Stories of Hope Amidst Christian Persecution


When you look back at the history of religious persecution around the world, you can trace the earliest incidents to the 7th century BC, when the Assyrian Kingdom ordered the destruction of a Babylonian temple in Mesopotamia. By all accounts, religious persecution has not stopped despite a strong movement towards tolerance promoted during the Enlightenment in the 18th century. Amidst all the stories of despair generated by faith-based persecution these days, there are also stories of hope that are worth learning about.

Gospel Singer Helen Berhane from Eritrea


One of the most intriguing examples of Christian persecution can be found in Eritrea. This African nation was part of the Christian Kingdom of Aksum in ancient Abyssinia. In Eritrea, three Christian denominations are recognized as state religions along with Sunni Islam, but Helen Berhane does not belong to any of them. Berhane is a gospel musician whose evangelical beliefs do not align with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea, which under the national law, she practices an illegal religious doctrine.


In 2003, Berhane was imprisoned for 32 months for proselytizing; upon release, she was still subject to restrictions that she chose to circumvent by escaping to neighbouring Sudan. Berhane wrote a best-seller memoir about her ordeal, and she has not stopped decrying the persecution of Christians in her native land; her greatest hope is to one day see true freedom of religion in Eritrea.

Asia Bibi of Pakistan


When citing examples of Christian persecution in Asia and the Middle East, the story of Asia Bibi often stands out. It took an international effort to release her from the Pakistani prison where she had been sentenced to death for blasphemy. Islamic prosecutors from the Punjab province arrested Asia Bibi after she argued with a coworker who often belittled her Christian faith.


The court decision and sentencing were appealed before the highest courts of Pakistan, and the Asia Bibi case attracted the attention of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer and Minister of Minority Affairs Shahbaz Bhatti, who issued a joint statement of support. Islamic extremists assassinated the two political leaders for their support of religious freedom. Asia Bibi was eventually released and given asylum in Canada; she owes her life to the international effort of Christians who did not let her down.


Pastor Langjaw Gam Seng of Myanmar


Along with the Muslim Rohingya people of Myanmar, Christians who reside in the Kachin province have also been subjected to armed violence carried out by the despotic military regime as well as radical militias. Langjaw Gam Seng got involved in a Baptist ministry as a youth leader; in 2016, he was arrested for defiance of religious prohibitions and spent 15 months in prison.


Upon release, Seng studied to become a pastor, and he has worked with human rights groups to denounce the firebombing of more than 50 churches in Myanmar over two years. Pastor Seng has also revealed that the military junta turns a blind eye when radical militias attack Burmese Christians, and he has complained about the practice of using state funds to replace destroyed churches with Buddhist temples.

The Christian Community of Iraq


One of Iraqi Christians’ most special Christmas celebrations happened in 2018 when the Ministry of Defense and American military officials declared that the ISIS terrorism organization had been driven out after years of armed conflict and violence. ISIS initiated a campaign of terror against Kurdish Christians in 2012, and two years later, a caliphate extended from Mosul to the border with Syria. During this period of intense persecution, the religious demographics of Iraq changed from 1.5 million Christians to less than 400,000.


For many years, Iraqi Christians were forced to hide and worship secretly; quite a few fought alongside Iraqi and American forces against ISIS, but they never abandoned hope for a return to religious freedom. The history of Christianity in Iraq dates back to when the Apostles Thaddeus and Thomas travelled east from Galilee to the Euphrates Valley, thus making them one of the earliest Christian communities; these days, they hope to continue thriving in the Middle East.


While it is certainly devastating to learn about the modern persecution of Christians, the stories above provide hope and remind you that you all have a role to play in the fight against systematic intolerance. You can speak out against injustice, support organizations that are working to protect religious freedom and pray for persecuted people. By working together, you can make the world a more just and tolerant place.


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