The Pew Research Center reports that restrictions on religion in 2015 were rated “high” or “very high” in 40% of the countries in the world, up from 34% in 2014. Of course, Muslim countries have been the most restrictive for many years, but the Western nations that have been the most open are now reconsidering their stance.
The major factor is the shifting of populations from the Muslim countries who are bringing with them violent tendencies against other religions. The flood of immigrants into Europe from the Middle East has taken advantage of the open freedoms to push their Islamic hostility to all other beliefs.
This is causing a cultural backlash pushing for government policies to reduce the hostility. But government action is often blunt —with unintended consequences. This is evident in several nations. Bible-believing missionaries have faced a much more difficult time getting into Russia beginning last year.
Terrorist attacks prompted the Russian government to raise the barrier against entry into the country. Instead of restricting entry to terrorists, the Russian Orthodox leaders saw an opportunity to reduce competition. Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons were included in the ban, but so were Baptists.
In India, a shift in the politics in recent years has placed the Hindu majority in a position of dominance in the culture. As a result, government officials, including police, are increasingly looking the other way when Hindus attack Christians.
Even Western “democratic” governments like Britain are in a debate over the issue. There, the original policy suggestions were recognized as so broad that they might be used to squelch even beneficial “extremism” (such as soul winning).
Britain already has a mechanism to stifle street evangelism. Michael Stockwell and Michael Overd were recently charged with “intentionally alarming” the public with their open-air preaching. While declaring Biblical statements about the sin of homosexuality and that Muslims would end up in hell, the listeners created a commotion and the pair were arrested.
Threats to religious freedom will increase from many directions in the end times. America has conducted a 200-year experiment in total religious freedom almost unique in the history of the world. But it will be quickly lost of we don’t evangelize our nation. Only when biblical righteousness prevails, does freedom flourish. Persecution is already lifting its ugly head. We will not escape if we become too small a minority.
Satan has created a chaos of competing lies that drowns out the truth, making it possible for only a few to find it.
But, soul winners, if we fret about the big picture, we will miss the very reason we are here: to present Truth to those who have ears to hear. Saturation with gospel tracts that get read is still the best way to find those ready to listen.