In the depths of a prison in Khartoum, a woman who just gave birth to her daughter is waiting to die. Her crime is being a Christian, and while she was given an opportunity to convert to Islam and spare her life, she chose to die instead. In Iran, a Pastor is serving out an eight-year sentence for being a Christian. He is an American citizen, and our country has chosen, for whatever reason, to leave him there to languish. In Pakistan, police are accused of killing a Christian man after interrogating him over thefts – they initially had said that he hung himself, but in the end it was proven he died of injuries inflicted during torture, something commonplace among Christians there. In Iraq, in Syria, in countless countries around the world, this is the fate of Christians. Persecutions are commonplace, and our brothers and sisters in Christ have seemingly no advocates and no protection.
We occasionally hear about such stories here in the West, but what do we as Christians here do? Let’s face it, we do nothing. We wring our hands and offer prayers and then go on with our daily lives, truly oblivious of what our brothers and sisters are actually facing each day on the other side of the world.
This very issue was the subject of a press conference here in Washington, DC some weeks back. The “Call to Action on Behalf of Persecuted Christians in Egypt, Iraq and Syria” had in attendance a large cross-section of Christian leaders, from Catholics to Protestants to even Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, all essentially saying the same thing; the Christians in these countries (and others like them) need your help. That’s doesn’t mean you pack up your bags and head for Damascus or Baghdad or God knows where else. No, it means that you should contact your local representatives and your media outlets and let them know what’s happening. It means you pick up your keyboard and crank out a blog piece expressing your concerns, worries and fears of what is going on overseas. It means that you get the word out any way you can.
Canon Andrew White, Chaplin of St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad, summed it up well at this meeting; “Our biggest problem is that we feel forgotten by the church,” he stated. “Our problem is not there in Iraq, it is here in the US.” He feels forgotten by the Church, and the problems he speaks of are that of a lack of support from the West. This man is running a church in one of the most hostile places in the world to be a Christian, and he feels alone and forgotten. Instead of doing everything we can to give this man the strength he needs to run his ministry, we don’t even think about him.
I guess I understand that it’s easy to be complacent. We all take for granted the freedoms and safety we have here in the West, to be able to worship in any way we see fit without fear of being hassled, imprisoned, or killed. It’s easy to forget, as we corral our children every Sunday and take them to Liturgy in their little suits and dresses, that children the same age as them are growing up without parents because they are in prison or dead, or that they fear for their safety even going to church, or that they even have a church to go to. On any given Sunday morning, in our busyness and rush, I suppose I get that the last thought on our mind is what is happening to our Christian brethren in the Middle East. Did an armed gunman storm the church during liturgy and open fire? Did the local police arrest everyone steeped in prayer? Did the church get destroyed? This happens in places overseas each and every week, and simply based on our inaction here in the West, it’s very obvious, especially to Christians in these places, that we do not care.
Shame on us.
Christian persecution in these countries is real, and it’s not the nonsense that we hear about in thenews here. Persecution is not political correctness. Persecution is not trying to force a baker to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage. Persecution is not things that make us uncomfortable as we go about our daily lives, running errands and whatnot. Persecution is what people face in the Middle East and in North Korea and other such places each day. Persecution is spending years in jail for your belief in Christ. Persecution is not knowing if today will be the day you die because of how you pray. Persecution is giving birth to your child shackled in a prison cell as you await the State to carry out your death sentence because you chose Christ. That is persecution and we should all be outraged over this. Not outrage that breaks out in prayer, but outrage that breaks out in action. Outrage that results in your contacting your elected representatives and asking them to do what is right. Outrage that pushes you to urge the media to report on what Christians are facing day in and day out in many parts of the world. That’s what we should be doing as western Christians.
Let’s not let our busyness lead to complacency. Fellow Christians are hurting and need our help. It’s our duty to offer it.