(By Brian Orme, Open Doors). Myths can be dangerous. False narratives can slip into our minds through the news, casual conversations or even social media. The problem is—if we believe these myths, they have the potential to change the way we think, behave and engage the world.
I’ve fallen for many of the myths you’re about to read relating to the persecuted church. In some ways, this post is more of a confessional. But I believe many of these are widespread, and we need to call them out to embrace the full picture of persecution. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are counting on our prayers and support—and we can’t afford to follow false narratives.
1. It’s only persecution if there is violence.
The persecution of Christians includes violence—and we’ve been reminded of this lately with the terrible attacks on churches in Egypt during Palm Sunday worship—but Christian persecution also includes the slow and steady ostracizing and oppression of Christian citizens. We call this the ‘squeeze’. Many regions enforce long-term efforts to push Christians to the margins of society by cutting them off from community life, access to clinics and even jobs—treating them as lower-class citizens. This is also persecution; it’s prevalent and pervasive in places like Bhutan, Vietnam, India and many other regions in the world. The media highlights violence, but the steady non-violent persecution of Christians is large-scale and unthinkable. It’s just not in the news.
2. Christians are persecuted most in the Middle East.
The Middle East is a very difficult region for Christians to live out their faith in public. This is true. In places like Iran, Qatar and Eritrea, being a Christian is dangerous and risky, and it could cost you your life. However, if we’re talking about large-scale persecution, we have to think through the implications of countries like India, North Korea, Nigeria and even China. We don’t see these locations in the news as often, but persecution here—by sheer numbers—is overwhelming and far outnumbers the Middle East. Not that we need to compare regions, but it’s wise to be aware of how vast the issue really is. The Middle East is a dangerous place for Christians, but it’s not the only place.
3. Persecuted believers just want a way out.
This is an important myth to dispel. We should pray for relief and human rights, but many Christians in these difficult regions are asking for us to pray for perseverance. They want to remain in their homeland to be a witness for the gospel.