It seems as if every month we hear about another heinous act committed against Christians in the Middle East. In February, it was ISIL beheading 21 Egyptian Christians. March brought suicide bombings of Pakistani churches. Last month, we saw Christians in Kenya targeted by Al-Shabab in the massacre of 150, heard about ISIL shooting and beheading 30 Christians in Ethiopia, and got word of Muslims throwing Christians off a boat for praying to Jesus Christ.
Despite these events, many students at U.S. college campuses appear apathetic about Christian persecution.
There are plenty of student organizations representing various religions, nations and other groups on campuses; each group has plenty of activists ready to jump in on any issue that arises. But today it is increasingly difficult to speak out against Christian persecution. One reason is that terrible acts have been done in the name of Christianity. But perhaps the greatest challenge is the fact that Christianity has been at the center of the U.S. power structure for ages. Because of this, many may not be able to see Christians on the receiving end of persecution, or simply don’t care.
I quickly learned about the challenges of speaking out against Christian persecution following the ISIL massacre of 30 Ethiopian Christians. I made the mistake of e-mailing the student body with a 24-hour call to fasting and prayer for Christian persecution. When asked about what persecution, specifically, I noted the 30 Christians killed by ISIL in the name of Islam. I received immediate resistance — e-mails and words implying that I should become more educated on the issue, or gently informing me that human rights are more important than Christianity.
I later clarified that my e-mail was strictly a call for community within the Christian body on campus, and that its purpose was not to instigate conflict with other faith communities. I did receive some support. But it was frustrating that the quickest responses were from those who reprimanded me for using the word Islam or suggested that I take the Christian aspect out of the larger human rights issue.
There is something wrong here. If students are encouraged to be cognizant and tolerant of each individual group or religion, then Christianity should not be excluded.
It is not only regarding issues of persecution that Christians are challenged, but also on matters of homosexuality, abortion and other issues where more conservative ideologies are being challenged.
I, like others, have been shut down in conversation — not because we had said anything offensive, but because students who hold more liberal views did not believe that we should even be allowed to speak. The same thing happens any time a traditional view is thought to be even minutely intolerant, no matter how politely the debate is had.
Although there are many Bible study groups and Christian organizations on campus, the amount of apathy, the lack of support and the number of issues students would rather focus on is startling. With the majority of students becoming increasingly liberal in their views, it will be harder and harder for Christians to hold equal weight in conversation. And if the attitudes of the students who responded to my e-mail are any indication, Christianity seems to be falling out of favor.
Christian students need to notice the pressures present on campus. If I have learned one thing from my experience, others should, too: Christians will need to stand firm in their faith, because the social environment at colleges is becoming less forgiving.
Nicholas Hodge is a student at St. Olaf College.