The New Age of Christian Martyrdom

by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery
February 16, 2011

Among the so-called “new atheists” it is common to rail against Christianity for its persecution of dissidents -- the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the 17th-century witchcraft trials.  To be sure, there are definitive refutations of these critiques (see my treatment of the witchcraft trials in my book, The Law Above the Law); and the positive contributions of Christianity to civilization across the centuries far outweigh the unchristian shortcomings of Christians (consult Alvin J. Schmidt’s survey, How Christianity Changed the World).

But any attempts to condemn Christianity for persecuting others pale to insignificance in the face of the miseries being faced by Christian believers at the present moment. And this is coming to be recognized not just by Christian believers and human rights organizations of Christian persuasion (e.g., the World Evangelical Alliance’s International Institute for Religious Freedom), but even by the secular world.  Recent example:  the October 11-20 issue of the distinguished French weekly news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, whose full-page column by Jacques Julliard is devoted to “La chasse aux chrétiens” (Open Season on Christians). 

This article makes so many important points that I am going to present its essence in translation and paraphrase.  In what follows, please note my careful use of quotation marks.

The subtitle of Julliard’s article reads:  “Christianity has become, by far, the most persecuted religion.  But the West plays ostrich.”  These two points are then supported in spades.

1. The extent of the persecution and its major source.  “It’s really nothing: nothing but Christians and Christian communities being eaten alive.  Where?  Just about everywhere Christians are in the minority: in India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, North Korea. But especially in Muslim lands -- and not just in Saudi Arabia where Christian worship is punished by the death penalty, but also in Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria.  In today’s world, Christianity is by far the world’s most persecuted religion.”

“However, it is in the Near East -- the very birthplace of Christianity -- where the situation is the gravest.  In Turkey, the most ancient Christian communities, antedating Islam, are on the verge of disappearing entirely.  In Coptic Egypt and in Maronite Lebanon they are closing in upon themselves or immigrating to the West.  A miniature religious genocide is taking place.”

Why the current Muslim persecutions of Christians?  “During many centuries, Christians were able to live in peace with the followers of Islam, even when the latter became the majority. Why the change in the last fifty years?  The reason lies in the Islamic revival in the Near East -- a revival of an aggressive and fundamentalist sort -- which considers the Near East as belonging exclusively to the Muslims.  Example:  at Naj Hammadi, sixty kilometers from Luxor, Egypt, on the 6th of January this year, the Muslim Brotherhood attacked a car carrying Coptic Christians who were returning home from a Christmas mass (result: 7 dead).”

“Ironically, the democratization of former colonial regimes has reinforced Muslim intolerance and exclusivity.  Even under Saddam Hussein Christians were less persecuted in Iraq than they are today.  The fact is that the Near Eastern despots were very often beneficiaries of traditional pluralism.  Now in almost all of those countries, Islam has become the state religion and anti-Western jihad has focused on Christians as representing the evil West.”

2. Current indifference in Christian countries. “Meanwhile, the West plays ostrich.  With but few exceptions, when faced with this issue the Western human rights professionals run for cover.  A new kind of cultural Yalta seems to be coming about:  in the East, a monopoly created by a single religion -- Islam -- which displays more and more intolerance; in the West, pluralism, tolerance, and secularism.  And this Yalta is, like the previous one, the source of cold war (to put it mildly).  It is therefore mandatory that we, without any second thoughts or complacent indifference, defend the right of existence of Eastern Christians.”

I have italicized the final sentence of Juilliard’s article -- which deserves to be generalized to embrace persecuted Christians everywhere.

One of contemporary Christianity’s leading apologetics experts, Dr. John Warwick Montgomery holds eleven earned degrees and has authored more than fifty books in four languages on the issues of human rights and biblical apologetics.