Christmas is a cheerful season in the West. Families and friends gather together, decorate Christmas trees, drink hot chocolate and cherish each other’s company. Most importantly, it is a warm and joyous opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Yet we are lucky in this regard. Tens of millions of Christians around the world are being actively persecuted by authoritarian governments and terrorist groups. This Christmas, we must not forget to pray and take action for the persecuted Church.
Whether it’s the Assyrian community in Iraq or evangelicals in North Korea, many Christians face significant barriers to worshipping Jesus. From China to Iran, believers can be met with death and intense persecution for sharing their faith or celebrating Christmas.
Astonishingly, despite all of these atrocities happening in real time, many in the West remain uninformed about the dangers facing Christian communities worldwide. Many deride articles like this as simplistic paeans to Christian sensibilities. They see Christendom’s dominant status in the West and assume this situation holds worldwide.
They could not be more wrong.
To this day, Christians remain the most persecuted religious group in the world. Nowhere is this rise in ill-treatment better illustrated than in China. As we have previously highlighted, President Xi perceives Christianity as both a philosophical and political threat to his revisionist agenda.
Thus, he sees suppressing Christianity as necessary to his survival. Xi’s crackdown has taken a significant toll on the up to 100 million Christians that reside in China. Arrests of Christians increased from 3,700 in 2017 to a whopping 100,000 in 2018, according to ChinaAid, a Christian watchdog group that focuses on China.
Megachurches deemed unacceptable by the regime have been demolished. Chinese government officials in the town of Langfang even went as far as banning Christmas this year, citing the need to “maintain stability.”
China also continues to serve as a lifeline to the murderous Kim Jong Un regime in North Korea, where over 70,000 Christians are believed to be locked up in forced labor camps. An estimated 75 percent of those who enter the camps perish.
Sadly, Christians in Asia aren’t the only ones suffering. Even the Cradle of Christianity remains in peril of extinction. In Iraq, the Christian population has decreased from 1.5 million in 2003 to fewer than 200,000 today. Much of this was the result of ISIS’ merciless reign of terror, which was buoyed by Western inaction in 2014.
Still, it’s more than just ISIS. Over the past two years, the two of us have met Christians who fled Iraq due to oppression that lingered after ISIS was expelled. They were the victims of widespread discrimination and organized oppression that manifests in many ways. Indeed, hundreds of Christians who fled hostile conditions and death threats in Iraq are still huddled in Amman, Jordan, seeking official United Nations refugee status.
Directly across Iraq’s border, the Iranian regime ransacks churches, confiscates Bibles, and dehumanizes Christians at the direction of Ayatollah Khamenei’s brutal rule. Because freedom of religion does not exist in Iran and converting to Christianity is a crime, the regime has arrested over 100 Christians in the last two weeks alone.
The situation remains bleak.
Fortunately, the Trump administration has taken steps to address the plight of the persecuted church. President Trump recently signed H.R. 390 -- the Iraq and Syria Emergency Relief and Accountability Act, which will provide much-needed aid to victims of ISIS and other extremists in Iraq and Syria.
Additionally, Vice President Pence announced last year that the United States would bypass the United Nations and deliver aid directly to persecuted Christians in Iraq. Working alongside the Knights of Columbus, aid has begun to flow. Homes and communities are being rebuilt and lives restored.
Over 2,000 years ago, our Savior was born to bring the Good News. As such, we must not let the forces of darkness and oppression blot out the voices and celebrations of believers around the world. So this year, let’s not forget to pray, spread the word in our local communities and churches, and pressure our political leaders to act to ensure that everyone can have a safe and joyful Christmas celebration.
Alex Titus is a policy advisor with America First Policies in Washington, DC. He is an alumnus of the Philos Leadership Institute.