In Response to Persecution: Under Caesar’s Sword report

A worldwide research project named “Under Caesar’s Sword” has put forward its findings that Christians are being persecuted globally. The report, which is the culmination of the project, also states persecution towards Christians is a daily occurrence and brutal in nature. The report was authored by 17 Christian scholars spread all over the world. They studied how Christians endure extreme persecution in 25 countries.

The Under Caesar’s Sword project was financially supported by a grant of $1.1 million by Templeton Religious Trust. The money was awarded to the Religious Freedom Project of Georgetown University and to the University of Notre Dame. The Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs affiliated to Georgetown University played an important role in this regard.

The Under Caesar’s Sword project was financially supported by a grant of $1.1 million by Templeton Religious Trust awarded to the Religious Freedom Project of Georgetown University, the University of Notre Dame and the Berkeley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. The formal title of the report is “In Response to Persecution.”

The In Response to Persecution report was released to the public during a symposium held at Washington's National Press Club. The gathering was treated to a speech by Donald Wuerl, a Washington Cardinal. He is known for his views on this particular issue and in 2015 published To the Martyrs: A Reflection on the Supreme Christian Witness. Wuerl urged the gathering to support the persecuted Christians everywhere and to stop these persecutions from happening further.

Rabbi David Saperstein, former U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, was also a panelist at the symposium. “I honestly believe this report will change the discussion and the debate,” he commented.

The executive summary of “In Response to Persecution” noted that Christians all over the world are subjected to persecution from both state and also non-state actors. The list of state actors includes Islamists, religious nationalists, secular regimes and Communists. The list of non-state actors include violent religious extremists. It was also found that Christians are “the most widely targeted religious community, suffering terrible persecutions globally,” hence the focus on this religious group. In 2015, 7100 Christians died for the sake of their faith, among them 21 Coptic Christians, men who were beheaded in Libya by individuals belonging to the Islamic State. At least 60 percent of the cases of global religious persecution and 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are aimed at Christians.

Topping the list of worst places for Christians is Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Pakistan.

According to the study, Christians respond to persecution in three ways: first, with “strategies of survival” aimed
at preservation of life and activity in communities; second, with “strategies of association” through building ties with others; third, with “strategies of confrontation” where the persecution is openly challenged, or one’s faith is maintained while accepting the possibility of martyrdom.

One of the important findings of this study is that the response of Christians to such persecution is generally non-violent. Barring a few exceptions, the responses do not involve any kind of terrorist acts. The report also stated that Pentecostal Christians and Protestant evangelical Christians are much more vulnerable to be persecuted compared to mainstream Orthodox Christians, Protestants, and Catholics.

The report offers individualized suggestions on how to deal with persecution for targeted communities, businesses, media/journalists, external governments, outside churches, and more.

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