"Persecution is to be expected" - an interview with Brazilian theologian Dr. Rosalee Velloso Ewell

By Jim Olang |

In an interview with CDI’s Africa Editor Jim Olang, Brazilian theologian Dr. Rosalee Velloso Ewell shared some reflections on how to interpret persecution today and what forms it may take in different parts of the world.

Asked how she would define persecution, Dr. Ewell commented, “When I read the Bible and especially the text in the New Testament like the Sermon on the Mount and other texts, [it says] that persecution is to be expected and that persecution is the result of what comes to a person or a community who show in the way they live that only Jesus is Lord. So, persecution is what happens when [confronting] the powers of this world – whatever those may be, whether political, military, or economic – the persecution that’s going to come to those who say ‘no’ to those powers and say ‘yes’ to following Christ.”

When it comes to different forms of persecution, Dr. Ewell said that “persecution is not just the physical torture and martyrdom. Those are certainly real aspects of persecution and they’re a reality today as well, not just 2,000 years ago. But I think what we also get in the gospels, and certainly in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, is other types of suffering.”

“Maybe the way we use the word persecution today may be a bit too strong a term, but other kinds of sufferings that come to those who are faithful to Jesus. And certainly, in our day and age, in the West at least where a particular type of lifestyle is valued, and money and capitalism are the gods of our society, Christians who don’t follow those rules are going to suffer.”

“Now it might be that they are not going to become rich, or that by paying their taxes or not engaging in corruption, different things, that they will suffer the consequences for that. So, there is different types I think. And you get a lot of language around economics in the gospels, and almost this – as one scholar put it – the “hostility to wealth” in the gospels. For many Christians in the western world, they would consider that as persecution but the New Testament says, ‘no, no, that’s just faithfulness to Jesus.’ But we don’t hear all that many sermons about that.”

Watch the full interview.