How Persecuted Christians Persevere In 25 Countries.
A team of 17 leading scholars of global Christianity carried out the project Under Caesar’s Sword: Christian Response to Persecution through qualitative field research, including interviews with persecuted Christians, conducted between October 2014 and November 2015. The researchers focused on contemporary events and plumbed history only insofar as it provides context for the current situation. Under Caesar’s Sword researchers have studied the character of these responses in twenty-five countries around the world in addition to “the West.” Eight findings arise from these studies:
- Christian communities most commonly adopt survival strategies. While these strategies are defined as the least proactive form of resistance to persecution, they often involve creativity, determination, and courage. These strategies include going underground, flight, and accommodation to or support for repressive regimes.
- Strategies of association are the second most common response. In these cases, Christian communities seek to secure their religious freedom by developing ties with other actors, including other Christian communities, non-Christian religions, and secular figures.
- Strategies of confrontation are the least common response. They serve to bear witness to the faith, expose and end injustice, mobilise others to oppose injustice, and replace it with religious freedom.
- Christian responses to persecution are almost always nonviolent and, with very few exceptions, do not involve acts of terrorism.
- Theology—in particular, a Christian community’s theology of suffering, church, and culture—influences the response of that community.
- Protestant evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to be persecuted than mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, or other Christians associated with ancient churches. In response to persecution, evangelical and Pentecostal Christians are more likely to engage in strategies of survival or, on rare occasions, confrontation. They are less likely, however, to engage in strategies of association. Mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, are more likely to respond through strategies of association.
- The intensity of persecution only partly explains Christians’ responses.
- While success is difficult to define, some strategies of response have produced tangible results worthy of emulation.
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