2,000 Years of Persecution
Even as numbers of survivors of the horrific and primarily Jewish Holocaust of World War II dwindle to a precious few from seven or more millions to zero, victims of religious persecution of the Christians dwarfs that total, marking those who have lived and died since the religion’s inception in approximately 2–33 A.D., coinciding with the birth, death and ultimate resurrection in Jerusulem of Jesus, a man, the one God, and a Jew.
Ossuaries and graves throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East are filled with martyrs for Christianity killed first by the Jew Saul’s temple guards. Even after Saul himself came face to face with the resurrected Jesus while pursuing his disciples and converted, his heinous acts were emulated by the Jewish leaders, then by three centuries of Roman emperors, and later by oppressors wielding weapons in the name of both pagan and later religions. Divisions and sects, even those of Christianity itself, have evermore put true believers in Jesus as the Christ to death in the mistaken belief that they were agents of Christian purity.
On Palm Sunday 2017 — a religious remembrance of Jesus’ fulfillment of prophets’ words written centuries before his birth that foretold his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey colt — 46 Coptic Christian martyrs were killed in Egypt by Islamic extremists bearing bombs, not palms, and celebrating death, not life. They were followers of another god and of an Islamic prophet.
Their act is (and was) entirely futile, as is their long-standing quest to rid the earth of followers of the Christ and of Jews. The Christian church and the Jewish people may be said to have grown in the blood of Christian and Jewish martyrs.
The Christian faith expanded and gained followers even as Romans fed their brothers and sisters to the lions and forced their deaths in gladiator spectacles. The Jews endured. Christianity’s time of greatest expansion and growth always comes at the peak of religious persecution against Christ’s living body, the church in its people.
Christianity grew and gained followers in times of good and in times of bad, and these are admittedly very bad times peopled with some who would emulate the perpetrators of the Holocaust and eradicate Jews and Christians alike wherever they may be found.
They deny the very essence of the Christian faith, and the living Jewish man at its heart and center, a man and God beyond death’s reach.
Christians follow and pledge allegiance not to a dead prophet, but to a living God who, “Emanuel,” lives among and within us, body and soul. Christ’s tomb is empty. No bones exist as relics of worship. Millions don’t circle a dead man’s grave in remembrance, because Christianity’s founder was and is alive.
Rather, we pledge to hear and heed in our own imperfect ways Jesus’ own words, commemorate him in brotherhood marked with bread and wine that he told us would celebrate his death — a sacrifice of atonement for the sins of the world perpetrated by flawed and imperfect people he forgave — and his resurrection that conquered death forever and showed us a path to eternal life.
Forty-six martyrs of Egypt’s embattled Coptic Christian church were not killed on Palm Sunday. They were released from the bonds of our world and await the final days when they will be clothed in immortality and meet their maker face to face.
The attack on Jews and the Christian church — and on Judaism and Christianity itself — are just more failed attempts to quench the spirit and desire of man to have a personal relationship with God, not on man’s terms and for human purposes, but on terms firmly established by God, their creator.
The Coptic churches in Egypt, their pews and the Christians’ bodies may be spattered with blood and stilled, but from the deaths of these Christians, Christianity will grow and be strengthened beyond today’s 2.3 billion or more followers of Jesus, the Christ, and over six million living Jews.
Human rights organizations estimate that between 10,000 and 25,000 Christians die annually for their faith. More than half the world’s Christians live in poor, oppressive regions that are openly hostile to their beliefs and loyalty to Christ’s message of peace and brotherhood.