History Of Christian Persecution

All around the world, people suffer because of their Christian beliefs. They are ridiculed and shunned from their communities at best, tortured and killed at worst. Unfortunately, many cases lean towards the latter part of the previous statement. People are losing their lives in an attempt to exercise basic human rights.

A Brief History of Christian Persecution

One of the earliest and deadliest examples of Christian persecution is known as the Diocletian Persecution during the years 303–312. Named after the Roman emperor who is credited for starting the persecution, Diocletian, it applied to many domains in the Roman Empire. In the past, Christians were persecuted by way of public opinion rather than law. It wasn’t until the reign of Diocletian that Christianity was deemed illegal, and government officials began seeking them out like common criminals. This led to an exponential increase in the number of deaths of Christians. Constantine is widely credited for ending this bloody reign in ancient Rome but, while persecution may have slowed down significantly, it never really stopped.

Throughout history, there have been isolated practices of Christian persecution around the world. Some of the worst places and times include:

  • The Ottoman Empire
  • Reformation-Era Europe
  • Colonial Virginia
  • China
  • Uganda

These anti-Christian practices haven’t been eradicated. Even as recently as the 1990s, Christians were being persecuted in mass in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.

Why Christians are Persecuted

Answering the question of why Christians are persecuted is like answering the question of why the sky is blue. Humans have divided themselves since the dawn of the human race for one reason or another. While specific reasons could be pinpointed, the root of the reasons seems to be that humanity simply has a predilection for conflict.

Everyone should have a basic human right to practice the religion they want to practice, and that includes Christianity. However, freedom comes with a distinct side effect – less obligation to follow the authoritarian rule. Persecution of any religion often stems from some dictator that wants total control. Is the dictator a devout believer in any particular religion that would be threatened by Christianity? Probably not. However, persecuting people of a particular religion (especially Christians because of the massive global influence that Christianity has), is the best way to retain their rule. They simply mask this desire under the excuse of dedication to their “religion”.

Adolf Hitler is a prime example of this. Raised in a Catholic upbringing, at one point, he rejected these teaching and declared himself a “German Christian”. Despite this, he succumbed to megalomania and decided that he was some deity that had all the answers. Catholics and Christians alike would be his targets to extinguish from Germany.

Protecting Christians Around the World

Leaders of different nations have been attempting to protect Christians all around the world. Even in ancient Rome, Constantine chose Christianity as his preferred religion and Christians under his rule had the freedom to practice again. Most Christians in modern times live in a place where they are free to practice their religion. However, there are still places where a high number of people are persecuted.

One of the more recent attempts to protect Christians around the world (as well as other persecuted groups) was the creation of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in 1946. It was one of the two functional commissions under the United Nations and was comprised of elected leaders from many countries. The commission created and enacted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and adopted it in December 1948. While the whole declaration lists out global human rights for all people, articles 2 and 18 are the most direct when it comes to protecting Christians.

The UNCHR was replaced by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2006 and continues to work hard to protect people all over the world.

The current state of Christian prosecution in the world may not be as high as it once was in geographic locations, but the numbers have risen to staggering proportions. The countries in which Christians are violently oppressed are out of control. It can be easy to lose sight of this when you live in a protected nation, but there are Christians out there fighting every day for their basic rights to worship.