Every year, Starbucks marks the beginning of the holiday season by selling red cups. Over the years, the seasonal cup has been plastered with various images of holiday cheer, including snowflakes, snowmen, sleigh rides, and the like.
This year, the cup is simply red. And that simplicity inspired the media to create a story that Christians were upset. As the story goes, apparently the absence of Christmas-related imagery reflects a war on religion by the coffee company. Only problem: it wasn’t true. Other than a smattering of social media activity, no one was really that outraged.
As the talking heads opine about this faux-controversy, we thought we’d bring their focus over to something more pressing than pressed expresso beans. While it’s convenient to talk about something familiar — Starbucks — we could all use some perspective this holiday season.
So here are ten examples around the world where Christian persecution is real — with life or death consequences. Without further ado (but with thanks to the good folks at Relevant Magazine for the sourcing):
1. In Iran, at least 40 Christians have been imprisoned for apostasy, under the guise of espionage or undermining national security. Iranian-American pastor Saeed Abedini is one, currently serving an eight-year prison sentence for, well, being a Christian.
2. In North Korea, tens of thousands of Christians are literally enslaved in labor camps, simply due to their faith. Christianity is outright illegal in the hermit state, and punishments for this “crime” include torture, indefinite imprisonment, and often, death.
3. In the Ukraine, the Russian invasion has resulted in a severe crackdown on Christianity. Incredibly, since the invasion, only 1 percent of Ukrainian religious organizations have been able to successfully re-register with government authorities.
4. In Sudan, Sharia Law reigns supreme under President Omar Bashir. Here, Christians face the death sentence for practicing their faith, churches are demolished, and Christian communities are bombed.
5. In Pakistan, Christians live under the constant threat of mob violence. Loosely interpreted “blasphemy” laws routinely lead to death sentences for non-Muslims.
6. In Iraq, the Christian population has fallen from 1.5 million to 300,000. ISIS has systematically targeted Christian communities for mass killings, and survivors have generally fled in fear of their lives.
7. In India, radical Hinduism has paved the way for a spate of attacks against Christians, including shocking attacks on priests, nuns, and Christian schools.
8. In Nigeria, radical Islamic terror group Boko Haram has singled out Christian communities for mass murder. The organization specifically seeks to expel all Christians from the country, and has committed countless atrocities in recent years to advance their goal.
9. In China, the government has removed over 1,500 crosses from government-sponsored churches and house churches alike. Lawyers representing these churches are routinely thrown into jail. And in some cases, churches have been completely demolished.
10. In Syria, Christianity has been utterly decimated as its civil war rages on. Since 2013, over half of Syria’s million-plus Christians have fled the nation. Nor are Christians welcome in refugee camps; only one percent of the population of Syrian refugee camps is Christian, as the minority group fears violence from Muslim refugees within the camps themselves.
Suffice it to say, Christians across the world have bigger problems than red paper cups. This holiday season, let’s keep those folks in mind as we sip our morning Joe.
What are your thoughts? Is religious persecution in America on par with that of the rest of the world? Is Starbucks’ plain red cup worthy of a debate on religious freedom, or is it a total nothingburger? Sound off on our Facebook page.