Christians across the world are suffering. The media, both secular and Christian, report appalling cases of persecution on a daily basis – situations where Christians are regularly tortured, raped, imprisoned, killed. Researchers list at least fifty countries where Christians are suffering in such obvious ways. There are many others where it is officially lawful to profess Christian faith and to worship, but where Christians are discriminated against in indirect ways, or where their freedom to speak about their faith is restricted.
In 2018, the then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned an independent enquiry to be chaired by the Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen. One of its core tasks was ‘to map the extent and nature of the global persecution of Christians’. In May 2019, Bishop Philip confessed, ‘Through my previous experience of the global church in Asia and Africa I was aware of the terrible reality of persecution, but to be honest, in preparing this report I’ve been truly shocked by the severity, scale, and scope of the problem. It forces us in the West to ask ourselves some hard questions, not the least of which is this: why have we been so blind to this situation for so long?’
Has the situation improved since then? Hardly. Many observers report that the tide of persecution has risen steadily over the past two years. The Guardiannoted (13 January 2021): ‘Persecution of Christians around the world has increased during the Covid pandemic, with followers being refused aid in many countries, authoritarian governments stepping up surveillance, and Islamic militants exploiting the crisis.’