The Guardian posed this question to four writers this past week. The question mirrors similar concerns in the United States where Christians often find negotiating a secular, pluralist society jarring.
The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has called on the silent majority of Christian Britons to stand up for their heritage, in a climate of mounting, if petty persecution. He cites the cases of Jennie Cain, suspended as a primary school receptionist after asking friends to pray for her when her five-year-old daughter was upbraided for "talking about Jesus" in school; and of Caroline Petrie, a nurse suspended for offering to pray for a patient. He also mentions a foster mother struck off because one of her charges converted from Islam to Christianity. Other cases include the Bible relegated to the top shelf of Leicester libraries, and the primary school head in Sheffield who took early retirement after a row involving separate assemblies for Muslim children.
Mark Vernon said Christians probably are persecuted, but we all need to develop the virtue of not taking offense.
Terry Sanderson wrote that we should look into deeper into these cases, and you will find it's the Christians practicing discrimination, not the other way round.
Jenny Taylor said that compared to what's going on around the world, where Christians face terrible stresses, we have very little to complain about.
Bishop Alan Wilson wrote:
...the circumcellions' conviction that they were the only true Christians, along with their posse mentality, stoked up true kamikaze paranoia, impervious to reason. Augustine called them lazy, crude and vile. You couldn't argue with people like that. Eventually sporadic persecution started up again, and fulfilled the circumcellions' desire by providing again opportunities for genuine martyrdom. Phew.
Fast Forward. Fleet Street runs a parallel narrative to the silly cooked up nonsense about banning Christmas, suggesting Christians are regularly persecuted in this country. Almost invariably these stories evaporate close-up. It is, in fact, perfectly sensible for a head teacher to challenge a six year old who goes round the playground telling her little compadres they're going to hell. That's not persecution; presumably a similar fate would await a mini-Dawkins who went round ignorantly railing at his little Evangelical chums. Fair do's.
There are places in the world, where Christians face violent persecution — Orissa, Eritrea, Sudan, Saudi, Pakistan, Indonesia, Melanesia. There are places particular kinds of Christian suffer serious human rights abuse, like Protestants in Belarus. This is not telling teenagers to keep the school rules about jewelry, but serious, abusive violence directed at people merely for being what they are.
Go to the Chapel of Martyrs at the East End of Canterbury Cathedral, and see the sad reality. There have been more real Christian martyrs in the past hundred years than in all the other centuries combined, from the gulags to Nazi death camps, from Maoist China, to Pakistan, to the Solomon Islands.
H/T to Thinking Anglicans.