No, of course not, according to an article in The Conversation! It is ludicrous to even suggest that! In fact, Christians do some of the persecuting!
The article does make some valid points, however, and we cannot dismiss it out of hand. But to say that Christians in Australia are not persecuted at all is a big reach.
To persecute, according to the Macquarie Dictionary, is to pursue with harassing or oppressive treatment, to oppress with injury or punishment for adherence to principles or religious faith, or to annoy by persistent attentions, importunities, or the like.
Let us look at a few circumstances and see whether they amount to ‘persecution’.
The Advocate, April 12,2020, reports that a member of the public was concerned about seeing 15 cars in the carpark of a church, two weeks in a row. Being highly responsible, the person reported this to the police, who sent officers to investigate this alleged breach of Covid-19 restrictions.
It was found that the pastor of the church had a number of people with him, including technicians, who were preparing to livestream the services to their congregation. The space was large enough to accommodate everyone there and the officers were satisfied that no breach of restrictions had occurred.
You could hardly call this ‘persecution’ in terms of injury or oppressive treatment, as experienced by many Christians in other parts of the world. But harassment or annoyance fits. My suspicious mind wonders if the concerned citizen would have made the same call if they had noticed 15 cars outside, for example, a club. Or else they could have just knocked on the door and seen for themselves.
Subtletyin Western Australia
Not all persecution is obvious. Steve Klomp asks, ‘Are we persecuted yet?’ He cites a new Children’s Hospital that will have a Muslim prayer room, but nothing for Christians.
Also government money is being given to a private, profit making clinic in Midland to fund abortions. Not surprising, really, until you realise that the clinic is set up because the Midland hospital under St John of God administration would not provide abortions.
Another issue is the low number of Christians being allowed to migrate to Australia because of persecution and loss of religious freedom in their own countries.
Persecution? These actions are certainly not neutral, and again while not causing injury or oppressive treatment, they do discriminate against Christians.
Australians risking their livelihood
Quite apart from people in the public eye, such as Israel Folau and Margaret Court, there is an increasing number of ordinary Australian Christians who risk losing their job, having their professional status revoked, or at the very least having to spend a lot of money and time to defend themselves against accusations that are usually dropped after challenge.
One of the frightening things about some of these stories is the observation and collection of data about people that is done in secret, without the person being aware that they are being observed or that someone has taken offence at what they are doing.
The Human Rights Law Alliance was set up in 2019 as an organization that protects religious freedom through legal advocacy. It has provided legal representation and advocacy for people who are under attack for living out their faith in public.
HRLA has published a number of cases which make interesting, but frightening, reading. Australia Watch is another resource documenting what is happening in our ‘Lucky Country’.
Back in 2017 Andrew Bolt, in the Herald Sun, called for Christians to prepare for persecution. He is not a Christian, but he was astute enough to recognize what is going on! His article was supported by the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary.
So, what can we do?
As Christians, I believe we – each of us, not just our pastors or leaders - need to have our eyes open to what is going on in our society. The climate has changed to the extent that simple Christian statements such as “I’ll pray for you” are no longer acceptable. Where 50 years ago that would have been welcomed, now it just has one person to take offence and we are being slandered.
Jesus’ statement in Matthew chapter 10 verse 16 comes to mind: 16 Now, remember, it is I who sends you out, even though you feel vulnerable as lambs going into a pack of wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes yet as harmlessas doves.” (The Passion Translation).
Too long I think we have tried to be harmless as doves, with the result that out of naivety and innocence we have let people walk all over us.
Hey church, man up! Let us be as shrewd as snakes, relying on the Holy Spirit’s prompts for what to say, when to say it and whom to say it to. And we can’t do that without a closer relationship with God.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science and theology under her belt. Aira is a panellist for Young Writers and indulges in reading, bushwalking, volunteering at a nature reserve and learning to play clarinet. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html