2015 was the most violent year for Christians in modern history, according to Open Doors International. The nonprofit organization (which serves persecuted Christians worldwide) reported that more than 7,100 Christians were killed in 2015 for faith-related reasons. That astonishing figure is nearly a 75 percent increase from the previous year. To authenticate their findings, Open Doors’ report was independently audited by the International Institute of Religious Freedom. The facts get worse: each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith; 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed; and 772 violent acts are committed against Christians. North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Pakistan lead the crowd. And, right here in the United States, jobs have been lost, churches have been attacked, businesses have been destroyed, and people have been killed.

God’s Not Dead 2 (the sequel to the 2014 Pure Flix Entertainment film God’s Not Dead) inspires Christians to stand up to persecution. It’s a sobering reminder that we’re soldiers on the battlefield of life. We must be willing to stand on the front line — while aiming accurately with wisdom and gentleness, rather than emotion and recklessness. Plus, according to the film’s star, Melissa Joan Hart, it takes more than conviction to be a Christian; it takes a great deal of courage. In this straightforward interview, Melissa shares her experience with opposition (from an unlikely source), the high cost of being a Christian in Hollywood, and a bit of advice for this generation.

MARSHA DUCILLE: How would you describe your relationship with God?

MELISSA JOAN HART: I think we’re pretty close. I think my walk with Christ has grown even closer [from] doing [God’s Not Dead 2]: the people I met on the film … some of the apologetics professors … some of the stories they told me … some of the stuff I learned … in preparation for this movie … and in trying to make the decision whether not to do the movie.