In July 2019, months before the initial coronavirus outbreak that set the stage for the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic, the White House hosted a group of individuals from various nations who had suffered religious persecution at the hands of foreign governments and belligerent groups. Of the group of 27 victims, nine were Christians. This visit was part of the foreign policy strategy under former United States President Donald Trump to foster religion freedom around the world.

The State of Modern Religious Persecution

Anthropologists and historians believe religious persecution predates even the early years of the Mesopotamian Civilization. Entire eras have been defined by long periods of oppression against specific faiths. While it is true that the teachings that emerged during the Age of Reason helped to ameliorate religious persecution, the unfortunate reality is that it continues to be a serious problem that affects people of all faiths around the world and well into the 21st century.

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 260 million people face high levels of religious persecution. The most persecuted religious groups are Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. In the specific case of Christian persecution, it has risen since the end of the Persian Gulf War during the early 1990s.

When Christians Are Persecuted

In the First Century, when Christians faced persecution by the Roman Empire, they were often accused of treason, atheism, and other crimes. They were subjected to various punishments, including imprisonment, torture, and execution. Such accusations have been echoed through the ages and are often amplified as threats to the dominant religious leader or political power system.

In other cases, Christian minorities are seen as different from most of the population. Governments sometimes conduct Christian persecution through restrictions; for example, Christians in parts of Sudan are denied basic rights such as the right to worship freely, education, and work.

All Christians must learn about the experiences of their brothers and sisters oppressed for their beliefs. To this effect, here are some stories told by survivors of religious prosecution:

The Bege Baptist Church of Nigeria

In Kaduna, a populous city in the northern region of Nigeria, 16 Christians who are part of the Bege Baptist congregation of Chikun were kidnapped by gunmen affiliated with the Boko Haram terrorist organization in May 2023. After a ransom payment was negotiated with Muslim community leaders and church members, the hostages were released with a warning that they could be subject to future kidnappings.

Gunmen storming churches have become a painful reality of everyday life for Christians in Nigeria, a country divided into a Muslim north and a Christian south; notwithstanding this division, the Bege Baptist Church intends to continue doing God’s work in Kaduna.

Manping Ouyang, Living Stone Church of China

Despite systematic mistreatment ordered by Communist Party leaders, the southern region of China has flourished in Christianity adoption. This religious trend can be attributed to the work of individuals such as Pastor Su Tianfu, founder of the Living Stone “house church” of Guiyang, which was shut down by municipal officials in 2009 because it was not registered under the list of religions allowed in China.

Manping Ouyang, Pastor Su’s wife, visited the White House in 2019 to brief U.S. officials about the widespread persecution of Christians and Muslims in various parts of China.

Dabrina Bet Tamraz, Assyrian Christian Church of Iran

Similar to the case involving the aforementioned Living Stone Church, an underground Assyrian Christian house of worship in Iran was seized in 2009 by morality police officers representing the Islamic Republic regime. Pastor Victor Bet Tamraz was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his religious activities. His wife and oldest son were convicted and imprisoned years later; however, Pastor Tamraz’s daughter Dabrina escaped. Ms Tamraz currently works with U.S.-based organizations dedicated to denouncing religious persecution.

In the end, the current state of religious persecution reminds you that you still have a long way to go before the tolerance preached by all religions can rule the world.