The church in Smyrna was heavily persecuted for 250 years. They lived in relative poverty in this rich city due to their lowered social status and victimization. They were persecuted by Romans and Jews alike and many were put to death for their faith. This is one of 2 churches addressed that did not come with a warning, but with hope to keep the faith. In America we can easily forget that this level of persecution continues in other parts of the world. Each day 13 Christians are killed because of their faith, 12 churches or church buildings are attacked, 12 Christians are unjustly imprisoned, and 5 others are abducted. Brothers and sisters in these persecuted nations, these words are for you.
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.Revelation 2:9-10
In report from Open Doors, we are offered a sober eye-opener about the sacrifices still being made in the name of Jesus. Each year researchers gather information worldwide to form a World Watch List of the 50 countries where it’s most difficult to follow Jesus. Topping the list for 2021 is : North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Iran, Nigeria, and India.
- Nine in ten Christians killed for their faith were from Africa, with Nigeria leading the world with 3,530 martyrs. Nigeria also leads in number of abductions at 990 in the past year.
- Pakistan led the world in forced marriages, a new category tracked last year, with about 1,000 Christians married to non-Christians against their will. Asia accounted for 72 percent of the forced marriages.
- China arrested, jailed, or detained without charge 1,147 Christians for faith-related reasons, out of a total of 4,277 worldwide. attacks and forced closures of churches numbered 4,488 worldwide, with the vast majority recorded in China (3,088), followed by Nigeria (270).
Several things were noted by researchers for the notable increase in the number of persecuted Christians over the past year:
“COVID-19 acted as a catalyst for religious persecution through relief discrimination, forced conversion, and as justification for increasing surveillance and censorship.”
“Extremist attacks opportunistically spread further throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria and Cameroon to Burkina Faso, Mali, and beyond.”
“Chinese censorship systems continue to propagate and spread to emerging surveillance states.”
“In countries like India and Turkey, religious identity is increasingly tied to national identity—meaning, to be a ‘real’ Indian or a good Turk, you must be a Hindu or a Muslim, respectively. This is often implicitly—if not explicitly— encouraged by the ruling government.”
Much like the church in Smyrna, these Christians live in poverty and affliction. Yet these acts of persecution have not destroyed Christianity, not in Smyrna and not in these counties today. Quite the contrary, the greater the persecution the deeper the faith.
Despite constant persecution, these followers have remained strong and resilient. They have found the truth that is spoken of in scripture, they have nothing yet they are rich! The hope found in Jesus something that gives meaning to both living and dying. To those facing persecution, your Christian family remembers you. Be strong in your faith knowing that Jesus offers all believers the strength to do what could never be done alone. To those blessed not to live in persecution, pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. If you are looking for a way to help make a difference, the Open Doors website offers opportunities for giving to help support their efforts.
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