“The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them. . .” Psalm 37: 12
“For at least three reasons, the contemporary persecution of Christians demands attention: It is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.”
That’s how Paul Marshall, of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, began an article he wrote for the Weekly Standard this week. Between 2006 and 2012, fully 151 countries, according to the Pew Forum on Religious Life, most of the countries of the world, targeted Christians for harassment.
Waves of Christians have been killed in Sudan in religious warfare between the north and the south; and, as is widely known, in Nigeria hundreds of Christian schoolgirls were abducted by Muslim extremists and forcibly converted, so to speak, to Islam. But there's more, much more.
Just last week, Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese medical doctor and professed Christian, was released from jail, then, subsequently, detained again as she and her Christian husband attempted to leave for the United States. Ms. Ibrahim refused to recant her Christian faith and had been sentenced to death under an ancient Islamic law that makes Christian children of Islamic parents into infidels, worthy of death.
What will happen in to her, to her husband and two children, remains to be seen; but she is blessed by gaining the attention of the world. Many, many others, according to Marshall, are not so blessed. Entire Egyptian villages are gone. In Iraq, Christians have been leaving for a long time already. In some parts of the Middle East, no Christians remain.
The bottom line is perfectly clear for all the world to see: the persecution of men and women who profess the Christian faith has reached levels greater—higher, bloodier—than the world has seen for many years.
I am far less a citizen of this world than I should be. It’s almost impossible for me to imagine an evil empire in which one’s faith could be the sole cause for bloody persecution and death. But there are such places, Marshall and many others report, places where David’s assertion in this psalm rings as true today as it did for him way back in 900 B.C., plagued as he was by those who would bring him and his God down. Yes, hard as it may be to believe, there are places in this world where the wicked still deviously plot against the righteous, teeth gnashing.
A quarter century ago who could have guessed the world would spin into the directions it has today? The Enlightenment is history, some say, very much behind us. The assumption that religious faith was a remnant of our barbarism and would eventually fade into oblivion was dead wrong. The world’s most incendiary battles are religious in character today. Look for yourself. Public enemy number one is Islamic radicalism, radicalism that appears to be growing throughout the world. We live in a world in which there is seemingly no end to killing others in the name of some or other god.
The modern, secularized West—me included—blushes at the metaphors in this verse; but David’s sense of the lay of the land in his world sounds sadly familiar today in many places around the globe.
May the Lord our God be with us. May he bless us all with peace.
Lord Jesus, come quickly.