Editor's note: Modern persecution
WHAT YOU HOLD in your hand is a very unusual issue of Christian History. You might want to call it “Living Christian History.”
For over a decade, Christian History Institute (CHI) and The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), an organization that helps persecuted Christians around the world, have cooperated in developing the Torchlighters series of DVDs—short, animated videos that introduce children to heroes of the Christian faith. The series has raised modern viewers’ awareness not only of inspiring Christians from the past but of the fact, sometimes invisible to Western Christians, that believing in Christ often means suffering for his sake.
Suffering and hope
Christian History has previously published an issue (#27) on persecution in the early church. We in the West are well aware of how Christians suffered for their beliefs in those days—Peter crucified upside down, Polycarp burned at the stake, Perpetua thrown into the ring with wild animals. And we may even know stories from dark centuries when Christians fought with and oppressed each other, stories that other issues of Christian History have discussed through the years.
Recently CHI and VOM decided to cooperate in telling more modern stories of persecuted Christians around the globe, from the “century of missions” (beginning around 1800) to the present. We do not always realize how ancient stories of Christian suffering resonate with the lived experiences of many modern Christians in countries ranging from Nigeria to China to Germany to Peru. And by “modern” is meant, in some cases, stories as recent as last week.
This means that what you will read in this issue is, in part, history that is still being written. As always, we offer thoughtful historical reflections on larger issues and broader trends. But we also include primary sources from people living, ministering, and suffering in sensitive and restricted areas of the world. Where you might in another issue have read excerpts from a diary by a second-century Spanish nun or a frontier Methodist preacher and listened to historians speculate on what happened at the Council of Nicaea or how Bach’s music displayed his Christian faith, in this issue you will also read from newsletters published yesterday and listen to testimonies of suffering under laws passed last month.
Many past issues of Christian History have been meant to inspire prayer and study, as we let the past—in examples both good and bad—teach us how God wants us to be faithful in the present. This issue has the same intent. But more than most, it is also intended to inspire action. Let these stories remind you that the story God is writing through his church today is a story written in suffering, perseverance, and hope. And let that guide you as you discern how to be faithful in your own present. CH
Jennifer Woodruff Tait
By Jennifer Woodruff Tait
[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #109 in 2014]
Is there a global war?
CH discusses modern persecution with John Allen Jr., the author of a new book, The Global War on ChristiansJohn Allen Jr.
Learn more about the stories featured in this issue and put modern persecution of Christians into historical context with resources recommended by CH editorial staff and this issue’s contributors.The editors
Searching for me with pistols and daggers
The first Christian arrested under Pakistan’s blasphemy law tells his storyDaniel Scot
A prisoner’s song
An Eritrean gospel singer wrote this song in prison, drawing strength from those who had suffered before herHelen Berhane
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