The normally diplomatic Pope Francis recently asserted: “The persecution of Christians today is even greater than in the first centuries of the Church, and there are more Christian martyrs today than in that era.”
To those familiar with the true history of early persecution — when Christians were habitually tortured to death, set on fire, fed to lions and dismembered to cheering audiences — his statement may seem exaggerated.
But even today, as in the past, Christians are being persecuted for their faith and even tortured and executed. A January, 2014, Pew Research Center study on religious discrimination across the world found that harassment of Christians was reported in more countries, 110, than any other faith.
Open Doors, a nondenominational Christian rights watchdog group, ranked the 50 most dangerous nations for Christians in its World Watch List. The No. 1 ranked nation is North Korea, followed by a host of Muslim countries. North Korea, amongst other Communist countries, is intolerant of Christians; churches are banned or forced underground, and in North Korea, exposed Christians can be immediately executed.
Nothing integral to the fabric of these societies makes them intrinsically anti-Christian. Something as simple as overthrowing the North Korean regime could possibly end persecution there — just as the fall of Communist Soviet Union saw religious persecution come to a quick close in nations like Russia, which if anything is experiencing a Christian Orthodox revival.