The Global War on Christians

As an Evangelical youngster I devoured a paperback classic called Tortured for Christ. Written by a Romanian Baptist pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, it was a simple tale of being imprisoned and tortured for his Christian faith under the Communist regime. Another Christian from behind the Iron Curtain—Peter Deyneka visited our home on one of his trips around the country. He ran the Slavic Gospel Association and over dinner invited me to join a youth mission team headed to France to smuggle Bibles into the Eastern bloc countries.

Hearing these faith stories and meeting such men branded into my imagination the fact that Christians were being persecuted. Knowing that men and women were imprisoned and tortured, that religious schools were banned and Bibles forbidden sharpened my own Christian commitment. If our brothers and sisters were being persecuted in such a terrible way, then Christianity must be worth something. If our faith was worthless why were the communists so afraid of us? If Christians were being persecuted there then it could happen here. If ordinary men and women were willing to go to prison, be beaten and even killed for the faith what did my middle class suburban Christian faith look like?

This is why John Allen’s book The Global War on Christians is so important. Foregoing the usual superlative blurbs on the back cover, the publishers have chosen the stark message, “It’s time to wake up.” As a Vatican correspondent, Allen is based in the hub of world Christianity, but he doesn’t simply report on the persecution of Catholics. Instead he takes the broadest view and tells the stories and reports the statistics of the persecution of the whole Christian church worldwide.

War on Christians CoverJust to get an overview, Todd Johnson, a researcher at Gorden Conwell Theological College believes the number of Christians martyred in the first decade of the twenty first century is about 100,000. That works out at eleven Christians killed every hour every day for the last ten years. Even the conservative estimates are shocking. Those who question Johnson’s numbers still admit that at least one Christian is killed hourly somewhere around the globe. Of the millions of Christians martyred in the 2000 years of the church’s history over half were killed in the twentieth century, and 80 percent of the cases of religious persecution in the world today are against Christians—and it’s getting worse.

After a rapid overview of the problem as an introduction, Allen covers the subject in three main parts: “Anti-Christian Persecution Around the World”; “Myths About the Global War on Christians”; and “Fallout, Consequences and Responses.” Allen’s extensive research and thoroughgoing analysis provides an excellent objective treatment of a highly emotional and explosive topic. What I appreciated is not only that he told the stories of all Christian victims—no matter what their tradition–but that he also explained how the persecution can come from almost any political or religious persuasion.

Most of us would assume the persecution of Christians these days is mainly a problem of radical Muslims. While extremist Muslims do persecute Christians, it is also the case that extremist Hindus, radical Buddhists and members of bizarre religious sects attack Christians. Both left wing and right wing political groups persecute Christians. Mafia dons, politicians, business owners, gang members and even fellow Christians will attack Christians who, by virtue of their faith, have stood up to some injustice, crime or inequality in society.

Allen explains how persecution may be at a comparatively low level—with the Christian experiencing bullying from family and friends, prejudice in the workplace, punitive taxes and fines or exclusion from employment. Legal discrimination might mean Christians are barred from certain professions, refused building permits for their schools, churches and bookstores or be silenced from having a voice in the public square. While Christians do suffer imprisonment, kidnapping, torture and death, the sufferings of Christians are constant and pervasive in these lower level deprivations.

A Christian might be persecuted simply for the fact that he is a Christian, but it is more likely that he will be persecuted because of another social issue which has caused him to take a stand. A Christian who opposes same sex marriage might be jailed for “hate speech.” A believer who campaigns against injustice may be jailed ostensibly for political crimes. A Christian who campaigns on behalf of indigenous peoples against big business or who works against the crime of human trafficking will be attacked by those who are threatened. Allen explains the complexities with clarity and compassion while constantly uploading dramatic real life stories from around the world of Christians under persecution.

The only fault I sensed in Allen’s book was a lack of acknowledgement toward the underlying causes of persecution. He outlines the various sources of persecution and explains the political, ethnic, religious and economic pressures that drive individuals and groups to perceive Christians as the threat, but there was very little about the spiritual dimension of persecution. To put it bluntly, there is also an unseen battle going on. Satan and the powers of this world hate the followers of Jesus Christ.

In virtually every age since the resurrection of Christ, his followers in one place or another have been persecuted, tortured, imprisoned and martyred. While there are recognizable human and historical factors that contribute to the persecution, it is also true that visible worldly powers are driven by the invisible Lord of the World. The antichrist—wherever he appears—hates the followers of Christ the Lord and will do everything possible to destroy them.

Allen’s last section on “Consequences and Responses” includes a good rundown on what needs to be done, but at the risk of sounding like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, we should also remember two warnings from Bl. Pope John Paul II. In 1976 he said to a group of American bishops, “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian community realizes this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.” Then in 1981 he warned, “We must prepare ourselves to suffer great trials before long, such as will demand of us a disposition to give up even life, and a total dedication to Christ and for Christ….  How many times has the renewal of the Church sprung from blood! This time, too, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong and prepared, and trust in Christ and His Mother, and be very, very assiduous in praying the Rosary.”

Editor’s note: The photo above depicts a protest against Hindu persecution of Christians in India. (Photo credit: Spero News.)

Rev. Dwight Longenecker


Rev. Dwight Longenecker is the parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. His latest book is The Romance of Religion published by Thomas Nelson. Check out his website and blog at

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  • Kevin McCormick

    “It’s time to wake up.”


  • poetcomic1

    Barbaric evil has been unleashed globally. Islam is its name. ‘Nice’ is not going to stop it. I was rather hoping for a Pope who loves Muslims enough to save them rather than coddle their sensibilities.

    • Peter_Paul_29

      And the Pope can save the Muslims by antagonizing them? He is not coddling them. He is loving them. When people feel loved they are in a better position to listen. When they feel attacked, they naturally put their defenses up. There is a reason why God made Pope Francis the pope. Complaining about the kind of pope that we have doesn’t help. Obedience is humility of the will…whining about the will of God does not help the Church.

      • poetcomic1

        Ooooooh! Mustn’t ‘antagonize’ them. The Pope says the Koran is ‘peaceful’ and that is a grotesquely palpable lie. Muslims are desperately in need of God’s love and the Infinite Mercy not groveling dhimmis.

      • Adam Baum

        What does not “antagonize” them? Regensberg? Cartoons?

        Michelle Malkin nailed it with her description.

        The religion of perpetual indignation.

        • Art Deco

          To some extent the phenomenon may be local to Islam but it may also be a manifestation of a tendency which you find in the back and forth between purveyors of identity politics and officialdom in occidental countries. The chatterati and the administrative class encourage obstreperous behavior by their disposition and response. If Time magazine had any shame, Bruce Crumley would have been shoveled out the door toute de suite.

          • Adam__Baum

            I really haven’t followed that magazine since much after the time Samuel Vauclain was on its cover.

  • Adam__Baum

    ” In 1976 he said to a group of American bishops, “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think the wide circle of the American Society, or the wide circle of the Christian community realizes this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist.”
    And a few years later, the Cardinal of the Archdiocese paid for a young “community organizer”, to attend “training” in the methods of a man who dedicated his magnum opus to the prince of darkness. Now that the community organizer has acquired the most powerful office in the land, the Cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York, wants to be his “cheerleader”.
    We get it, but some with staffs and mitres do not.

  • markkrite

    This is terrific and much-needed insight, inspiration and information sorely lacking in much of the comfortable, smug and all-knowing (in many deluded western minds) so-called Christian West which, btw, has virtually ceased to be for a pretty long time now. Just look around you. Since 1980, there have been over 1 BILLION legal killings (abortion on demand) of totally innocent human unborns worldwide. I obtained the stat from a Catholic internet source. Behind this stat lies an avalanche of fornication, adultery and, to a lesser degree,rape. This is an unavoidable conclusion, I believe. And then, look at who is the “leader” of the free world. A person, Barack H. Obama, of whom Cdl. James Francis Stafford observed back in 2007 or 2008,upon his election, that he is “aggressive, divisive and APOCALYPTIC” (my italics). Meditate upon that statement for a moment. Then think on this piece of information: Obama’s main mentor from the ages of around nine through 19 was Frank Marshall Davis, notorious Stalinist member of the Communist Party, then, when Obama knew him, living in Hawaii. This info. is from the book “The Communist,” by Paul Kengor, published in 2012. Kengor also points out that Davis was a pornographer and writer of very salacious literature. So, is that why Cdl. Stafford ALSO observed back in ’07 or ’08 that we were headed towards our own Gethsemane in our country? We’re in a very possible place of Divine Chastisement that I believe can only be alleviated by much prayer and sacrifice, and as Fr. Longnecker points out, MANY Rosaries. O Mary Immaculate, Madre Divinitas, Co-redemptrix of the human race, please pray for us!

  • Marie Dean

    Thanks for this article and for highlighting this book. Many people in the States are in denial about persecutions. I hope to get the book.

  • cestusdei

    The Left is in total denial and in fact is part of the persecutions.

  • Fr Ben

    John Paul II wasn’t Pope in 1976. Is this a mistake, or did he give this address as Archbishop?

  • shisaisama

    We Christians in Hawai`i have just lost the recent battle to prevent the legalization of homosexual “marriage” in our state. During online discussions, trying to reason with some gay activists, I experienced the most appalling spitefulness, name-calling and general vitriol that I have ever seen or heard. The evil of it makes me shudder.

    • Adam__Baum

      When something lacks substance, proponents must subsitute ferociity for suasion.

      • shisaisama

        Governor Abercrombie and his liberal sycophants totally steamrolled us. They ignored the overwhelming opposition to the same-sex marriage bill, the thousands of testimonies against it, and the energetic protests at the capitol. Now that the deed is done, we are left disappointed and bewildered by the political tsunami. The venom from the homosexualist radicals has only added insult to injury. Please pray for our beloved state.

        • Adam__Baum

          Politicians are like diapers, and should be changed frequently for the same reason.

          Yours and the 15 or so others that acted similarly.

    • Guest

      It should make you shudder. It means you have an intact conscience.

    • Art Deco

      I experienced the most appalling spitefulness, name-calling and general
      vitriol that I have ever seen or heard. The evil of it makes me shudder.

      Well, when you’re dealing with politicized homosexuals you discover the following features are next-to-universal:

      1. An intense and abiding sense of grievance.
      2. Comprehensive self-centeredness, manifest particularly in the belief that everyone’s activities should be ordered to their aims. (The long running legal harassment of the Ancient Order of Hibernians would be the best example).

      3. A lack of dignity and puerile behaviors and attitudes.
      4. Malice (see the treatment of Maggie Gallagher).

      5. Extraordinary persistence (see the 600 comment posts here)
      6. Abnormal means and thoroughness. See, for example, Maureen Mullarkey being chased down at her home (by and out of town reporter) over a political contribution she made.
      7. Alloys of he above (e.g. the IRS employee who turned over confidential forms filed by the National Organization for Marriage to gay groups).

    • markkrite

      There’s a reason for that, shisaisama, and it involves the searing shut of one’s conscience through repeated acts of sinfulness, but not just ANY sinfulness, this active homosexuality involves what Scripture calls sin that;s an ABOMINATION before the Lord. Same sex attraction as an afflictive disorder does NOT have to be acted upon. The groups COURAGE and NARTH have proven that with their success. S.S.A. can be UNLEARNED. If it is not, then as night follows day the consequences of giving in to it constantly will have repercussions. One is the spitefulness and sheer hatred generated by the living of this very damaging lifestyle of “gay” debauchery. And the guilt that goes along with it. For proof read the Old Testament account of Sodom & Gommorah. Pretty stark stuff. Also read St Paul in Acts for those sins that invite chastisement upon nations, which I believe we’re possibly living through. And then read the full story of Barack H. Obama, the story that the mainstream media chose to BURY, and which continues to do. It’s not pretty. The two books on Obama by David Limbaugh and the book “The Communist” by Paul Kengor on Obama’s formative years are a very good start. He has become part of the problem that occurred during this possible chastisement.

  • Timothy Reid

    We do pray for and honor all Christians who are martyred in the name of Christ. I just think that Some Christians are way too anxious to say that they are just like Perpetua and Felicity in the days of the Roman emperors. The 21st century is not the days of the Roman Empire and our persecutions of today cannot compare to those days. Pope Francis has renewed our perspective about what our mission is as the Church. God bless him! It’s about telling the world that God loves us! It is not about us telling the world that you’re damned, it’s the Good News that we are all saved. Justice and love and God’s Kingdom will follow if we remember what Francis has made our primary objective. NO, we are not a people of insistence on organ music and the Katin mass, we are people of the joyous Good News!

    • Don

      Respectfully, I would assert that Pope Francis has focused on only part of the message. The Gospels demonstrate that the central message of Christ was to repent from sin. There must first be a recognition that sin is real before the message of love makes any sense.

  • smokes

    America’s leading the attack on the Judeo-Christian mores. What happened? Why are we now a pagan nation? Who voted for this Frankenstein’s monster called America?

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