Influential evangelical leader Franklin Graham has issued a powerful warning of growing bias against Christians. He argued that it will lead to discrimination and loss of religious freedom, and praised the courage of those who hold fast to the faith, even at risk of persecution and death.
In an Easter message on his Facebook page, Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of the relief agency Samaritan's Purse, said that millions of Christians around the world were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
Many of them risk their freedom and their lives to worship Christ, he added.
"Even under the threat of imprisonment, they faithfully follow, like Pastor Saeed Abidini [sic] and scores of others."
Pastor Abedini is an Iranian-American Christian pastor who has been in prison in Iran since 2012. In 2013, he was sentenced to eight years for planting house churches and "attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam."
Graham continued: "Despite the ever extending reach of the murderous hand of Islamist terror groups like ISIS, they [Christians] continue to gather to pray as we saw in Kenya this week with 147 brutally killed in cold blood."
He added: "Even in America there has recently grown an ugly, anti-Christian bias and intolerance that is changing our nation from the inside out, opening doors for all kinds of discrimination and loss of religious freedom that we hear about daily in the news."
He quoted Paul's warning in 2 Timothy 3:12: "All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted."
Graham concluded by calling for prayers for all persecuted Christians worldwide. He has repeatedly spoken out about persecution and about Islam, particularly in recent months.
Last December, the son of Billy Graham said in an interview with Christian Today that Islam was a "religion of war" and he urged Christians to attempt to convert Muslims to their own faith.
He said he had not softened his stance since he described Islam as a "very wicked and evil religion" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in New York. He said he looked at Islamic State, at the Taliban and Boko Haram and thought: "This is Islam. It has not been hijacked by radicals. This is the faith, this is the religion. It is what it is. It speaks for itself."
He has also criticised the Episcopal Church's National Cathedral in Washington for permitting its first Muslim prayer service. On his Facebook page he wrote: "It's sad to see a church open its doors to the worship of anything other than the One True God of the Bible who sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to earth to save us from our sins."
In March, he claimed US President Barack Obama was "very sympathetic" to Islam and that this could lead to Christians and Jewish people being persecuted in the US.
He told Gordon Robertson, host of CBN's The 700 Club: "There are Muslims that have access to him in the White House. Our foreign policy has a lot of influence now, from Muslims. We see the prime minister of Israel being snubbed by the president and by the White House and by the Democrats and it's because of the influence of Islam. They hate Israel and they hate Christians, and so the storm is coming, I believe."