What is Persecution?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Slavery was a form of racial persecution.
Slavery was a form of racial persecution.

Persecution is typically an attack or overall negative form of attention aimed toward a person or group of people based on a general aspect of their being, such as race, age, religion, gender, or any other similar issue. As a basic concept, it can often overlap with ideas such as racism, sexism, discrimination, and other similar issues, though it can often be used alone as a term to indicate an effort or movement being made against a group or person. Persecution is often an aggressive or negative effort that can be made by just about anyone or any group toward another person or group, regardless of perceived levels of social status or power.

Mob mentality can drive people to hatred and violence.
Mob mentality can drive people to hatred and violence.

There are many forms of persecution, typically based on perceived differences in beliefs or physical attributes. Religious persecution is one of the most common forms, and seems to have existed throughout much of recorded human history. This is often caused by people of one belief or religious system seeing other forms of religion as inferior or incorrect. While this type of attitude can be potentially innocuous, it can also manifest as violence. Numerous wars and murders have been committed due to this type of intolerance.

Forms of persecution include those based on gender.
Forms of persecution include those based on gender.

Racial persecution is often based on physical differences or differences in family or tribal background. This type of maltreatment has created situations such as African slavery and the European and American slave trade that grew from such negative attitudes toward other people. There have also been a number of cases of genocide instigated due to racial or ethnic intolerance. This type of action can often have little to do with the color of a person’s skin or differences in facial features, and more about the perceived ethnicity of others due to differences in genealogy and cultural or tribal history.

Persecution may be racially motivated.
Persecution may be racially motivated.

Other common forms of persecution include those based on gender, sexual orientation, class or social status, and even artistic preferences. Due to the nature of such attitudes, those persecuting others do not necessarily have to be in a position of real power, but can simply be using greater numbers or mob mentality to drive others to hatred and violence. From a legal standpoint, persecution can often become a criminal act, and when perpetrated through action or hate speech can be considered a domestic crime, a crime against humanity, and potentially a war crime. There is also a psychological disorder often referred to as a “persecution complex” in which a person believes he or she is being persecuted, often by hallucinatory figures or delusional entities.

Discussion Comments


@seag47 - The bully problem in our country seems to be out of hand. I was talking with my 5 year old grandson the other day asking him the names of some of his friends at pre-school.

As he was naming them, he commented on how a couple of them were bullies. That seemed like it was awful young for kids to be concerned about bullying.

I know it has become a major problem and area of concern in most schools across the country. I don't think the social networking sites have helped that issue much.

It is easier for people to say mean things behind a computer screen and this can often have a domino effect.

It takes a very strong person to constantly stand up to someone who is bullying them. Research has shown how this can how life-long affects on someone and it shapes who they are and how they perceive themselves.

Persecution will probably always take on different forms and I think bullying is one that is all too common right now.


Persecution sometimes seems like a strong word, but I believe many women have suffered persecution in their jobs for many years.

I have a doctor friend who is in her 80's and she was one of the first female students in medical school in our state.

She endured a lot of teasing, put-downs and harassment from others who felt she should not be there. She stuck it out and ended up having a very successful career.

She still practices and teaches and was recently given a 'Mentor of the Year' award.

Even though there have been many strides made in this area, I still think there is a form of female persecution in many places of employment today.

Even when a female is doing the same job as her male co-workers and not getting the same amount of pay, I see that as a form of persecution.


@honeybees - The early Christians are not the only ones who were persecuted for their faith. There is a lot of religious persecution today all around the world.

It used to be you heard about this in other countries, but it happens everywhere today.

There is probably not a religion around that has not been persecuted in one way or another for the way they believe.

If you are a member of just about any type of religious faith, you will probably suffer some type of persecution from others who don't believe the same way you do.


@shell4life - It is hard to read about how many of the early Christians were persecuted for their faith.

One of the most amazing things about that is that the church seems to grow when it is being persecuted. You would think the opposite would happen, but history has proven otherwise.

I think it makes people realize how important this is to them, and it doesn't matter how much they are persecuted, they are still going to find a way to practice their faith.


@StarJo – To me, school-aged bullies are the most intense persecutors in existence. They know no shame, and when they get together as a pack, even they may be unable to control themselves.

My friend was walking home from school one day when a group of bullies confronted him. He was a preacher's kid, and he was very mild-mannered and skinny.

He was an easy target for them, and they frequently persecuted him for never getting angry or saying a cross word. They normally persecuted him one at a time, though.

They had only intended to knock him down, but they ended up beating him so badly that his chest became like jelly. He nearly died because these kids had acted like a pack of wolves.


I live in a small Southern town, and just about anyone who is different has gone through persecution down here. At my school, my classmates did not take well to guys with long hair or gay people, and they put them through misery just for being unlike them.

I admire anyone who continues to be who they are in spite of persecution. Those who won't back down and conform to satisfy people who are hurting them, physically or emotionally, are so brave.

I never participated in this persecution at school, and I hated every moment that I had to witness it. I think that since this was twenty years ago, maybe today's students are more accepting of alternative lifestyles and a variety of appearances.


@shell4life – This is one example of a leader living out the path that his followers would take. Jesus suffered persecution long before his believers did, and this made them feel not so alone.

Throughout his ministry, religious leaders mocked him and sought to trap him. When the time came for him to be captured, they put him through so much physical torture before crucifying him. This was persecution at its worst, because they could have just gone ahead and killed him, but they wanted to make a point and an example out of him.


I always think of early Christians when I think of persecution. They went through a lot to stand up for what they believed, with many of them even dying because of it.

The early church received persecution all the time. Many of its members had to hide out in fear for their lives, while others got arrested and whipped for speaking their convictions publicly.

Jesus had told them it would be this way. I really admire them for continuing on in the face of persecution. It is considered a great honor to get to die for Jesus, and many of these Christians were met with that honor.

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    • Slavery was a form of racial persecution.
      By: iMAGINE
      Slavery was a form of racial persecution.
    • Mob mentality can drive people to hatred and violence.
      By: mario beauregard
      Mob mentality can drive people to hatred and violence.
    • Forms of persecution include those based on gender.
      By: Claus Mikosch
      Forms of persecution include those based on gender.
    • Persecution may be racially motivated.
      By: grafikplusfoto
      Persecution may be racially motivated.
    • People have been persecuted for their religious beliefs.
      By: igor
      People have been persecuted for their religious beliefs.
    • Persecution may manifest as physical violence in some cases.
      By: tlorna
      Persecution may manifest as physical violence in some cases.