January 3, 2009

Remembering This Day in History: The First Universal Christian Persecution

Ascending to power at a time of great political uncertainty, military crisis and economic turmoil, Decius sought political answers and a renewed unity for the Roman Empire in a pogrom of forced religious conversion and submission. Appeals for a recommitted practice of ‘traditional’ religion, transitioned into outright persecution as political expediency caved into religious zealotry.

On January 3, 250, Decius “published an imperial edict commanding all citizens of the empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Those who did so were given certificates as evidence of their compliance while those who refused were imprisoned or executed. Decius’s edict initiated the first universal Roman persecution of the Christian church. Untold numbers of believers suffered the loss of family, freedom, and life itself.”

Today, 1700 years later, we remember those first Christians who courageously stood for the name of Christ against tyranny. We confess that our contemporary context – political, military and economic instability – is all too often similar to the environment that sparked this first universal persecution, and that there are today millions of Christians who continue to live in situations of injustice and religious oppression. We cry out in a humble resolve that refuses to be silent, pray with intention, work in cooperation, and advocate with passion and discernment until we can stand with one another in freedom.

(See E. Michael and Sharon Rusten, The One Year of Book of Christian History. Wheaten: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003, 6.)

No comments: