From pastors imprisoned in China to the outright slaughter of religious minority groups in Iraq, religious persecution is a global problem. According to research from Open Doors, a nonprofit that seeks to protect religious liberties, 2014 reached historic highs for worldwide religious persecution. In North America, we may feel somewhat immune to the violence against religious groups around the world, even as we face a different form of persecution as various laws and cultural trends attack our beliefs. But around the world, violent religious persecution is raging like a wildfire.
The media often avoid the truth behind these atrocities, and even our elected leaders—because of political correctness—look the other way to avoid dealing honestly with the issue. It’s important for us as Christians to know what’s happening in the world, to be better informed so that we can understand how to love, pray for and help our brothers and sisters in Christ. To better comprehend this issue, I talked with a good friend, former U.S. congressman Frank Wolf, who has dedicated much of his career to the cause of human rights around the world. He said that Christians can (and should) engage more in this issue through the following:
Seek out the stories of the persecuted church.
Not all of us are able to go to other countries and learn about what's happening on the ground, to visit with Christians in refuge camps. But we can do our best to inform ourselves. It's easy to focus on all the smaller, inconsequential stories that our culture seems to be obsessed with instead of learning about truly important matters. But by learning from and joining the efforts of groups like 21st Century Wilberforce, Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors, we can have a more global perspective of God's people and what battles they face daily.
Understand the truth that this is a real war.
There is a saying in the Middle East: "First the Saturday people, and then the Sunday people." In 1950, the Jewish population of Iraq was 150,000. That population has been nearly eliminated today, and the focus has shifted to Christians and the Yazidis (a monotheistic religious minority). The situation with the Yazidis is a real genocide that's going on as the world watches. And Christians in Iraq are suffering nearly as much. We may be headed to the extermination of Christians in the very cradle of Christianity.
Speak up, speak out.
If there's one thing our system of self-government in the United States is strong at, it is urging our elected leaders to listen to what their constituents are saying. So say something! Call your congressman. Call your senators. You can even call the White House. Write a handwritten letter to your leaders. This actually carries more weight than just an email. Keep it simple, if you like. Just say, “Please do something about the Yazidis and the Christian women and children that are being hurt every day in Iraq."
Join the efforts of the church.
The church must be the leader to speak out on these fundamental issues. Alexis De Tocqueville, when observing the church in America in 1831, wrote, “The pulpits were aflame with righteousness.” That's what needs to happen today. Some church leaders have been very vocal and noble on this issue. But we need more church leaders and members of the church to take up the mantle. The church has to provide the leadership. Today, many millennials are asking, “Is the church relevant today?” If the church begins to speak up against actual evils in our world, it will absolutely be seen as relevant.
Lastly, we must pray every day.
As a couple, as a family, as a congregation. We must seek God's mighty hand of protection for our brothers and sisters in Christ.