Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Direct Persecution vs. Indirect Persecution

Jonathan Lenning:
Not all persecution is as glaringly evident as that of believers suffering the horrors of North Korean prison camps or Nigerian church bombings. A lot of persecution is indirect, and though less obvious, the difficulty it brings is just as real. It may be helpful to think about indirect persecution as “squeezing,” whereas direct could be considered “smashing.”  This is how Open Doors differentiates between the two. But what does it mean for the church to be squeezed?

Think pressure. If we relegate persecution to instances of direct violence, we inevitably miss a lot of the areas where Christianity is still completely oppressed. In fact, according to Open Doors, “sometimes the degree of persecution is so intense, and so all-pervasive, it actually results in fewer incidents of persecution, since acts of public witness and defiance are rare.” In other words, some of the worst persecution does not exhibit itself in beatings or imprisonment, but in total, silent suppression. It’s been said that many persecutors would even prefer indirect persecution to direct, believing their attempted suffocation of the church to be more effective.

But if you’re like me, you need some examples to help you think about what it can look like for Christians to be persecuted indirectly like this. Open Doors cites the Maldives, a country in which Christians “are surrounded on every side with massive pressure from friends, neighbors, family, and the government, which means they can hardly express their faith.” Unfortunately, we don’t need to look past last week to find other examples.

Open Doors issued a prayer update on June 5 in which Indonesia’s radical Islamists are waging a new kind of battle against the Christian church planting there. They have turned to threatening fellow Muslims by denying them a proper Muslim burial if they approve of a church building being constructed in their area. Pressure.

The day before, Voice of the Martyrs reported a church closing in Iran last month. The church leaders had been ordered to conduct services only in Armenian, a language less than two percent of the population speaks. To be sure, the actions that led up to the church closing included imprisonment of church leaders, a form of direct persecution. However, by prohibiting the church from using the most effective language for spreading the gospel among Iranians (53 percent of the population speaks Farsi), the government’s tool of choice is now indirect; they aren’t prohibiting Christianity or even Christian churches, just the speaking of the people’s language. Squeezing.

So let’s remember these forgotten sufferers in our prayers. They may not be in the headlines for bombings, shootings, or torture, but they’re just as much persecuted and just as much in need of our prayer support.

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