“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
—Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV).
In Afghanistan the persecution of the very few Christians there is rife. Christianity is against the law. “The constitution states that Islam is the ‘religion of the state’ and that ‘no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.’” Practically, to be evangelical in Afghanistan is to risk death.
Open Doors estimated that it was so bad in 2008 its position rose from 10th worst to 7th, but still it is North Korea (the only country which is classified as undergoing “severe persecution”) that takes out first place and has done for seven straight years—this is in a competition no one wants to win. But, wait, there’s more. Afghanistan rose again in the rankings this year—from 7th to 4th worst due mostly to pressure from the Taliban.
“Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
—John 15:20 (NIV).
The mode of persecution is still largely an externalised reality for me. Satan can soon have people like me feeling guilty for being blessed enough to live largely untouched by this sort of trouble, but that’s not really the point—the self-absorbed reality of guilt. The point is there are many thousands each day, millions even, who suffer for the simple fact of their faith—still today.
If persecution is a fact we have to live with, and the Word of God says so about this world and troubles we’ll collectively face for our faith, this is the preferred position:
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one other is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”
—2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 (TNIV).
We would always prefer that the love among the saints of the persecuted is increasing and that these people are suffering and struggling well, mature (and maturing) in the faith. And this is said without any intent of flippancy, as we ourselves, in our mildly affected ways, still have the opportunity to also suffer well i.e. faithfully regarding our own social, anti-Christian locale—a place where Satan’s strategies to sway us from God are alive and well. The prevalence of the breakdown of the family unit in Western culture is but one testimony of this fact.
© S. J. Wickham, 2009.
 Open Doors, World Watch List. Retrieved 17 November 2009. See page 6 of the report: http://www.opendoorsusa.org/UserFiles/File/Open%20Doors%20World%20Watch%20List%202009.pdf