Since the beginning the Church has been persecuted. Christians have died for their faith for the Church's whole 2000 year existence. The 20th Century was no different. In Russia, Nazi Germany, Spain's "Red Terror", the Armenian genocide, the Istanbul Pogrom, during the Lebanese civil war, in Coptic Egypt, Kosovo and communist China.
This continues today. Radical Islamic governments and militias in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and many other nations have tortured and killed apostates from Islam to Christianity. The recent outbreak of "swine flu" in Mexico was used as an excuse by the Egyptian government to slaughter almost all the pigs in that country; all of which belonged to the destitute Coptic minority which rely on such livestock to survive. There are no signs whatsoever that our century will be any better for Christians than those previous.
What does this mean for us in the West?
- Faith is precious. If we are strong enough, God willing, it is something worth enduring persecution for.
- Martyrdom means "witnessing". Persecutions have always strengthened the Church.
- We are the lucky ones. We have no excuses for our petty, day-to-day apostasies; not when Christians in Iraq risk their lives to get to Mass, or Chinese Christians risk prison for possessing a Bible at home.
- We must strengthen our persecuted brethren. Financial aid, diplomatic pressure, humanitarian relief, and of course prayer are all things we should be contributing to the suffering Church.
- Christianity in the West must not go out with a whimper. By watering down Christianity to make it easier for the secular West we do the persecuted Church a terrible injustice and we fundamentally weaken our position and integrity.
- We must forgive. I loathe what Fundamentalist Muslims and Hindus often do to Christians in their country, but we shouldn't resent them for it. We must pray for our enemies. The very worst thing would be an anti-Muslim backlash in the Church.