Communism remains the greatest threat to Christian lives an evangelical and leading human rights advocate says, noting more Christians have been killed for their faith in the last century than in the previous 19 combined.
The Rev. Johnnie Moore, a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF, has coauthored an updated history of Christian martyrdom that takes the centuries-old “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs” — once a staple in evangelical homes — and brings it into the modern age.
In “The New Book of Christian Martyrs,” which Mr. Moore and scholar Jerry Pattengale just released with Tyndale House Publishers’ Momentum imprint, adds the stories of more recent attacks in Africa and elsewhere.
“Americans don’t pay close enough attention to what’s happening around the world,” Mr. Moore said in a video interview. He said the stories John Foxe detailed in his 16th-century treatise are no longer taught in American Christian homes as once was the case.
“When you put the two things together, we’ve managed to raise a couple of generations of Christians at a time of supreme Christian persecution all around the world where they don’t know the past or the present. And that’s kind of unusual Christian history.”
At the same time, Mr. Moore said, when the subject of persecution is discussed and people are educated, “there’s always this moment when the lights come on” and his hearers realize the seriousness of the subject.
“I think most people are totally shocked,” he said, “when they start realizing the level of brutality” seen in persecution now.
“They don’t expect [that] the number one persecutor of Christians around the world is not the Islamist terrorist. It’s communism,” he said. “The communist countries are still the main persecutors of Christians.”
On May 1, USCIRF’s 2023 annual report on religious persecution gave particular attention to China’s crackdowns on independent Christian churches as an example of increased attacks on faith.
Commenting apart from the commission’s findings, Mr. Moore said, “Under current circumstances with the regime in China, we have a full-on relapse [of] the Cultural Revolution targeting every single Christian not only in that country, but in every country it’s linked to.”
He also said American believers need to be educated about the roots and extent of persecution since attacks on the faith — albeit without the lethal consequences seen elsewhere — continue here.
“Christians in America have come to think that somehow their faith should be accepted and not controversial and being a Christian means that everybody will like you and the story of 2,000 years of Christian history is that through most of history, it was pretty controversial to be a follower of Jesus. It just comes with the territory,” he said.
Mr. Moore noted that those living in nations where being a Christian could lead to death say that persecution didn’t begin at that level.
Instead, he said, those people report “it began with being stigmatized. It began with some form of employment discrimination. It began with [their] children being treated differently in school again, by being treated like second-class citizens.”