As people in Western countries prepare to comfortably enjoy the holiday season, a growing problem is infecting other parts of the world. In many places, Christians are finding it harder to openly celebrate Christmas.
North Korea is one such place. Since the communist party's rise to power, Christianity has been effectively outlawed. When the faithful are done, they are exiled to gulag-like camps where many of them die. North Korea denies imprisonment and torturing Christians, but the Christian human rights group Open Doors has listed the territory as number one on its annual World Watch List. The group says that the list "ranks countries by the intensity of persecution that Christians face for actively pursuing their faith." The communist party has long felt that Christianity is a threat to their state philosophy. They have long held that the faith contradicts "scientific" dialectic-materialism that communism is founded on.
Yet Open Doors does not call it a list without reason; other countries also persecute Christians. Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and Iraq are all guilty of harboring extremist groups who are openly violent toward Christian believers. Over the past ten years, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped from 1.5 million people to just about 400,000. Quite recently, 52 Iraqi Christians were killed and another 60 injured in a dangerous host situation in Baghdad. A militant Islamic group, which has been trying to form a counter government in the country, claimed responsibility for the attacks. They said they did it because the church in Baghdad, where they made their attack, served as an "obscene nest of the polytheists" and a "base for their struggle against the religion of Islam."
As they would say in Texas, "them's fightin 'words."
Christian persecution has also taken place in more democratic countries such as India. Few Americans discuss the ongoing persecution of Christians in India as US leaders and the media refuse to discuss the issue. Open Doors states that Christian suffering is cut off out of view.
As believers in Western countries approach the Christmas season, they should be thankful that they do not have to experience that kind of suffering. They should also consider taking some time out of the celebration to advocate for the protection of fellow believers in other countries. In several places around the world, people are openly and brutally punishing people who are doing nothing more than holding to what they feel is the right thing.