This month marks the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution, which brought the Bolsheviks to power in Russia. Their reign of terror and merciless annihilation of tens of millions who stood in their way came to a stop only 75 years later, thanks to the 1980s spiritual and political alliance of St. John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. However, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain, grave crimes are still being committed in the name of Communism.
The dark Russian anniversary this year coincides with the release of Aid to the Church in Need’s 2017 edition of “Persecuted & Forgotten?,” a biannual report on Christian persecution around the world. Although the report’s spotlight remains on the Middle East — particularly the plight of Christians and other minorities in Syria and Iraq who have been confronted with the genocidal rage of ISIS — there is growing concern about the aggressive Hindu fundamentalism that is harming Christianity in India, and the relative freedom afforded supposedly illegal Islamist groups out to kill the faithful in Pakistan.
While Christians are targeted as infidels by Islamist fanatics or are seen as adherents of a foreign, Westernizing faith by Hindus, followers of Christ pose a still greater threat to orthodox Communist regimes because of their insistence on freedom of conscience and the inviolability of the God-given dignity of every human person. Such a stance subverts the fundamental Communist command that individual freedoms be sacrificed for the good of the state, the collective, the masses.
Most extreme are what our report calls the “unspeakable atrocities” carried out in camps in North Korea, where Christians are subject to forced labor, torture, starvation, rape, and forced abortions. Some believers have been hung on crosses and held over fires; others have been crushed by steamrollers. By one estimate, 75 percent of Christians in these camps die from cruel punishments.
Communist Eritrea bans so-called unregistered churches and brutally tortures their adherents to the point where, as a source reports, “prisoners cry out to be dead and go crazy because of the torture they receive.” There is evidence that there are hundreds of such prisons housing Christians throughout Eritrea.
In Communist China, where repression of Christianity has taken a more subtle, less openly vicious turn, the leadership has labeled Christianity “a foreign infiltration.” Churches belonging to denominations that resist government control are routinely destroyed, their bishops and leaders regularly held captive without being formally charged; crucifixes and other religious symbols on churches are destroyed.
Great Britain’s Prince Charles is quoted in our report as saying that for so many people, ‘religious freedom is a daily, stark choice between life and death.’
It is also worth noting that not long ago Venezuela’s bishops took to Twitter to ask for people’s prayer to “free our homeland from the claws of communism and socialism.”
Great Britain’s Prince Charles is quoted in our report as saying that for so many people, “religious freedom is a daily, stark choice between life and death. The scale of religious persecution is not widely appreciated.” With 2016 estimates putting the number of Christians suffering for their faith between 200,000 and 600,000, it is quite appalling that our mainstream media pay so little attention to their fate, particularly at a time when so many alleged victims of perceived social, sexual, and political discrimination get plenty of attention.
It is also sad testimony that our government — even under President Trump, who has made significant noises about standing up for the freedom of Christians at home and abroad — does little by way of making trade arrangements with China contingent upon greater liberties for the country’s Christians and other minorities. Geopolitical considerations in the Middle East also continue to leave Christians in the cold.
A century after the Russian Revolution, it’s sadly all too evident that the specter of Communism continues to haunt our world — largely without resistance or challenge from the West. That makes this October a rather shameful month.