But persecution is not only violent. Among the increasing number of Christians facing persecution are those who are not victims of violence or death, but verbal harassment, religious restrictions, discrimination in education and employment, ostracism by family and community, and loss of jobs. Many face intolerance because of their faith and are forced to be more secretive. Most of this persecution goes unreported in the media. In fact, many sections of the Australian media are unaware of their own complicity and bias in this matter.
While most Australians never go to church and view Christianity as obsolete, even dangerous, they nevertheless are content to call themselves Christian in the census. As a result Christianity is positioned as Australia’s “majority” religion and thus becomes an easy target for the disgruntled and antagonistic. While at the same time there is a reluctance to do the same for “minority” religious groups.
We may not face the violent persecution or death as many of our brothers and sisters we do in other places (Hebrews 12:4), however we do experience increasing intolerance and marginalisation.
In the letter to Hebrew Christians, there is an encouragement to “continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3). In the midst of the global increase in persecution, we too are encouraged to pray – for our brothers and sisters who face severe persecution and for all those in Australia who face milder, yet no less real persecution.
May we also stand in solidarity with fellow Christians around the world and pray that God will prepare and equip us all to face whatever may come. After all we shouldn’t be surprise if it does, as Jesus warned us to expect it (Matthew 5:11-12).
Stephen L Baxter