International (MNN) — Persecution has diminished for some
Christians in 2008, but it has increased for others. Overall, Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs believes it is worse than
it used to be and will continue to worsen in 2009.
"I think there are situations where it's worse. I think
there are probably some isolated situations where things are improving a little
bit, but I think on the whole, it's at least as bad and probably worse than 2007,
or worse than five or ten years ago," said Nettleton.
Persecution has worsened drastically in Orissa, a state in India. Hindu radicals in that region have been
rampaging against Christians since August.
"Orissa is probably the location of the worst persecution that's going on
right now in the world," Nettleton said, "a place where they're trying to wipe
out the Christian church; a place where tens of thousands of Christians have
had to flee their homes. Many of them fled literally into the jungle to
escape the attacks of radical Hindus."
In the months leading up to the Olympic games in Beijing, many hoped that the publicity surrounding that
event would bring more liberty for the people of China. Unfortunately, such has not been the
"The concern that we had when the Olympics ended was that although the
world has been watching, the Chinese continued persecuting Christians. What will they do now that the world's not
watching anymore?" Nettleton said. "Even
in the months since the Olympic games, we have seen Christians arrested. We've
seen house church services raided. So I don't think it's markedly better. I
think it's really about the same."
Nettleton is not discouraged by the fact that persecution
has not decreased and probably will not. He has observed that, ironically, persecution actually increases the
strength of God's church.
"One of the amazing things is that as persecution
increases, the church tends to grow. As the church tends to grow, the
persecution increases," he said. "Christ
promised that His followers would be persecuted, and that is coming true around
the world. But that also means the
church is growing. More people are coming to know Christ in a personal way."
VOM's biggest challenge nowadays "is to know how best to
respond in a given situation of persecution," Nettleton said.
"The challenge for us is to know the best way to support the
church in restricted nations, the best way to come alongside them and lift them
up, support them, and encourage them."
Nettleton is excited about VOM's "vital role" in connecting
believers with their Christian brothers and sisters all over the world.
"When we go into a restricted nation and we're able to
deliver help, we say, 'This is from Christians in America who love you and are
praying for you during this time of suffering.' Then when we come home and talk to the
church in America we say, ‘Our brothers and sisters in restricted nations are
praying for you here in America.' We
get to be a bridge between the two churches, and it's really an exciting
role that God has called Voice of the Martyrs to play."