Violence and social hostilities against religious groups by governments have reached a new high in all regions of the world except the Americas, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
The announcement comes at a time when a United Nations committee in Geneva, Switzerland, is also questioning the Vatican about allegations that it permitted the sexual abuse of thousands of children while protecting members of the church.
The two reports, while unrelated, may sound like one huge troubling message to faith-based groups around the world. Why now? How far will this go? The Pew Research Center found that harassment or intimidation of specific religious groups occurred in 166 countries in 2012, a six-year high. The 198 countries and self-administering territories covered by the new study contain more than 99.5 percent of the world’s population. They include 192 of the 193 member states of the United Nations.
According to the Washington, D.C.-based study, public preaching by religious groups was restricted by governments in 38 percent of countries in 2012, up from 31 percent in 2011. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, with a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time, the report said.
Among the seven major religious groups, Muslims and Jews experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed. However, Christians are still being harassed in the largest number of countries, 110 — an increase over the previous year from 105. Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities involving religion, and Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion.
Even the recent high-profile grilling of the Vatican by United Nations officials is considered an unprecedented move that has some observes astonished at the way governments are treating religion. According to The Associated Press, “The scene at the U.N. human rights committee’s headquarters was remarkable by U.N. standards, with committee members marveling at how an institution as powerful as the Holy See could be hauled before a relatively obscure agency to answer uncomfortable questions before a packed audience.”
A Jan.16, 2014 article in the New York Times explained, “The United Nations committee in Geneva was looking into the Vatican’s failure to adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which calls on signers to protect children from harm, including sexual and physical abuse.”
The article said, “The committee questioned the Vatican officials about their ambassador to the Dominican Republic, who is being investigated by Dominican prosecutors about accusations that he sexually abused children. The ambassador was recalled to the Vatican in August, and last week the Vatican denied a request to extradite him to the Dominican Republic.
“Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, told the panel that the ambassador’s case would be handled by a Vatican tribunal because he is a citizen of the Vatican, and that the case would get ‘the severity it deserves.’”
Not everyone is convinced religious institutions can police their own with “the severity it deserves.” What do you think? Are we seeing a new trend? Is this increase in government hostilities toward religion being done for valid reasons or is this a sign of the times? Could the government’s rise in hostilities result in the fulfillment of Bible prophecies? Only time will tell.
But this is not the sort of thing that Christians would easily ignore. Why? Because their Lord commanded them to keep on the “watch” for prophetic world events at Luke 21:12-36. In fact, many religious groups have expectations of increased tribulation as the end draws near. Is that where we are headed? No one knows for sure but Almighty God, according to Mark 13:32.
Certainly, the God of times and seasons can cause anything to happen or not happen according to His Divine purpose. The question is, what will we do in the face of hostility at any given time? We are told at 2Timothy 2:24: “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel. Instead, he must be kind to everyone. He must be a good teacher. He must be willing to suffer wrong.” — GOD’S WORD Translation.
Whatever governments are allowed to do does not change the Word of God. Romans 12:18 says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” — King James Version. According to Romans 12:19, retaliation is also out of the question, for it is the Most High God who says He will repay.
Although the road leading to everlasting life must be walked peaceably amid increasing violence, a familiar voice may ring out with familiar words of comfort from 2Chronicles 20:17: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” — New King James Version.
Will you stand still and wait for salvation to come? Governments can do no more than God allows. Soon, a change will take place on earth as it is in heaven — one that favors those who wait peaceably on the Prince of Peace and King of kings.
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