One-time atheist and now Christian, AN Wilson ( see why I believe again), has written a super piece in the Telegraph today out-lining why the falling numbers of church-goers and the declining influence of Christianity in the UK are really no reason for us to be alarmed.
He concludes ‘the paradox is that growing or shrinking numbers do not tell you anything. The Gospel would still be true even if no one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried – where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed – as it was in Northern Ireland during the peace process, as it is in many a Salvation Army hostel this Christmas, as it flickers in countless unseen Christian lives, it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.’
At last, someone from the Government is speaking out against the systematic assault on Christianity in parts of our world today.
Two recent articles highlighting both the desperate plight facing Christians in many parts of the world and also the shocking silence of the world’s leaders on the issues.
John Allen in the Spectator writes:
According to the Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced some form of discrimination, either de jure or de facto, in a staggering total of 139 nations, which is almost three-quarters of all the countries on earth. According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed in what the centre calls a ‘situation of witness’ each year for the past decade. That works out to 11 Christians killed somewhere in the world every hour, seven days a week and 365 days a year, for reasons related to their faith.
In effect, the world is witnessing the rise of an entire new generation of Christian martyrs
And this article by Mollie Hemingway in the Federalist (not a site known to me before now) in which she quotes from a book by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea entitled Persecuted the Global Assault on Christians
“Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today. This is confirmed in studies by sources as diverse as the Vatican, Open Doors, the Pew Research Center, Commentary, Newsweek and the Economist. According to one estimate, by the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community, 75 percent of acts of religious intolerance are directed against Christians.”
(HT: Yvonne Nickerson & Helen Ogbourn)
Former editor of the Sunday Telegraph, Dominic Lawson, recently reviewed a book by Harvard Professor, Niall Ferguson entitled Civilisation: The West and the Rest. In his review Lawson includes a remarkable quote from a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (which describes itself as ‘the highest academic research organization in the fields of philosophy and social sciences as well as a national center for comprehensive studies in the People’s Republic of China‘). Here is what the Chinese have discovered:
One of the things we were asked to look into was what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world. We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system. But in the past twenty years, we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion: Christianity. That is why the West is so powerful.
The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don’t have any doubt about this.
Now the Chinese are not alone in reaching this conclusion. Bruce Sheiman in his book An Atheist Defends Religion writes about the impact of Jesus on our world. Christianity he says introduced:
A commitment to human dignity, personal liberty, and individual equality did not previously appear in ANY other culture.
What you and I take for granted, living as we do in the UK, has its origins in Christianity and the Christian worldview.
Matthew Parris writing in the Times talked of his own return to Africa after 45 years away and concluded;
travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I’ve been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I’ve been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Christianity has made a massive difference to our world.
Adoniram Judson was one of the first American born overseas missionaries and a pioneer missionary to Burma. He knew very well the dangers to his own life and any who would join him when he wrote a letter to a Mr. Hasseltine asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world ? whether you can consent to her departure to a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life? whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death? Can you consent to all this, for the sake of Him who left His heavenly home and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Saviour from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?
Her father consented.
At the end of their first six years, only one man had turned to Christ. But for Judson giving up was not an option. When he received a letter from the Mission Board in America asking after his work, he answered, “The prospects are as bright as the promise of God.”
“I will not leave Burma,” he declared, “until the cross is planted here forever!“ It is now estimated that there are 2 million Christians in Burma.
To live is Christ, to die is gain – there is only one life worth living.
A great BBC post on the legecy of Olympic Gold medalist and Christian missionary Eric Liddell
In an interview with Christopher Hitchens in the Christmas Double Edition of the New Statesman, guest editor, Richard Dawkins, speculates as to what would happen if he and the new atheists succeed in ‘destroying Christianity‘.
Well it certainly looks as if he’s got some way to go in his attempts. The Pew Forum’s recent Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population shows that as of 2010 Christianity is the world’s largest religion (2.18 billion)and accounts for one third of the global population. A proportion that has remained unchanged despite 100 years of secularisation and oppression of Christianity in communist countries.
Baroness Warsi, in an article in today’s on-line edition of the Telegraph, writes in glowing terms of religious freedom in Pakistan. She even claims ‘The idea of unity through diversity runs through Pakistan’s history and helps to define its society today.’
Clearly, the Baroness is either ignorant or in denial over the persecution of minority faith communities in Pakistan who face the threat of being arrested under Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law. Far more reliable a guide to the true state of affairs in Pakistan are the comments of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom;
In Pakistan, blasphemy allegations, which commonly are false, result in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against, Ahmadis, Christians, Hindus, and members of other religious minorities as well as Muslims on account of their religious beliefs. Because the laws require no evidence to be presented after allegations are made and no proof of intent, and contain no penalty for leveling false allegations, they are easily used by extremists to intimidate members of religious minorities and others with whom they disagree. They are also often used by the unscrupulous simply to carry out a vendetta or gain an advantage over another.
Given that the Baroness writes ‘I went to a bishops’ conference and said that this Government would “do God”.’ she could write a piece in the national press next time on the steps she intends to take to put pressure on the Government of Pakistan to amend it’s legislation to prevent systematic persecution of non-Muslims and at the same time she might take the opportunity to put political pressure on other Islamic states that have either Blasphemy laws or apostasy laws that make conversion from Islam to any other faith a crime with severe penalties.
Looks as if this could be an interesting programme on Radio 4 this evening.
As one of China’s most eminent philosophers of religion – Professor He Guanghu, at Renmin University in Beijing put it to me: “The worship of Mammon… has become many people’s life purpose.
“I think it is very natural that many other people will not be satisfied… will seek some meaning for their lives so that when Christianity falls into their lives, they will seize it very tightly.”
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