The slaughter of large numbers of believers in African and Middle East has dramatically reduced the number of Christians in the region. Driving the efforts is a concern in predominantly Muslim countries where significant numbers of young people have converted to Christianity. Thus, Christianity is considered by radical Muslims as a threat to Muslim control.
An attracting feature drawing young people to Christianity is the music. They love the tunes and are buying into the doctrine. The freedom of religion in America is an appealing influence also.
Christians in America enjoy such freedom; most are unaware of the global persecution being suffered by an estimated 100 million believers in 60 countries.
Reported attacks on Christians in Europe are on the increase, especially in the Muslim-dominated areas of England and France.
Not all of the persecution is physical. Having visited Bethlehem in the Palestinian Territory many times, I have developed many friends there. Several years ago, the Christian population in Bethlehem was about 26 percent. Today, it is less than 10 percent. There it is economic pressure causing Christians to leave. Arab money has flooded into the area and they are buying out Christians and imposing other forms of economic pressure.
One successful Christian businessman told me he had been offered 10 times the value of his business if he would sell. He said that were he willing to bargain he could get much more.
The prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he fears Christians are being subjected to persecution as Jews were under Hitler. He noted Israel is the only country in the region where Jews, Muslims and Christians are free to engage in public worship.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “our faith” is the most persecuted in the world and that “I hope we can do more to raise the profile of the persecution of Christians.”
The only expression from our president regarding religion in the region has been for him to say we are not at war with Islam. His attitude appears to be if we will be nice-nice to them they will be nice-nice to us. It is not working.
Here in America, Christianity is under a different kind of attack. The entertainment media is a primary source discrediting Christianity. Unfortunately, a minority of Christian ministers have indulged in immoral behavior that tends to discredit the faith. It is such characters as these that are represented in the media. There is a legion of persons who live their faith as consistent advocates of morality and virtue while serving others. These are the untold stories.
In America, special interest groups have pushed and abused the First Amendment to our Constitution to mean separation of God from the universe. Christianity has virtually been forced from the public square and out of our institutions. This is contrary to what the founders intended. They conducted regular worship services in the nation’s capital and the Supreme Court building. The Constitution provides freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.
We have freedom of religion for which Christians globally long. To have a freedom and do not respect and use it is little better than not having the freedom. Practice your faith, express your convictions, and engage in public worship ... while you can.
The Rev. Dr. Nelson Price is pastor emeritus of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta.