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Our Silence Kills, Please Speak Up

Tuesday, September 4, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags:

"Speak up for those who can't speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly, defend the right of the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:8-9)

"One evening the soldiers talked about a girl they had raped many times in the course of the afternoon. Through it all, the girl sang hymns, strange evangelical songs, and she kept on singing, even after they shot her in the chest. She lay on the ground with the blood flowing from her chest, but she kept on singing-a bit weaker than before, but still singing. Then the soldiers grew tired of this and shot her again, but still she sang. And then the soldiers became afraid. Terrified of the girl, they fell upon her with machetes, and at last the singing stopped," >From the New Yorker magazine (December 6, 1993)

During the past fifty years Westerners have enjoyed relative peace, prosperity, and comfort. Those born during and after the WWII cannot relate as much to the phrase "religious persecution". To some Westerners walking several blocks to church, or having to listen to a long sermon, especially when the heating or air conditioning is not working may be considered forms of persecution. Today, some in the west pay a price for claiming their faith in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. They may lose their jobs, get denied promotions, or endure laughter at school, work, or the neighborhood for not "fitting in the crowd." As unfortunate as this may be, Christians in countries like America do enjoy religious liberty as a basic freedom and legal right.

The United Nations has declared freedom of religion a universally recognized human right. Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world, making the persecution of Christians one of the most egregious human rights violations of our time. Christ-followers are persecuted all over the world simply for what they believe.

Open Door's World Watch List, July 2000, top forty countries are: Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, China, Chechnya, Yemen, North Korea, Maldives, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, Comoro Islands, Libya, Vietnam, Sudan, Egypt, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Laos, Bhutan, Colombia, Brunei, Qatar, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Nigeria (north), Mexico (south), Azerbaijan, India, Burma, Mauritania, Turkey, Bahrain, Somali land, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Cuba, Kuwait, and Oman.

Christians in these countries experience persecution for their faith to lesser or greater degrees. The term persecution is typically used in reference to those places where oppression and ill treatment are especially severe. The brutal forms and realities of religious persecution include: abduction, abuse, beating, beheading, bombing, brutality, burning, clashes, damage of properties, death, denial of freedom of religion, destruction, devastation, discrimination in education and employment, estrangement, explosion, expulsion, extortion, fabrication of evidence, fake trial, family division, fines, forced conversion, harassment, imprisonment, incarceration, injuries, intolerance, jailing, killing, massacre, mutilation, physical abuse, poverty, prolonged detentions, raids, rape, restriction, retribution, riots, seizing of belongings , separation, sexual abuse, slavery, smashing heads, stabbing, cutting throats, torture, unjust force, violence, etc.

More Christians have died for their faith in the 20th century than in the previous 19 centuries combined. About 150,000 each year are martyred. About two million are being actively persecuted. And millions more are living with their religious freedoms severely restricted.

To increase your understanding of religious persecution, let us briefly review the situation in few countries:

Saudi Arabia ranks as the world's most restrictive Islamic State. The Saudi government strictly forbids any non-Muslim worship meetings, even among expatriates, and no Christian religious literature may enter the country. Simply put, freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia.

Sudan is experiencing persecution unparalleled since the first century church. The Muslim government, in an attempt to Islamize the entire population, has taken the lives of nearly 2,000,000 people who will not convert to Islam. This government also sanctions mass crucifixions, the burning of Christian villages and Churches, and the sale of children into slavery. This systematic persecution of the Sudanese people has forced 3.5 million to flee their homes for relative safety.

Egypt is the home of over twelve million Christians (the Middle East's largest Christian community). Democracy in Egypt is not extended to Christians. Life for Christians in Egypt is becoming extremely difficult, and they know that the Muslim fundamentalists' objective is to totally eliminate them. They are being attacked, imprisoned, tortured, fired from their employment, treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against for educational and employment opportunities, and denied fair political representation. They are vulnerable to violent attacks by Muslim extremist groups who have abducted and raped Christian women and girls and forced them to convert to Islam (about 40,000 per year). While there is a mosque at almost every street corner, many cities are without one single church. Also, many churches are falling apart, since obtaining a repair permit was almost impossibility until recently. The 1856 Ottoman Decree causes these problems.

As the world was celebrating the beginning of a new century, a new wave of hatred toward the Christians in Upper Egypt (in a small town named Kosheh) exploded in a shooting spree that resulted in the death of over 20 unarmed, peaceful, Christians (including women and children).

In China, every year more names of courageous, uncompromising believers are added to the roll of Chinese martyrs and prisoners. As the ruling Communist Party makes strides toward a free market economy, it continues to dig in its heels when it comes to free religious expression. China's state-sanctioned churches, the Catholic Patriotic Association and the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement, have only the semblance of freedom-their actions are controlled tightly by the government's Religious Affairs Bureau.

Pakistan's small Christian minority suffers discrimination because of a growing movement to impose the Islamic law on the nation. "Blasphemy Law" is a part of Pakistan's criminal law that make it a crime to "blaspheme the prophet Mohammed" or "insult the Koran," Islam's holy book.

As Christians, we are called by our very belief to help others who are persecuted for their faith in Christ. The Bible makes a strong assertion that persecution for righteousness' sake will ever confront Christians. But at the same time, it also solemnly charges us to take up the cause of the needy and to speak for those who are victims. There are several Bible verses that demand us to act to defend the persecuted. Here are few of the Scripture challenges:

* Speak up... judge fairly... defend the right of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9).
* Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners (Hebrews 13:3).
* Rescue… hold back those staggering toward slaughter. (Proverb 24:11-12).
* Lay down our lives for our brothers (1 John 3:16).
* Do good unto all men, especially…. of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).

Now that you know the FACTS and what the Bible says, what will YOU do about it? Just in case you decide to do nothing, please read the following two verses from the Bible "Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say,' But we knew nothing about this, does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?" (Proverb 24:11-12). A wise man once said," All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for enough good men to do nothing."

So what are you to do? Here is what you can do to help the persecuted Christians around the world:

1. GET INFORMED. Commit to learn about the dilemma of the persecuted. Inform and involve your relatives, friends, church members, neighbors, etc. There are many available books, videos, and web sites to use. Three excellent web sites are: The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (http://www.persecutedchurch.org/), Open Doors with Brother Andrew (http://www.opendoorsusa.org/), and The Voice of the Martyrs (www.persecution.com).

2. PRAY. Make this a matter of prayer (persecuted Christians are asking most of all for our prayers). Pray for the persecuted people, their persecutors, the leaders of the countries that allow persecution, and the leaders of the free world that they may use their God-given power to make a difference. Finally, pray that God may mightily use you.

3. GET INVOLVED. Make a commitment to be an active part of the solution.

4. WRITE to your President, your members of Congress, the United Nations, and the rulers of the countries that practice persecution.

5. EXPRESS YOUR OPINION. Write articles to newspapers and magazines expressing your opinion. Contact your local radio and TV stations to cover this pressing topic. Utilize the call-in radio programs to inform and involve the public.

6. INVOLVE YOUR CHURCH. Educate and involve your church. Discuss this issue in the Sunday school. Organize a "Persecution Conference." Plan a special program for "The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church." Which will officially be celebrated around the world on Sunday, November 12, 2000. Get your church to adopt and support a persecuted church.

7. PROVIDE TO THE PERSECUTED. Many of the persecuted cannot find jobs due to their faith. They suffer tremendous financial hardships and they desperately need financial help. Consider adopting a persecuted family. Consider hosting a dinner, at your Church or community, to benefit the persecuted.

8. FAST. Make a commitment to fast at least once a month and try to feel in humility the tremendous hunger and thirst that the persecuted Christians experience daily.

As Christians, we must work to put an end to the persecution and human rights violations being borne by our brothers and sisters around the world. With a crisis of this magnitude--blatant persecution--the consciences of Christians must be seared. The persecuted Christians share our faith, but not our freedom. It is my prayer that you get involved. You will be blessed.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." 1 John 3:16

Nagi A. Kheir, Spokesman
The American Coptic Association
Member of the International Coptic Congress
Director of Middle East Affairs, Advocates International
9691D Main Street, Fairfax Virginia 22031
Phone (703) 764-0011 & Fax (703) 764-0077

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