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Christian Persecution on the Rise in Bali


It doesn’t often get banner headline treatment in the American press these days, but Christianity remains a brutally persecuted religion throughout the world. For a sobering reminder of this fact, one need only look to Melissa Kimiadi’s examination of Bali’s small but rapidly growing Christian community in Christianity Today, where converts on the predominantly Hindu island have faced occasionally murderous hostility from neighbors and even their own families:

“Balinese Hindus will kill Christian converts here and take their land,” said John Stevens, an Australian who ministers in northwest Bali. When Stevens married his Balinese wife, Made, 30 years ago, the couple fled to Australia for fear of Made’s life.

“We have native Balinese who won’t pronounce they are Christian to their families for fear of expulsion,” Suryanto told Christianity Today.

And Christians’ struggles are not limited to Bali. Fellow TAI blogger Peter Berger has an excellent rundown of the persecution Christians face worldwide. While Berger finds that Christians (and other religious minorities) suffer particularly brutal treatment in Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan and Iran, he notes that Islamic communities are hardly the only groups where one finds intolerance of Christians:

Open Doors International, an Evangelical online monitor of these developments, lists India among 50 countries where life is difficult for Christians. Hindu militants have been attacking Christian worship services and pastors, and have been driving Christians from urban homes and villages, with agencies of the state (including the police) often standing by passively.

Christians are also threatened by possible prosecution for engaging in “forcible conversions” of Hindus, which is illegal and defined so vaguely that even the most innocent conversations with Hindus can cause prosecution. The overall political background is that Hindu nationalists are an important constituency of the BJP, the major opposition party. Thus Hindu nationalists, with their ideology of hindutva (Hindu religion as the core of Indian civilization), are most influential in states with BJP governments.

The entire piece is excellent and worth reading in full.

One of the reasons Christianity remains the most persecuted religion is that it continues to grow throughout the world by means of conversions, upsetting old arrangements and creating pushback from members of other faiths. As missionaries and believers spread the word, communities of other faiths often see Christianity as a threat to the souls of their members and the stability of their societies.

[Image of Saint Elias church in Qusayr courtesy Getty Images]

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  • Matthew Schultz

    I think Jesus himself predicted this when he said:

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn

    “‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
    a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.'” -Matthew 10:34-36

    • bpuharic

      Christians, of course, have done a fair amount of persecuting over the centuries as well, so it seems persecution is a characteristic of non-pluralistic belief systems.

      • Corlyss

        What the heck does that mean in context of religious development? Name one settled, pluralistic belief system. Just one.

      • Matthew Schultz

        Hm, it’s not related, but I suppose it is interesting enough to discuss: I don’t understand how your assertion follows. Much of the persecution has been due to power hungry, corrupt Christians who cared nothing for the sacrifice, service and submission that characterized the life of Jesus and the earliest Christians. I certainly don’t see how it is characteristic of Christianity, when we have plenty of counter-examples.

        so it seems persecution is a characteristic of non-pluralistic belief systems.

        As a student of religion and religious studies, I am curious about this claim. What, in your mind, constitutes a pluralistic belief system?

        • bpuharic

          Christians generally engage in special pleading regarding the activities of earlier Christians. Pretty neat to be able to revise history that way.

          As to pluralistic ‘belief’ systems, one could call democracy such a system.

          • Tom

            You might want to revise to say “pretty neat, to be able to have tell the difference between 2000 years ago and 1600 years ago.”

          • Matthew Schultz

            Special pleading has a specific definition in logic. I assume you are using it in a different sense–sort of how immature atheists of the Dawkins breed use logical terms without really understanding them.

            No one is “revising” history. The explanation I gave, which you seem content not to engage in any substantive manner (why did you respond to me again?), is based on a prima facie difference between, say, the corrupt medieval Papacy and the earliest Christian practice. There was no contesting of historical facts, the kind that would be necessary for “revision.”

            As for pluralism, I have never seen it defined as “democracy.” The early Greek democracy, for example, certainly wasn’t “pluralistic,” and it certainly contained its fair share of “persecution.” What scholarly literature have you read on this subject–if any at all?

          • bpuharic

            You seem to delegate to yourself the definition of who is/isn’t a Christian…a practice Christians do when revising history to explain away (special pleading) their genocidal history of slavery, or their 2000 year slaughter of Jews.

            Good luck with that.

          • Matthew Schultz

            I noticed you haven’t responded to the pluralism issue. Is that a tacit admission that you have withdrawn your assertion?

            It is not my decision that religions and their true adherents are defined by what their core texts state constitute adherence; this is basic to any study of a religion, or any sociological study more generally.

            This is not a complex matter, although I can certainly understand why some people want Christianity to be associated, at its core, with what are considered the worst offenses of the modern world. The motivation is certainly not an alleged desire to be historically accurate.

            There are several key passages in the New Testament that militate against persecuting religious minorities. (See, for example, how Paul handles outsiders in 1 Corinthians 5.) “Christians” who have engaged in persecution are not following the precepts of Christianity–unless you can somehow argue that the NT promotes or commands persecution! (Something not a single scholar I’m aware of argues.)

            And historically Christians have often been at the forefront of anti-slavery movements. But we weren’t talking about slavery (or genocide), were we? Are you just trying to see what sticks? Or were you actually interested in a meaningful conversation on the topic of Christians being persecuted?

            You’re welcome to the last word here. I think I’m done.

          • bpuharic

            Perhaps if you learned to read you’d be less perplexed. I responded 21 hours ago, above.

            There are 35,000 Christian denominations. You guys don’t agree on ANYTHING so your special pleading that, yes, you ARE a spokesman for TRUE Christianity is risible.

            For every quote you have from the bible, other Christians can quote scripture to counter your claims. It’s easy to do. The bible can be used to justify slavery (and it WAS) for over a thousand years, so nothing YOU are going to say is going to tell us anything we don’t already know

            But, by all means. When you get all those denominations to agree on everything, you be sure and let me know

          • Matthew Schultz

            That figure is highly inflated and it’s obvious you haven’t read the study that first provided it. The same methodology used to arrive at the figure also identifies hundreds (or thousands) of Roman Catholic denominations. Many of those “divisions” were the result of Barrett classifying churches with all the same theology, but different styles of music, as different “denominations.” The relevant methodological division in Barrett’s study are religious “blocks,” of which there are somewhere less than 10, which tend to be united in almost all the important ways. So the idea that they are all divided on everything is demonstratively false.

            You wrote:

            For every quote you have from the bible, other Christians can quote scripture to counter your claims

            Sure, they “can.” On issues like persecution, their exegetical arguments are almost absurdly easy to refute (I’m not even aware of any credible scholar arguing that the NT defends religious persecution!). Besides, if the presence of competing claims invalidates any possible legitimate claim, debate is not possible.


            I get my updates through Disqus. Since you didn’t respond directly to me, it didn’t register in my account.

          • bpuharic

            The figure is from the “Oxford Encyclopedia of Christianity”, so perhaps you can tell Oxford university they know zip about Christianity.

            Let me know when Southern Baptists and Catholics share communion…they happen to be the 2 largest churches in the US.

            Absurdly easy to refute? Funny THAT argument held little sway as the US fought the bloodiest war in its history to end slavery. Seems almost half of Christians disagreed with you. But I guess they didn’t have the advantage of having you around. Funny how few Christians there were until you showed up.

          • Matthew Schultz

            Barrett is the one who initially conducted the landmark study. Encyclopedias–yes, even Oxford’s–cite sources like Barrett, not the other way around. Honestly, this is elementary to scholarly discourse. My position also does not entail that Oxford is wrong to cite the figure–only that it is highly misleading to think it means what you think it means. You would know this if you had read Barrett’s study.

            As for the arguments, I maintain my position, having read those arguments and found them entirely devoid of proper exegesis. I’m sure by now you’ve realized that people are driven primarily by emotion and group participation, not by raw exegesis of texts–a discipline that requires years of study. But don’t take my word for it: that’s fairly standard in sociological disciplines that study how beliefs are obtained and maintained. So we shouldn’t be surprised that people were persuaded by arguments–if they even cared about the arguments in the face of losing enormous sums of money and power.

          • bpuharic

            Honestly perhaps you should set up a business to dispute the Oxford Encyclopedia. If you’re unhappy with them, the the..ahem..elementary course would be for you to offer your vast scholarly experience to them since they seem to have it all wrong

            According to you.

            The FACT is that for almost 2000 years Christians saw nothing wrong with slavery

            So…you have a problem. Either the ENTIRE course of Christian history was wrong, including church fathers, theologians, popes, and the entire Catholic magisteria, along with most early Protestant sources

            Or you’re wrong.

          • Matthew Schultz

            I never said Oxford was wrong. I said your interpretation of the relevant data was wrong. That is an elementary distinction.

            We were talking about persecution…or was it denominations? But, okay, keep shifting those goal posts whenever the argument can’t be sustained!

            The FACT is that for almost 2000 years Christians saw nothing wrong with slavery

            Evidence? I seem to recall a number who didn’t, including entire anti-slavery movements based on Christian principles and beliefs. Of course, people are often motivated to keep others oppressed for financial gain, so I don’t see how, even if this was true, your claim supports your argument that Christianity is defined by oppression or whatever it is you are arguing.

            Even Paul said slaves should go free–if they could.

          • bpuharic

            Who’s shifting goalposts? You’re not even on the sidelines.

            And there are numerous sources for the number of denominations, your pedantic obsession notwithstanding. Gordon Cromwell lists 41,000. Whatever source you reference the number seems…big

            But you g’wan. You go ahead and straighten ’em all out.

            Evidence for support of slavery? You’re serious?

            Ever hear of the “Civil War”? Seems like more than a few Christians, such as Jefferson Davis, saw NO problem with slavery at all and, in fact, a formal abolitionist movement didn’t even succeed until the 19th century.

          • Matthew Schultz

            If you mean Gordon “Conwell,” then, yeah, my wife did her MA there and I’m familiar with the report. The issue is what is meant by “denomination.” You are not dealing with that. You are merely asserting your definition into that term without understanding how it is being used.

            Learning what that definition is requires going back to Barrett’s study, which Gordon Conwell is using as a primary source. (I forgot that Barrett’s study was published by Oxford, which I imagine somewhat overturns some of your previous assertions…)

            Also, you claimed that for almost 2000 years Christians didn’t see anything wrong with slavery. That’s a sweeping claim requiring more than just one historical example to demonstrate. As a universal statement, it only takes one negative example to overturn. Indeed, hardly every Christian in the South was pro-slavery.

          • bpuharic

            Henry Kissinger once said that faculty fights were so vicious because the consequences were so small. Your pedantic obsession with ‘denominations’ is an argument not with me but with your sloppy colleagues. Go lecture them. When you get THEM to stop saying what you consider to be both important and wrong. you can come back and lecture me who truly doesn’t care, but will continue to assert, WITH REFERENCES, that YOUR COLLEAGUES say there are over 30,000 denominations

            As to slavery, it took the bloodiest war in our history to end it. To say that Christians DIDN’T support slavery is to lie in the face of history.

        • Jim__L

          Perhaps he means religious tolerance, like that practiced by the Mongols under Genghis and Kublai Khan. (No, I am not joking. It’s a matter of historical record.)

          That tolerance, obviously, prevented them from slaughtering millions of people as they would have if they had paid attention to the teachings of Jesus Christ. (Here, I am joking. Just to let you know.)

    • Jim__L

      By the way, I think it’s illuminating to show that Christ is speaking
      figuratively about the swords. When one of his followers actually pulls
      a sword on someone, his reaction is one of rebuke rather than

  • Corlyss

    What’s shocking about this is how unconcerned the West, which rediscovered religious tolerance after the carnage of the 30 years war, is about the savage attacks on Christians and their disappearance from ancient locations wherein they happily coexisted with more dominant faiths.

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