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Persecuted Christians: Rome Conference - Picking Up The Sword Or Turning the Other Cheek?

( [email protected] ) Jan 07, 2016 02:40 PM EST
$1 million from the Tempelton Religion Trust went to investigating the Christian response in the face of global persecution.
A man and a child from a Christian family look out from their home in the industrial suburbs of Yangon on April 14, 2012. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

There's a disconnect between Christians in the US and Christians suffering persecution in other parts of the world. This is just one of the findings that Family Research Council's Travis Weber discussed in an interview on CBN News. 

He was one of the attendees of the "Under Ceasar's Sword" conference recently held in Rome. More than $1 million and 3 years went into investigating the question of how Christians respond to attacks against them.

Collecting data from 30 countries, scholars from Notre Dame's Center for Civil and Human Rights and the Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, found that the responses differ depending on the nature and type of persecution being faced.

For instance, the research indicated that Christians confronted with the violence of Boko Haram in Africa or extreme state pressure in Iran or Saudi Arabia tend to flee, while those living under unstable and hostile governments such as Egypt and Afghanistan, do their best to stay under the radar in the-every-day. There is greater boldness toward group-advocacy in relatively more stable nations such as Pakistan and Indonesia.

Retaliation is not one of the usual responses, according to the findings. It's not necessarily because Christians are "turning the other cheek" out of alignment with Christian principles. However, when faced with the threat of eradication and containment by the government, as in Vietnam, the Christians there expect persecution. Former missionary and advocate for religious freedom in Vietnam, Reg Reimer, is quoted in the report as saying that with no way out, they rely on prayer and scripture for survival. Under such circumstances, the surprising results of persecution are as true today as they were with the early church: an increase in the growth of Christianity.  However, some do recant under severe pressure.

Where organizations such as ISIS and Boko Haram thrive, there is greater insecurity for people of all faiths. Cooperation with the religion in power has led to Muslims and Christians working together for the betterment of all, such as protecting young women, promoting education and getting clean water and sanitation.  Muslims have also hid or defended Christians from Boko Haram.

Generally, the findings show that where persecution is not life threatening such as in the US and other western countries, cooperation with other faiths and organizations and doing social outreach, is a response that serves Christians the best in the face of persecution.

In speaking to American Christians, Weber says that one way to remove the disconnect between us and our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, is to stay informed and make an effort to share that knowledge with policy makers.

Further details on the findings can be seen in Christianity Today, "Beyond Fight or Flight:  $1million Reveals How Christians Cope with Persecution in 30 Countries" or at the Family Research Council's website, FRC.org.