Misconceptions about Christianity create a climate in which persecution can take place. One commonly perceived threat is that Christian Church growth will threaten the integrity and growth prospects of the non-Christian majority religion. Another is that Christians will establish links to the Church worldwide, which some totalitarian dictatorships allege is a “threat to national security.”

Some 200 million Christians today are living with serious persecution (threat of prison, vigilante or state violence, etc.) because of their faith. A further 400 million Christians live with non-trivial restrictions on their freedom and the loss of many basic human rights, simply because they choose to love and follow Jesus Christ.

“Persecution of the Church is a huge problem,” notes Kendal. “We are all brothers and sisters, so what sort of family will we be - one that cares or one that neglects? Persecuted Christians are in a spiritual battle, often fighting for their lives and sometimes struggling in their faith. We can join them in this spiritual battle, fighting on their behalf, by praying for them and supporting them.”

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Kendal reports that Islam has, to varying degrees at various times, persecuted Christians for over 1400 years. Christians living under Islamic domination generally suffer crippling discrimination and severe persecution for their allegiance to Christ. Apostates (those who choose to leave Islam) often pay with their liberty or their life. However, as Islamic fervor has increased over the past decade, both persecution of Christians and jihad (Islamic holy war) activity have increased.

In Hindu and Buddhist nations, as well as some totalitarian, dictatorial or simply politically troubled states, religious nationalism is so popular that it has become a political tool that is used for political gain. The majority religion (be that Hindu, Buddhist, or Russian Orthodox) is propped up and advanced in exchange for political support. This is happening in many nations where majority religions have great influence and the state is keen to use it. The majority religion then has leverage to enlist State power to close down and persecute 'competitors' (evangelical churches). This symbiotic relationship between the state and leaders of the majority religion has been going on since the days of the first Christians.

In Communist East Asia and other totalitarian states, Christians are persecuted and imprisoned for giving allegiance to Christ ahead of the government. Christians have faced this since early church days.

In the West, once known as Christendom, society has its roots in the Judeo-Christian ethic, yet the church in the West is also asked to choose between the 'praise from men' found by yielding to worldly standards and to secular, rationalistic, naturalistic humanism, and 'praise from God' which comes from honouring Christ and his Holy Spirit-inspired word (John 12:43).

“Jesus, who desires that we - the Church - be one (John 17:21), has called us to take up our cross and follow him through rejection, death and onto glorification,” Kendal writes. “We will do it best if we do it together.”

On Nov. 9, wrongfully imprisoned Gospel for Asia (GFA) missionary Manja learns whether he is to be released from prison or must serve the rest of his 20-year sentence. As this date is also the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, pray for Manja and his family. For the latest on Manja, visit the GFA website.