There are some fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity. For example, it could be argued that if a Christian kills a non-Christian in the name of Christ, he is acting against the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. However, if a Muslim kills a non-Muslim in the name of Allah, he may in fact be acting according to Islamic teaching.
It needs to be stressed, of course, that just as there are different versions and interpretations of Christianity, so too with Islam. Thus there are liberal, conservative, and even secular versions of Islam, among others. And there are various translations of the Koran. In the three versions of the Koran that I have, for example, there is some divergence on the key texts on jihad (holy war). Despite the different translations, however, all concur that the infidel is the subject of Muslim jihad (as in Sura 2:244, 9:5, 9:29 and 47:4, for example.)
Thus it is no surprise that in some versions of Islam at least, there is clear and unequivocal justification for attacks on Christians and others regarded as enemies of Islam. Examples of contemporary Islamic jihad against Christians are not hard to find. A few recent cases can be mentioned:
- In Pakistan a number of workers at Christian organisations have been killed or attacked recently. Christian schools have been attacked, Christians have been imprisoned, tortured and/or killed for “blasphemy,” and church services have been interrupted or halted.
- In the Sudan Christians continue to be killed in the 20-year civil war in which Muslims in the North seek to Islamicise the entire country. Many thousands of Christians have been killed, sold into slavery and even crucified.
- In Indonesia Christians in several provinces in the east of the country are under severe threat of both jihad and military attack. In the three provinces Muslim militants and foreign mujahideen are involved in the attacks, along with members of the Indonesian military. Christian villages have been destroyed, Christians have been killed and forced to flee, and churches have been bombed. It is believed that the same radical Muslim terrorists involved in killing Christians in Ambon were those responsible for the terror bombing in Bali on October 12.
- In Ethiopia a number of Christians have been killed and numerous churches have been attacked.
The list could go on. It should come as no surprise that followers of Christ will experience troubles in this world. Jesus promised as much. And persecution has been the case throughout church history. However, the situation clearly has gotten much worse in recent times. Consider some of these figures:
- More Christians died for their faith in the twentieth century than in all the other centuries put together.
- 100 million Christians were killed in the twentieth century.
- 160,000 Christians are killed each year.
- Over 400 Christians are killed each day.
- Currently, 200 to 250 million Christians are persecuted for their faith.
- A further 400 million live under non-trivial restrictions on religious liberty.
As can be seen, never before has the Christian Church come under so much opposition and persecution. At the moment over 35 countries have mounted campaigns against Christians. Some of the worst offenders are China, Sudan and Ethiopia. Others include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Burma, Greece, Vietnam and Egypt. China is probably the worst of all the countries, with more people imprisoned there for religious activity than any other country. Yet as the list of countries makes clear, the Islamic world makes up a large proportion of those nations.
And the persecution of Christians is taking its toll. The Christian presence in a number of countries is declining rapidly. In Iraq, for example, the number of Christians has decreased from 35% to 5% of the overall population. Other countries are witnessing similar declines: In Iran the percentage has dropped from 15% to 2%. In Syria, from 40% to 10%, and in Turkey, from 32% to 0.2% since the early part of the twentieth century.
We are told to pray for those who persecute us. (Luke 6:27,28; Matt. 5:44) When Peter and Paul were in prison the whole church prayed for their release. We need to not just pray but to do all that we can to help our persecuted brothers and sisters. Hebrews 13:3 tells us to “remember those in prison as if imprisoned with them”. Please pray and spread the word.