The persecution of Christians is “the most dramatic religion story of the early 21st century,” according to the latest book by religion reporter John Allen.
In “The Global War on Christians: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution” (Crown Publishing), Allen gives a global overview of the varied threats faced by Christians.
“Christians today indisputably are the most persecuted religious body on the planet, and too often their new martyrs suffer in silence,” he commented.
Silence, he noted, because in large part the media do not report the persecution of Christians, in spite of the egregious nature of the offences being committed.
He quoted one Protestant scholar, Todd Johnson, who has estimated that in the years from 2000 to 2010 there was an average of 100,000 Christians killed each year.
Allen drew a distinction between the problems faced by Christians in Western nations, for example the conflict over health care legislation in the United States, and the much more bloody persecution in the countries of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
Yet, while it is certainly the case that in Western nations, Christians are not being tortured or put to death, they do nevertheless face significant opposition.
A couple of recent cases from Australia exemplify the intolerance exhibited toward Christians.
In the Australian state of Victoria, Dr Mark Hobart is under investigation by the Medical Board of the state. His crime: refusing to refer an Indian couple to a doctor when they wanted to abort a healthy unborn baby girl at week 19 of pregnancy because they wanted a boy, the Herald Sun newspaper reported on Oct. 5.
Hobart, a Catholic, was asked by the couple to abort the baby, but he refused. Upon being asked by them for a referral to another doctor who would perform the abortion he said that he did not know anyone who would carry out such a procedure.
“The irony is that Victoria’s abortion laws, among the most extreme in the world, were driven by a bipartisan feminist agenda,” commented Miranda Devine in her Herald Sun article. “Yet now those laws are being used to punish a doctor who refused to participate in the sort of selective abortion of female fetuses which has made girl babies an endangered species in India and other patriarchal societies,” she added.
Then, there was the pro-life march in the Victorian capital Melbourne. The LifeNews.com Website filed a graphic report on Oct. 14 about how a peaceful pro-life march was violently attacked.
“We have a number of people who are injured as a result of yesterday,” said Bernie Finn, a Victorian member of parliament, according to a report on the 9 News Website, Oct 13.
Around 3,000 pro-life demonstrators attended the march calling for the Abortion Law Reform Act – which in 2008 removed all legal protection for children before birth – to be repealed, the article said.
Australia is far from being the only country with these sorts of conflicts. In England Hazelmary and Peter Bull have put their Chymorvah Hotel in Cornwall up for sale.
They lost a legal case brought against them after having refused to let a same-sex couple stay in the same bedroom, the Daily Mail recounted on Sept. 19
Since losing the case they have been subjected to a barrage of attacks, including death threats and vandalism.
Due to their Christian beliefs since they took over the hotel in 1986 they have only allowed double accommodation to married heterosexual couples.
Judgment of conscience
The couple have now gone to the Supreme Court to contest the ruling against them, the Telegraph newspaper reported Oct. 9.
“The pair could not be treated like racists or others guilty of discrimination because their decision had been founded on their ‘religiously informed judgment of conscience,’” their barrister, Aidan O’Neil QC, argued before the five judges.
Same-sex marriage issues are also providing grounds for conflict in the United States. Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, has been sued twice: once by state Attorney General Bob Ferguson and once by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Wall Street Journal reported, Sept. 19.
Her crime was not being willing to provide flowers for same-sex couples. Priests and members of the clergy are generally protected from such legal measures, but this does not extend to business owners.
Crisis Magazine published a lengthy article on October 10 about the problems faced by Christians who in good conscience feel they cannot endorse homosexuality. A number of the problems stemmed from same-sex marriages, ranging from wedding cakes to marriage receptions and wedding photos.
Christian business owners are pleading the right to religious freedom, but their petitions are being denied by the courts.
The pleas for tolerance and respect, it seems, only apply so long as you endorse one side of the debate.