Christians were willing to die for their faith. The first martyr known of was the apostle Stephen who was stoned by the Jewish religious leaders - the story is told in Acts 7.