Most people reading this are completely free to follow any religion, and to change their minds any time. We are free. We are so free that some believers have a hard time explaining what they believe, and maybe some struggle to understand what they believe. That is the price of freedom. I remember going to church, when I was a boy; my whole family went to church, and I had no choice. When I became an adult, I decided what I believed, and who I was. That was a big adjustment for me.
In some places in the world, it’s very important to know what you believe. A person can be prosecuted, and even killed for believing the “wrong” thing. “Wrong” is an idea from the government or some powerful organization. We may be going in that direction in the comfortable free countries.
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If you are a Christian, how do you feel about the accusation that you are mentally ill? In the U.S. there are so many Christians that a television personality risks being fired for making claims like that.
Imagine life without that push-back power.
Here are some examples that we should know about:
Myanmar: The Asian country formerly known as Burma was governed by military officials, until a few years ago. The military powers identify as Buddhist, and they have opposed other religions in their country. You have probably heard of the Rohingya people in that country, who are mostly Muslim. Almost a million have fled the country, and many are now living in the world’s largest refugee camp, in Bangladesh. It’s called by some the “Rohingya genocide.”
We may not know that millions of people in Myanmar claim to be Christians. Persecution and restrictions against those Christians have continued for years, and tribal people in Myanmar don’t have much of a voice in the world. Hollywood mentioned them. If you watched the movie “Rambo 4” the final gory battle scene is Rambo and his friends against the Myanmar army. When all is lost, a friendly army of Karen rebels charges into the scene and helps finish the job against the army. The Karens are tribal people in Myanmar, and many of them identify as Christians.
Most movie watchers have no idea who those rescuers are supposed to be. Al Jazeera News, from a Muslim perspective, talks openly about the pressure on Christians in Myanmar.
On February 1, 2021, the military in Myanmar seized control of the government and arrested elected leaders. This is frightening for Christians because their old persecutors have returned to power.
China: In China, the government is officially Communist, and Christians are officially restricted. Some people accuse the authorities of persecution. There are other groups, including Buddhists in Tibet and Muslim Uighurs who are restricted by the authorities.
There is no official count, but Christians may already out-number Communists in China, and their number is growing. There are many reports of official restriction and persecution of Christians in China. The reports are not easy to confirm, but one Christian filmed a police raid on his church. They came at night and their target was a cross on top of the building. For me, this is a scary video.
Azerbaijan: Another example is in the small country of Azerbaijan, which claims to practice religious freedom. Imagine living in a modern, industrial country, where every congregation must register and must have at least fifty adult members. It is illegal for a small group to grow to fifty adults and the leaders can be fined and put in prison. Some large, registered congregations have been officially dissolved and the leaders could be arrested and prosecuted if they continue to operate.
READ: ‘Complex labyrinth of “legal” restrictions’ for religious communities in Azerbaijan
We were warned, two thousand years ago “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) Somehow, some of us dodged that bullet.
There is one question we should all ask ourselves: Do I believe something important? Also: Do I know what it is? Could I really explain to another person, what matters to me the most?
Imagine, as a believer, defending what you believe, and paying a price for it. We may be closer than we think.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)