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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Lies, damned lies, and statistics!

The well-known saying that is the heading for this post, has often been attributed to the great British statesman, Benjamin Disraeli. That, I have discovered, is unlikely to be true, and the actual originator may well be that other distinguished personage, A.N.Onymous!

However, regardless of who first made the statement, the meaning is obvious. There are three degrees of falsehood: lies ("white" lies?!); damned lies (more serious untruths?!); and statistics (which may be manipulated to mean whatever one wishes them to mean!).

However, some statistics are neither political, nor financial, and are therefore less likely to be manipulated in any way. On Sunday, I was presented with some statistics issued by the office of the French Minister of the Interior, concerning the year 2016. They made interesting reading. According to this official source, there was a rise, in France, in attacks against Christian places of worship of 17.4%. A total of 90% of attacks on places of worship were aimed at Christian buildings.

The state counted 949 acts of anti-Christian acts for the year 2016. Among these, 399 were acts of vandalism, 191 thefts of cult objects, 14 facts were deemed to have had "satanic motivation" (and remember, this is an official report from the government of what is a secular state!), and 25 were perpetrated by anarchists.

On the other hand, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic acts are on the decline. Indeed in 2015, the State counted 429 acts that were recorded as being anti-Muslim, and 808 acts that were recorded as being anti-semitic. However, these figures fall respectively to 182 and 335 for the year 2016.

So what may one take out of these figures? I would suggest that the most important thing is that, in spite of the number of Islamic-inspired atrocities in France, in recent years, there has been very little back-lash from the population at large, directed at Muslims.

What about the increase in anti-Christian attacks? Another set of figures, issued on Jan 6th by  the Observatory of Christianophobia, headed by journalist Daniel Hamiche, a member of the Church of Rome, claimed that "Christianophobe" (who coins these words that are literally false?!) activity in France increased by a massive 37.4% from 2015 - 2016.

I have been asked to give a presentation, next month, to a group of English-language speakers, on the subject of the Persecuted Church - a subject that has been dear to my heart for some fifty years. I plan to share about three countries that have become, over the years, the countries on which the Lord seems to have led me to concentrate. None of them, of course, are in any part of Europe. Do these figures suggest that, in the not too distant future, European countries will, in fact, be places in which disciples of Jesus are persecuted for their faith?

If that does happen - and it is more likely than less - then it will certainly clean out the church of its "deadwood" - those about whom Paul warns his "child in the faith" (I Tim.1:2), Timothy: "... understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people." (II Tim.3:1-5; emphasis added).

Many are increasingly certain that we are in the last days before Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists brings time to an end. The signs are all around us. This reported rise in anti-Christian activity may not yet be of the same magnitude as is experienced in North Korea; Somalia; Afghanistan; Pakistan; and Sudan - to name just the top five of the fifty countries in which disciples of Jesus are actively persecuted. However, there is no guarantee in the written Word of God, of which I am aware, that "western" Christians will be exempt from persecution. Jesus said: "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you;..." (John 15:20).

Those in the Persecuted Church about which I have been invited to speak, do not seek release from their sufferings, but constantly ask that we pray that they will be found faithful! When our time comes, may we also be found faithful - even unto death. 

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