Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Church In Harm's Way: Christian Persecution Around The World

One of the rationales for the U.S. going to war in both Afghanistan and Iraq was to bring democracy to the Middle East.  The citizens of both countries have been able to exercise their civil rights under governments established by the U.S. and its allies.  Yet in both countries the minority Christian populations find themselves under attack and the Obama administration, like its predecessor, does not seem to be very concerned.  Here is an interview of Mindy Belz, an editor at World Magazine, on Afghan Christians being jailed for their faith and facing the possibility of execution. (Running time: just over 10 minutes.) In Iraq, the Christian population has plummeted from 1.5 million before the invasion to under 700,000 today as Islamic radicals have targeted the Iraqi church with terroristic acts and many Christians have fled.  In the 90's, the U.S. fought to protect European Muslims from ethnic cleansing. Our military has helped establish a government in Iraq that would include all the factions of the Muslim majority.  Yet, according to Mindy Belz, if there was a coordinated attack upon Iraq's Christian minority that becomes a genocide, the U.S. has no plans to intervene. Read the article here from Gene Veith.  From the Touchstone Magazine blog: after terrorist attacks against Christians in Egypt, who has mustered the courage to serve as human shields protecting Coptic Christians at their Christmas services? Egyptian Muslims. At least some people see Christians as worth protecting. And these brave Muslims have none of the resources available to our government to provide protection to Christians.  All they have is themselves and they are willing to put their all on the line.

I did not know that like the Chinese government, the Iranian government allows state sanctioned Christian Churches to function under strict government supervision.  And like Chinese Christians who desire to worship God without their government telling them how to do so, Iranian Christians have begun worshipping at House Churches. This past Christmas day, the Iranian government moved against the House Church movement, arresting 70 Christians.  According to this article from World Magazine, this represents a major escalation in government suppression of Christian activity in Iran

Chinese Christian lawyer and human rights activist Gao Zhisheng has defended the rights not only of Christians but of other religious groups as well, such as the Falun Gong. For this, he has been arrested by the Chinese government and undergone torture that even he cannot completely describe. His family and associates have also undergone incredible persecution.  Here is an article from Christianity Today Liveblog which quotes a letter from Gao describing what he has endured. CT Liveblog also links to a forward to a book written by Gao describing the humanly unendurable persecution he, his family and his associates have undergone. If this article doesn't motivate you to pray for persecuted everywhere, your heart must indeed be very hard.

Speaking of China, Christianity Today posted an interview today with Republican Presidential candidate and self described Evangelical, former MN governor Tim Pawlenty.  He was asked how he would deal with China's human rights abuses if he were elected. His response: China owns most of our debt so we had better pay our bills before we speak up for the persecuted. Here are his exact words:

 "First of all, we should get our finances in order. China has so much leverage over us, and it's hard to tell off your banker. We've given them too much leverage over our economy, which diminishes our ability to speak with the right kind of moral authority and authority in general on other matters. We need to speak consistently about our values as a people, and that includes religious respect and the ability for people to worship freely. We've got to get our own house in order if we're going to be an effective voice on how other countries should change."

So Pawlenty thinks that bad fiscal policy makes it bad policy to speak for the persecuted? And that if one country has us over a barrel, we should remain silent concerning those being tortured by that country? Pawlenty's answer is just as contemptible as Obama's "paygrade" remark concerning abortion.

The government of Bhutan is a small country wedged between China and India. This Buddhist nation has a Christian minority of about 6,000 persons. The government is about to legalize Christianity, but like China and Iran, legalization comes with strings attached. Like China and Iran, only those Churches sanctioned by the state can legally worship. No doubt, the most devout Christians will secretly worship in House Churches, which will trigger government persecution. Will the U.S. speak out against such persecution? Not if we elect "conservative evangelical" Pawlenty to the White House. Bhutan's Christians will first have to wait for President Pawlenty to get our bills paid. The article linked to above is from the CT mag. blog.

Let's not think that persecution against Christians is entirely a non-western reality.  While Christians are not thrown into jail for worshipping the Triune God (not yet), the secular state tries to make Christian worship a private matter in which the rights of Christian conscience do not affect public policy.  Here are two articles on government attacks on the Home Schooling movement, one from the CT Liveblog concerning Germany, and one from World Net Daily concerning the U.S. (Thanks to a friend on Facebook for posting this link.  I don't know if my friend wishes to be cited.)

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