Speaker discusses persecution and religious freedom

Kaitlyn Anderson | Contributor

By Kaitlyn Anderson | Contributor

Notre Dame international relations and political theory professor Daniel Philpott visited Baylor on Tuesday to discuss the findings of “Under Caesar’s Sword”, a three-year collaborative global research project on how Christian communities respond to persecution. Fifteen researchers studied 25 countries to raise awareness about religious freedom and encourage solidarity with those persecuted.

“Some 500 million Christians — more than 20 percent of Christians here on earth —live in countries where they are subject to severe persecution,” Philpott said.

According to Pew Research, as of 2014, 74 percent of the world’s population was living in countries with high or very high rates of religious restrictions.

Persecution can come from the state or non-state actors such as the Islamic State.

“It is striking how much state-sponsored persecution of Christians is conducted with legality, regularity and bureaucratic propriety,” Philpott said.

Philpott’s project, which included the work of Baylor’s Wilson chair in religious freedom Paul Marshall, found Christians respond to persecution in three ways: Survival strategies, association strategies and confrontation strategies.

Survival strategies made up almost half of the strategies recorded by the study. This can look like fleeing the country, hiding their faith or cooperating with the persecutor’s demands.

Association strategies work in countries with low levels of violence. Used 38 percent of the time, they “counteract isolation through forging ties with other Christian churches, other religions, political parties, activist NGOs and allies outside the country,” Philpott said. This can also look like serving the community or even forgiving their persecutors.

Confrontation is the rarest strategy. Here, Christians demonstrate in protest, take legal action or criticize their government. In the most repressive cases, “confrontation may take the form of armed resistance or the acceptance of martyrdom,” Philpott said.

Colleyville senior Libby Feray enjoyed the lecture and expressed special interest in the different strategies Christians use to respond to persecution

“[Philpott] said the vast majority of Christian responses are nonviolent. That’s such a witness in itself for who Christians are, and what it means to follow Christ,” Feray said.

Feray attended Tuesday’s lecture at the encouragement of religion professor D. H. Williams. Williams is teaching a course entitled “Persecution and Martyrdom in Antiquity and Today.” He said Baylor has been trying to bring Philpott to campus for two years.

“As someone who cares about this as a subject, I can’t speak more highly about his efforts. Plus, he’s putting a real academic context to this,” Williams said.

For Christians in the Western world, the first step is “raising awareness and speaking out. It can lead to action,” Philpott said.

The project details over 80 recommendations for further action. Philpott suggested to contact elected officials, “adopt” a persecuted church and pray.

For the full report, documentary and study guide, go to ucs.nd.edu.