Report on Religious Persecution

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Let’s begin this report with the definition of the term “religious persecution” to understand the context of this report. The definition of Religious Persecution, as appears in Wikipedia is, “Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group of individuals as a response to their religious beliefs or affiliations.” It went further by stating that, “Religious persecution may be triggered by religious bigotry or by the State when it views a particular religious group as a threat to its interests or security.” It also stated that, “Religious persecution can be considered the opposite of freedom of religion.

We cannot ignore that we are in the middle of the worst wave of unrest and turmoil in many parts of the world since World War I which are indirectly affecting the stability of many nations, their people and their economies. Many parts of the world are experiencing unrest as a result of religious disputes that exist for centuries and now are reaching a boiling point creating conditions for a new level of religious persecution. Without any doubt, these occurrences can affect us in the United States and Christians must be informed and educated about these world events to prevent future unrest in our country. I hope that this report can achieve its objective creating awareness among Christians of all denominations.

This Report is divided in Part I – Religious Persecution in the World and Part II – Religious Persecution and Harassment in the United States. Both parts cover several historical events and cases of Christian persecution. The following only covers Part I - Religious Persecution in the World.

PART I – RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN THE WORLD

A. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN EUROPE IN THE XVI CENTURY AND THE BIRTH OF A NEW NATION RESPECTING THE FREEDOM OF RELIGION.

If we go back in history, the first European settlers arrived in North America running away from religious persecution in Europe and seeking new opportunities and freedom to practice their faith.

The first European settlers arriving in North America, better known as Pilgrims, came to Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. This was followed by the arrival of about 20,000 European settlers in 1630, known as the Puritans. The Puritans came to North America looking for freedom to worship God without fears of persecution. The Puritans were English Protestants and they believed that the Church of England was a true church but in need of major reforms.

These two groups of settlers shared similar positions of the need to have some level of religious liberties in any given society. Both groups also shared a sense of religious tolerance and acceptance for each other to live in a peaceful religious environment in North America.

Then, North America went through the British and French occupation of the colonies and wars between them, and the birth of the American Revolution seeking total liberation from the foreign occupation. Many settlers, and their American born children, were willing to die fighting against the British occupation. Christians of many denominations fought this war side by side with the purpose of creating a new free and independent nation. Finally, they were victorious and on July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was signed by strong and courageous men committed to establish a new nation. Many of these men were Pastors, Ministers and Chaplains with a great vision to create a new nation with religious liberties. The Declaration of Independence went further recognizing the existence of our creator declaring that, we hold these Trust to be self evident, that all Men are created equal, that they ate endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among there are Life, Liberty, and the Pursue of Happiness.

Finally, on March 4, 1789, the first Congress under the Constitution of the United States convened, after the plan for governing the nation had been ratified. Since then, Americans have fought and died in many wars to protect our freedom, and the freedom of others, and we must honor the sacrifices they made to have a country where freedom of religion and freedom of speech prevail. But, we have seen in recent years how Christians, composed by several Christian denominations, are being harassed and denied their rights of expressing their faith in our own country and leaving no other option but to challenge our laws in federal courts seeking justice. We are also witnessing a transformation in our federal courts by a new breed of liberal and left leaning judges legislating from the bench and establishing new interpretations of the existing laws and the US Constitution which are denying people and institutions of faith of their basic religious rights.

Remember Joshua 1:6, "be strong and courageous…”. Yes, we need to be strong and courageous, but we can only achieve that if we unite on a common cause and with faith to prevent our surrender to the vicious attacks from anti Christians, liberals and leftists elements in our society.

We need to recognize that the world of today is in turmoil and the religious persecution is more intense in other countries where new radical Islamic groups are forcing new ideologies on the population and stripping people from their religious freedom.

B. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION AROUND THE WORLD

In the general context of this report, there is a need to bring about some historical facts about the religious persecution of Jews, Christians and other religious minority groups around the world to demonstrate the seriousness of the problem.

Since the Biblical times, it is known that Abraham was the origin of the Jewish and Muslim religions through his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. It is also known that differences between the two religions have been the source of disputes between the Jews and Muslims for centuries. The Jews settled in Egypt and eventually left the territory to follow Moses in a journey through the desert for 40 years in surge of the Promised Land. The Jews lived in Egypt for period of 430 years.

The persecution of Jews was intense during World War II when Hitler exterminated over six million Jews and millions of Jews fled Germany and other European countries to find refuge in western countries until the nation of Israel was founded.

However, in recent years we are witnessing a new wave of religious persecution in many parts of the world where Christians are murdered and churches are burned and where the persecution and harassment of Christians is forcing them to flee their native countries to seek freedom of religion somewhere else.

Many countries in the world like North Korea Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Maldives, Pakistan, Iran, and Yemen have imposed the highest religious restrictions and oppression against their citizens. In several countries in Northern Africa, emerging radical Islamic groups are killing Christians and burning churches.

A study by the Pew Research Center found that "Among the world's 25 most populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Pakistan and Burma (Myanmar) had the most restrictions on religion in 2012,” the report stated. “Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, while Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religious practice” It is important to note that countries under strict Islamic ideologies do not permit the free expression of its citizens, the centers of communication are controlled, there is no liberty for religious groups to congregate, women are not treated equally, are abused and many live under slavery and their judicial system is radical with little respect for human rights.

Did you know that in the 2000 years since Christ there have been over 70,000,000 people killed because of their religious faith and 65% of those have been killed in the last century? Why I am bringing these points up for discussion? It is simple, if we are not aware of what is going on about religious persecution in the world we cannot understand the seriousness of the problem. In fact, if we become spectators and do nothing, we will not prevent another holocaust. Are we in times of a Christian Holocaust?

Since March 2011, we have been getting reports in the news media of the horrendous war in Syria and the killing of over 150,000 of innocent citizens. In this conflict, thousands of Christians are fleeing Syria seeking refuge in Jordan and other countries fearing for their lives. Also we are learning about the new radical Islamic group ISIS, now controlling the Northern parts of Iraq. ISIS has ordered Christians and other religious minorities in the City of Mosul and adjacent towns to convert to Islam, accept living under the Sharia law, pay higher taxes or leave the city. In view of these threats, many Christians are leaving their homes and belongings behind to run away from the persecution and assassinations by decapitation or hanging from trees. The religious persecution in the Middle East countries is also the result of a major split in Islam between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites that goes back to events in the 7th Century.

The European religious persecution in the 16th Century is coming back; but, by a new group of radicals in the 21st Century. Today, the world is in crisis and, at the rate we are going, I predict that we will be facing religious wars between radical Islamic groups and Christians. President Obama made a speech in Cairo in 2009 to seek peace and encourage democracy in the Middle East; but, the results have been a complete foreign policy failure. The Middle East and Africa are now boiling and there is no respect for the human life!

In order to coexist in a harmonious world we need to tolerate each other and respect the religious beliefs of others. However, the radical Islamist are intolerant people and determined to exterminate Christians anywhere in the world. “Wake up Christian world; we need to be prepared to protect our families, our faith, our values and our country.”

There is another factor causing unrest in the world and that is the moral decline in many countries which are creating the conditions for the Christian persecution to flourish and intensify. For our Christian brothers and sisters the warning is to be prepared to act and unite under a common cause defending our rights to practice our faith.

We heard or read about David and Goliath and how David defeated the giant. In the 1 Samuel 17:45-47 we read, David said to the Palestine. “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. …………………………………All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

From these verses we understand that the Lord gave David the means to be victorious against Goliath and every one of us can become a David standing firm against the religious persecution, harassment and discrimination of Christians in any part of the world.

In closing, we are living in stormy times and we must be prepared to face the challenges. The Lord empowered David to defend his people and, as his loyal soldiers and believers, the Lord is empowering us to seek justice, and the wisdom to stand for our rights and maintain the peace.

Look out for Part II – Religious Persecution, Harassment and Discrimination in the United States to be published soon!
God bless you all.

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