The Five Zones of Persecution

The Five Zones of Persecution

The Bible does not portray persecution as a product of particular political systems the way we are prone to today. Such a portrayal leads us to think of persecuted Christians as beleaguered minorities peacefully minding their own business and beliefs, whispering worship songs and Bible verses under blankets while candlelight illumines their angelic faces; meanwhile, snarling secret police officers let the dogs out in hot pursuit. Such minorities need protection, pity, and money, we reason, and we tell our own governments so.

Instead, the Bible portrays persecution as a turf war where idols and their devotees, with violence rooted in well-reasoned fear of utter loss, defend their hard-won territory and assert their rights of soul control over those they’ve cowed into submission. Biblically, it is the Christians who are on the offensive; the idols and their subjects are the ones engaged in self-defense and always appealing to governments for protection. It is the demons who ask nervously, “What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” They then ring up the relevant government authorities and discuss how to subdue the Christian menace, like dispatching so many unwanted bed bugs.

Persecution, in other words, happens whenever and wherever the enemy panics. Where the enemy has things well in hand (in places like America and South Korea where the pursuit of wealth, beauty, and pleasure, the opiates of the people, have reduced our societies–and, often, us–to a mellow haze), he has no need to persecute. He persecutes in the times and places where Christ is advancing at a good clip and even the enemy’s best weapons and troops seem powerless to staunch the flow.

That is why VOMK’s persecution map is different than other ones you may have seen. It does not tote up acts of violence against Christians in an effort to cause us to wring our prayerful hands nervously and thank God that we live in one of the blank, bland spots on the board. Instead, it is a strategy map, one which seeks to identify the patterns of Christ’s advance globally (which take the form of faithful martyr-witness) and the enemy’s concomitant, powerless hand-wringing (which inevitably takes the form of persecution).

Each zone represents a particular type of idolatry into which Christ is penetrating–Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Communism, and Secularism. In our ongoing updates through Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and our website, you see glimpses of the martyr-witness being made in each zone and the persecution that is happening in response. For more detailed information about each zone, make sure to watch our video, The Five Zones of Persecution.

I realize it is impolitic today to refer to other religions as types of idolatry and to refer to Communism and Secularism as kinds of religion, but such is the divine classification in Psalm 2 verse 1, which refers to anything other than the worship of God as “rage” and “a vain thing”, inevitably issuing forth (in verse 3) in persecution against us. And according to the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12, even our mere desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus is enough to panic the prince of this world into persecuting us, which according to Jesus in John 8:44-45, he does through those whom he has sired, who are by rights required to do his bidding as slaves.

As in the advance of any army, even a steadfastly nonviolent one like ours, there is constantly work to do behind and before enemy lines, and even along the supply trains. In reviewing this map and the explanatory video, let us be encouraged, edified, and exercised to continue to do our part as we marvel together anew, as according to the words of Acts 11:18, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

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Church sanctuaries decked with national flags and leader’s photos. The Ten Commandments edited. Bibles re-translated as state church leaders emphasize the need to free Christianity from its ‘foreign cultural captivity’. These are the reports emerging from China today. According to many Chinese religion analysts, they represent not a return to the Cultural Revolution but to something even earlier.

“Put the photos of 1930s German church sanctuaries and 2019 Chinese church sanctuaries side by side. Put the speeches of the leaders and officials side by side. The similarities are striking,” says the Rev. Dr. Eric Foley, CEO of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, part of a worldwide fellowship of organizations aiding persecuted Christians worldwide with roots dating back to World War II. “Xi Jinping calls it Sinification—freeing Christianity and other religions from foreign cultural entanglement. Hitler called it Nazification. Both pledged freedom of religion to those who would hang national flags and leader’s portraits in their sanctuaries. Both trotted out theologians who insisted the Bible needed to be re-translated to be properly understood. Both accused those who disagreed of seeking to subvert the state.”


“Think Stalin and Hitler, not Mao,” says the Rev. Dr. Bob Fu, founder and director of China Aid, a US-based organization that helps Chinese Christians and reports on human rights and religious freedom developments in China. “China is now taking a page from the 1930s totalitarian playbook. Whereas before the government’s goal was to stamp out Christianity, now all efforts are directed at co-opting the moral influence of Christianity and other faiths to advance the Communist Party’s social agenda.”

Foley and Fu see a parallel not only in the actions of the governments but in the response of the faithful Christians of both eras. They are calling on church leaders around the world to offer today’s dissident Chinese Christians things their earlier suffering German and Russian counterparts were unable to receive: solidarity and global theological endorsement.

“There was no Internet when the German ‘Confessing Church’ wrote the Barmen Declaration in opposition to Hitler’s attempt to redefine Christianity,” says Foley. “Today the Barmen Declaration and those who wrote it are revered. But at the time they were cut off from the Body of Christ around the world and forced to suffer while their ‘Confessing Church’ was crushed.”

That has Foley and Fu calling on Christian leaders worldwide to add their names to a declaration of religious freedom written by the former law professor and now-jailed Chinese pastor of the Chengdu Early Rain Church, Wang Yi. The document, entitled “A Joint Statement by Pastors: A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith”, was originally published in September 2018 with signatures from 439 Chinese pastors.

“As the author of this important document, Pastor Wang and Early Rain were also the ones responsible for gathering the signatures of pastors for it,” says Fu. “Now that Pastor Wang Yi and the Early Rain leaders are in prison and many pastors who signed the statement are facing similar difficulties, we as Christian leaders worldwide must carry on the good work they began. We must sound a global ‘amen’ that the Christianity for which they are now suffering is ‘the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.’”

The document written by Wang Yi and signed by the Chinese pastors contains four declarations:

1.       Christian churches in China believe unconditionally that the Bible is the Word and Revelation of God. It is the source and final authority of all righteousness, ethics, and salvation.

2.       Christian churches in China are eager and determined to walk the path of the cross of Christ and are more than willing to imitate the older generation of saints who suffered and were martyred for their faith.

3.       Christian churches in China are willing to obey authorities in China whom God has appointed and to respect the government’s authority to govern society and human conduct.

4.       All true churches in China that belong to Christ must hold to the principle of the separation of church and state and must proclaim Christ as the sole head of the church.

The full declaration is available at, the website created by Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid to enable pastors and church leaders to add their own names to those of the 439 Chinese pastors. Those wishing to sign the declaration should do so, along with their church name, role, and a contact email, by the end of March. Voice of the Martyrs Korea and China Aid will verify each signee and present the ‘signed’ document to the Chinese Embassy in Seoul.

“It’s important to note that the declaration written by these Chinese pastors is entitled ‘A Declaration for the Sake of the Christian Faith’,” says Foley. “This is about more than China. It is about the Christian faith. An attack on the integrity of the Christian faith anywhere at any time is an attack on the integrity of the Christian faith everywhere at all times.”

“439 Chinese pastors signed this declaration,” says Fu. “We are asking the Lord for each signature to yield a hundredfold harvest, which means we are praying for 43,900 pastors and church leaders around the world brave enough to sign this document in suffering solidarity with the pastors of China.”

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The main character in Tortured for Christ is not a Wurmbrand. It’s this woman

Tortured for Christ is often described as the life story of Rev. Richard Wurmbrand. In fact, however, Rev. Wurmbrand is not the main character of the movie or the book. The main character is a woman, but she is not Sabina, his wife. The main character is not listed in the movie credits or on the book cover, nor is she mentioned by name in any of the promotional materials. In fact, you can only see her in the movie and book at all if Christ reveals her to you, and that may only occur after you have read or seen the story several times.

The chance to catch even a glimpse of this woman is the only real reason to watch and read Tortured for Christ. If you do not see this woman, you will simply think of Tortured for Christ as a kind of a heavy and slightly dated story about a pastor who paid a high price for following Jesus, and you will wonder why the movie opens with Rev. Wurmbrand being tortured and closes with him still in prison. What kind of a movie opens with a torture scene and closes with a prison scene? Definitely no movie that anyone wants to see.

This movie, this book, is made to reveal her. Who is she?

She is the Underground Church.  

As Rev. Wurmbrand wrote in Tortured for Christ, “Before entering prison, I loved Christ very much. Now, after having seen the Bride of Christ (his spiritual Body) in prison, I would say that I love the Underground Church almost as much as I love Christ Himself. I have seen her beauty, her spirit of sacrifice.”

This is the reason why Tortured for Christ takes place in prison: To see her, you must look in prisons and the most closed countries. The Underground Church does not appear in wealthy, free places where people have rights and dignity and good food and running water. But Rev. Wurmbrand would say that South Korean Christians are deprived because Sarang Church on Easter morning, Myungsung Church in early morning prayer, and Yoido Full Gospel Church’s Prayer Mountain—all wither in comparison to the beauty of the Underground Church, in North Korea and in the other darkest places of the world.

Rev. Wurmbrand wrote in Tortured for Christ, “Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the Underground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches.” Presumably the thought applies to South Korean churches as well.

That is why Tortured for Christ is not about torture, not about Rev. Wurmbrand, not simply about standing up for Jesus no matter the cost.

It is about her, the Underground Church.

Watch the movie. Read the book. Perhaps like Christ, the Apostle Paul, and Rev. Wurmbrand, you will be transfixed by her as well.

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