Two largely untold stories about global Christianity have the capacity to shake the world order.
According to Open Doors, a nondenominational Christian group, about 100 million Christians are being persecuted in more than 65 countries, with radical Muslims the main perpetrators in 36 of them.
In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been attacked, murdered, and driven out. In December 2013, at least 1,000 Christians were killed in the Central African Republic. In February this year, jihadists bombed churches in Zanzibar as “dens of non-believers.” In March, members of Somalia’s al-Shabaab militia publicly beheaded a mother of two girls and her cousin after discovering they were Christians.
The same month in Nigeria, more than 150 Christians were butchered in a massacre in Kaduna; this week, hundreds died in bomb attacks in the Christian areas of the towns of Kano and Jos.
In Sudan, Christians have been hacked to death for refusing to convert to Islam or burned alive inside their churches.
Last week, a pregnant mother was sentenced to death there for allegedly converting to Christianity. In Eritrea, more than 3,000 Christians are in prison. In Iran, Christians are being jailed and thousands have fled. There are countless other examples.
Remarkably, however, Western mainstream churches largely ignore this carnage amongst their worldwide communion.
Instead, they appease Islam and vilify Israel, the one country in the Middle East where Christians are safe (but that’s another story).
One wonders whether the pope will speak out clearly against this Christian victimization when he meets representatives of Islam on his visit to what he calls the Holy Land. He reportedly wants to heal the fissure between Jews and Palestinians. Very nice; but surely his priority should be stopping the slaughter of his own flock.
Yet here’s the really extraordinary thing. Across the developing world, including countries where Christians are being persecuted, the churches are experiencing phenomenal growth. If trends persist, Europe’s Christians will be overtaken by those in Africa, Latin America and Asia, most of the growth driven by the astounding expansion of Pentecostal, Charismatic and other evangelical churches.
In his book The Next Christendom; The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins writes that, since 1965, the Christian population of Africa has risen from a quarter of the total to about 46 percent.
In Nigeria, Christian rallies draw between one and three million people. In Ethiopia, the church has some 25 million members. Churches are expanding in Niger, Burkina Faso, Toga, Benin, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Mali, Chad.