Prepare to be persecuted
Christians need increased awareness about issues facing people of faith at home and abroad
By Mags Storey | Monday, October 17, 2011
OTTAWA, ON - People of faith need to do more to learn about how Christians are persecuted for their beliefs worldwide, and how to handle being persecuted ourselves.
That was the message Sudhakar Mondithoka, director of the Hyderabad Institute of Theology and Apologetics, hoped to get across to Canadian Christians this fall when he was in Ottawa to speak on "the theology of persecution." The events were organized by Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOM) - which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year - and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC).
"One thing which has been neglected in the Church," says Mondithoka "is a biblical understanding of persecution and how Christians ought to respond.
"If we read the New Testament, Jesus made it absolutely clear that the world would hate His disciples. So He did everything He could to prepare them, and teach them ahead of time. So I think we need to educate Christians and tell them they should anticipate [persecution], and be prepared to face it."
Part of Mondithoka's work in India has involved teaching Christians about their rights and how to navigate the legal system.
There are three biblically valid ways of facing persecution, he explains: legal recourse, removing oneself from the situation and "facing it with the humility and strength God gives."
According to the World Evangelical Alliance, more than 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights because of their faith. This includes parts of India, which has placed limits on conversion and where violent confrontations have broken out between faith groups.
"The world is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity," he says. "Even in the Western World if anybody decided to just stand up and be a faithful witness to Jesus they face persecution. The form may be different, but even here laws are made that go against Christians, and probably we face situations like the ones the early disciples faced in Jerusalem."
The theology of persecution is a focus Mondithoka says God began preparing him for in his early 20s, when he and friends were threatened by radical student groups for actively sharing their faith, studying Scripture and making disciples.
"They came into my room with rocks and sticks," he says. "They burned everything in my younger brother's room. Right from then I knew I had to take this matter seriously."
Mondithoka adds it is important for the Church in Canada to educate themselves about the situation the global church faces, and then to take wise action through partnership with groups like Voice of the Martyrs, who are able to navigate specific regional situations effectively.
One starting place can be becoming more mindful of the biblical injunction to remember "their brothers and sisters being persecuted as if we ourselves were imprisoned."
"As Paul says, if part of the body suffers, we all suffer," says Mondithoka.