We are living in interesting times - so many changes happening. When I think of the persecuted people in our world, I think we don’t take the threat of persecution very seriously – I mean, that happens in other countries, not here in Australia!
In this article I want to show you one persecuted Christian’s take on being persecuted. After all, Jesus never promised that we would not have any trouble – see John chapter 16 verse 33. And then, while I don’t want to pre-empt anything, I wonder if we shouldn’t brace ourselves for potential persecution here at home as we go about our daily business of prayer, worship and fellowship.
An Indian perspective
Ajay Pillai is the leader of the Indian Inland Mission, having taken it over after Dr Paul Pillai, the mission’s founder and Ajay’s father, passed away last year. The Mission reaches across India and the world at great personal cost to the members.
As a result of dealing with the pandemic, Ajay has noted the following observations or lessons learnt about a life of faith (used with permission):
1) There is a vast difference between going to Church and being the Church. Romans chapter 12 verse 5.
2) The scattered Church is sometimes more effective than the gathered Church. Acts chapter 8 verse 4.
3) God is exposing our idols. Psalm chapter16 verse 4.
4) No matter how hard we try, we are still not in control. Psalm chapter 115 verse 3.
5) Death is a reality because sin is a reality. Romans chapter 6 verse 23.
6) Only God’s plans prevail; we cannot control the future. Proverbs chapter 27 verse 1.
7) The ripple effects of sin are far-reaching. Romans chapter 5 verse 12.
8) We cannot put our trust in man. Psalm chapter 118 verse 8.
9) The suffering and hopeless abound around us. All the time. Matthew chapter 11 verse 28.
10) Jesus is the ONLY answer. John chapter 14 verse 6.
If you read these points, including the references, and ponder on them rather than just skimming them, I hope you will realise how significant, uncomfortable and challenging these can be. The more so because they are coming from a person in the front line of persecution.
An Australian perspective
Last week, on 4 February 2021, Victoria’sChange or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Bill 2020 passed the upper house of Victoria’s parliament. This will now become law. It will be illegal to try to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
While no-one supports aversion therapies, where pain or nausea are used to deal with unwanted sexual attraction, the law makes it a criminal offence for doctors, psychiatrists, churches or even parents to engage in practices or 'therapies' - be they formal (e.g. counselling) or informal (e.g. prayer) with an LGBTIQ+ person - even if they have been specifically requested.
The Bill empowers the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of conversion and suppression practices. Criminal penalties of up to 10-years in prison will apply.
Contrary to Daniel Andrews’ claims, no faith leaders were allowed to see the Bill before it was introduced to Parliament, and the Attorney-General, Jill Hennessy, has declined to meet church representatives herself.
In commentary for The Australian (26 January), columnist Nick Cater notes that the Bill “is a Trojan horse for activism of the most insidious kind. It is an attack on freedom of religion and parental rights by activists who regard the very existence of categories of sex and sexuality to be oppressive.
“To call upon the laws of biology when counselling a gender-confused teenager or to suggest they might want to think again before declaring war on their bodies will become a criminal act. The role of doctors, psychiatrists, priests and parents will be reduced to applying a rubber stamp”.
“Many people fear there is a broader agenda at work by a state government more hostile to Christianity than its predecessors. . . They fear the bill may hide an agenda to silence people of faith”.
The broadest threat to religious freedom in Australia comes from those hostile to traditional religious views (such as on sexual relations). While those who are hostile are often motivated by a desire to protect and include minority groups such as gay and lesbian Australians, their methods can intimidate and exclude religious people and associations.
The Institute for Civil Society concludes that “Freedom of religion and belief are much better protected in international law than in Australian law. Improved legal protections are urgently needed in Australia. But legal protections are only part of the answer.
“The promotion of true tolerance – the acceptance that we all have a responsibility to give each other the right to be wrong in our eyes while holding to our own truths without trying to drive others out of the public square – is a cultural commitment. It needs to be taught and modelled by all of us in family, community and public life, not just in the law. If we can do that we may escape polarisation and tribal warfare and find ways to live together with our differences in pluralist Australia.”
We must pray
Praise God for the wisdom and faithfulness exhibited by persecuted Christians such as Ajay Pillai.
May God bless us with wisdom to know how to respond when we need to.
Remember what happened to the apostles when they were brought before the Sanhedrin, who had given them strict instructions not to teach about Jesus? Peter replied “We must obey God rather than men”. Sadly, they were flogged but their lives were spared, and they continued teaching. Do we have the courage to continue praying, teaching, counselling in love, despite the law?
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html