According to the Pew Research Center, Christians experience more persecution than any other religious group in the world. They are harassed in 151 countries, especially those in the Middle East and North Africa. During the first centuries of the Christian church, many North Africans suffered for the faith. Perpetua and Filicitas are two notable African women who were tortured. Today, North Korea is said to be the most restrictive country for Christians. Jesus and Paul both said we should expect persecution in the world. Stephen, the first martyr, is an example of what followers of Christ might expect in a hostile world. The religious leaders of his day, driven by jealousy, stoned him to death. Yet the external stones bruising and killing his body could not touch his internal spirit. While externally, he suffered and died, internally he was filled with the presence and peace of Christ himself who stood to welcome him. Jesus told his followers that when they are persecuted for his sake, not a hair of their spiritual heads would be touched, and their reward in heaven would be great. We can stand in solidarity with all of those who suffer for the sake of Christ.

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