Now, let me say that I'm not the sort of person to undersell the difficulties we Christians face in the West. I'm not one of those, at all, who will insist that because we're not being imprisoned or killed just for claiming Christianity as our religion that this means there isn't a more subtle--and spiritually quite deadly--persecution against us. No, if anything I'm the opposite: I emphasize that the Western spite for Christianity is in some ways more poisonous to Christians than outright violence because, to modify a phrase my grandmother always said, "You catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar." In the modern West, Christians are lured from their faith with the "honey" of prestige and media glorification, while scared from being fully Christian (that is, by espousing values deemed "backward" by the modern culture) with the "vinegar" of insult, spite, and legal sanctions. Satan is quite crafty, and knows that the sword of mockery and the arrows of scorn can scare or entice as many Christians, if not more, into abandoning their faith than literal knives and guns. And Christians in the modern West do not leave their faith shivering and regretful, but are often coaxed into leaving it proudly, never even realizing the spiritual doom to which they are now marching.
And let's make no mistake, Christians here are increasingly threatened with severe financial and legal repercussions if we refuse to compromise our values, even if we're allowed to technically profess our Christian faith (so long as we divorce ourselves from our morals and do as we're told in the public and business sphere, of course). So as you can tell, I'm as far as you can imagine from the "Christians in the West have no right to think they're mistreated!" crowd.
But my recognition of the often-undersold threats Christianity faces in the western world by no means diminishes my sense or appreciation of the blatant horror faced by Christians in lands where Satan, for whatever reason, has chosen to be less crafty and more bold. In these lands, the evil committed against us is obvious, cruel, and unambiguously evil. It's true that when the enemy is coming after you with knives and guns, it's easy to know they are the bad guys at least, but that is a cold comfort when faced with the grim prospect of torture and death, or the even worse prospect of these things against your loved ones. Unlike in the West, a Christian who abandons his faith under, say, the threat of Islamic jihadists might at least inwardly realize he's only doing a desperate act in order to escape a grizzly fate; but that does not diminish his pain or his guilty conscience. If he evades the physical suffering, he is burdened with a fate worse than that of Saint Peter, who denied Christ, for unlike Saint Peter he will never hear--until his death--the comforting words of Jesus Christ in His obvious personal form to console him despite his moment of weakness. He may spend the rest of his days feeling that he was a coward, if in fact he picks his shaken faith up again at all.
There can be no doubt: The persecution levied against Christians in the more barbaric nations of the world is torture no matter what the Christian chooses. If he does not abandon his faith, he is either imprisoned or he is tormented and killed. If he does abandon his faith, then if he has any true faith at all he will live with mental and spiritual torment for the rest of his days over his decision, and wonder forever "Would I make the same decision if I had it to do over again?" For a Christian, such uncertainty is also torture. So he cannot escape torture no matter what he does or where he turns. His third option, of course, is to permanently abandon his faith and never look back in regret, but with that option he loses his very soul, which is an even worse fate. Cruel indeed is his list of available options.
I can only find solace in knowing that God holds the fates of those who are faithful--even those who only renew their faith after initially falling away in terror--in His hands. He never fails to reward the suffering of His just ones. Some great minds have said that even the smallest inconvenience, if suffered for God, will reap great treasure in Heaven; how much more then the profound suffering of our persecuted brethren! Martyrdom and misery are the seeds of glory, for we serve a God to whom the blood of the Just--and I do dare to say "Just", for Christ justifies His flock--cries out for satisfaction. That satisfaction shall come not in the form of petty vengeance (although, as Pope Francis himself has hinted, the use of force to STOP this violence has its legitimate place), but in a heavenly prize that far outstrips the horrors faced by the persecuted soul on the earth.
Let us pray for peace, and let us pray for both the victims and, perhaps even more so, the survivors of the barbaric and inexcusable deeds taking place even as you read this.