On this Independence Day, when we remember those who fled England in search of a place where they could have freedom of conscience, it is difficult to ignore all those in the world who suffer at the hands of governments that deny this freedom.
Mazen (Mah-ZEEN), a Syrian pastor, questioned, “Terrorists are killing our men, raping our women and burning our churches. And the church in the West doesn’t even care. Why?”
Is Mazen correct? Is the church in the West unconcerned about the 77 percent of the world’s people who live under religious oppression or persecution? Do we not care that genocide is being committed against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East, where the Christian population in Iraq has dropped from 1.5 million in 2003 to an estimated 250,000 today? Are we deaf to the cries of five million mainstream Muslims and minority Christians who are displaced in Northern Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram and the Fulani militants? Have we turned our backs on the Coptic and Ethiopian Christians beheaded on the Mediterranean coast?
Christians in China are facing the worst persecution since the country’s Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. Nations such as Russia and Nepal have recently passed laws outlawing proselytizing. North Korea holds thousands in prisons for nothing more than having a Bible or other religious paraphernalia. Pakistan’s courts have sentenced Christian Asia Bibi to death for alleged blasphemy after an argument broke out when she “contaminated” water that she and Muslim workers were sharing.
What is your church or synagogue or faith community doing about these sufferers? Do you pray for them regularly? Do you offer humanitarian assistance? Do you meet with their leaders and listen to their concerns? Do you advocate for these people with local, national and international governments? I’m afraid most will answer that standing with the persecuted is a minor concern. The problem is ignored, sympathetically dismissed or neglected, and we are guilty of assuming others will solve the problem.
Around the world, there are about 1.3 billion Roman Catholics, 600 million affiliated with the World Evangelical Alliance, 200 million associated with Eastern Orthodoxy, 100 million Baptists, and 20 million baptized believers in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. If these 2.2 million were to speak with one voice demanding religious freedom for all, changes would take place.
Why aren’t there more summits on religious persecution? Who are the international religious freedom champions? Why don’t pastors preach on biblical texts such as Hebrews 13:3: “Remember those who are in prison as though you were in prison with them”?
On an average day, twenty Christians are killed for their faith. It is time for the Church to hear the cries of men like Mazen and stand up for the persecuted of all faiths. If we don’t, it won’t be long before we, too, might join the ranks of the persecuted.
President and Founder
1. Find out what your faith community is doing about religious persecution, and become a leading advocate for religious liberty.
2. Utilize resources such as prayer guides, illustrations, videos and guest speakers from www.21wilberforce.org/resources and www.standwithnigeria.org/resources.
3. Texas churches should participate in Speak Freedom Texas, Sunday November 5. Information about this state-wide event will be available soon.
(c) 2017 Wilberforce