Is religious persecution declining or growing?
REV. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.
It's growing at an alarming rate. A recent survey by the Pew Forum revealed that a third of the world's population (more than 2.2 billion people) live in countries where government restrictions or social hostilities towards religion are increasing ( http://pewforum.org/Government/Rising-Restrictions-on-Religion.aspx).
The Pew survey found that religious persecution comes in many forms, including "individuals being killed, physically abused, imprisoned, detained or displaced from their homes, as well as damage to or destruction of personal and religious properties." The overall global picture is gloomy.
The Pew Forum reported that between mid-2006 and mid-2009, just one per cent of the world's population enjoyed an increase in religious freedoms, 67 per cent remained unchanged, and 32 per cent experienced a decline.
The regions where religious persecution and restrictions were most severe were in the Middle East and North Africa.
Christians are saddened, but not surprised by this increase in religious persecution. Jesus told us to expect it. He predicted that persecution would increase as history moves toward its climax: "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me" ( Matthew 24:9).
What can we do to increase religious freedoms and help those suffering persecution? The Bible says our first response should be prayer. We are to pray for "kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives" ( 1 Timothy 2:2). We also pray for the protection of those suffering under the scourge of religious persecution ( 1 Thessalonians 3:2).
In addition to talking to God, we can also talk to our governing officials. We can appeal to them to bring pressure to bear on governments that promote or permit religious persecution. Those of us who cherish religious freedom should work to see these same freedoms given to all peoples in all places.
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