Monday, 15 March 2010

Dear Christians...

Where are you?

Sometimes I send emails about the persecution of Christians in other parts of the world, to my Christian friends in North America. The response I usually get (if I actually get one) is: wow, that's sad. It is not surprising that the persecution of Christians goes largely unreported in mainstream media, but it still surprises me how little attention this issue receives within the Christian community. After an earthquake in Haiti, or Chile, church bulletins are filled with 'please pray for Haiti' announcements, spaghetti dinners are held to raise money, and people gather at prayer meetings to 'pray for the people of country X.' Yet when Christian women and children are slaughtered with machetes in Nigeria, nothing is mentioned. When a Christian housemaid in Lahore is raped, murdered, and burned by her employer: silence. Christians are being targeted and killed in Iraq, but you rarely hear about it. Why is the global Christian community unwilling to speak about the numerous cases of Christians being targeted with violence across the globe? There are a number of possible reasons.

The first possible reason is simple: these stories are not pretty. Earthquakes are messy, hurricanes leave incredible carnage - but these events are often easily explained as 'forces of nature' or 'once in a lifetime.' We do not necessarily know "why" they happen, or why they are "allowed" to happen, they just do. On the other hand, acknowledging that Christians are targeted and persecuted requires a certain admission, even if it is unspoken: there is incredible evil in this world. This may sound funny, since many Sunday School stories revolve around 'sin,' 'evil,' and a battle between good and evil - but the evil that drives men to rape and murder someone because of their faith is far more shocking than the evil that leads us to gossip about someone's spending habits. In an era when many churches are drifting away from traditional doctrine to teach happiness and prosperity, the story of a Muslim convert to Christianity being brutally murdered after his baptism in Iraq just does not give that Sunday-Morning-Warm-andFuzzy-Feeling.

Another possible explanation for the absence of this narrative in the Christian community is that acknowledging these events forces us to examine our own faith. The Bible contains the stories of many persecuted Christians, and although they contain relevant lessons it is easy to feel 'removed' from the actual events. Taking a closer look at the current persecution of Christians around the globe would require a disturbing acknowledgement: Christians today are being attacked and persecuted because of their faith. Consequently, if you are a Christian, it is possible that you could be attacked and persecuted because of your faith (and in some cases (legal ones) this is already taking place in North America). When this realization sets in it can lead to an entirely new series of questions: How strong is my faith? Why do I believe this? If showing up to church next Sunday meant putting my life at risk, would I be there? If being baptized made me a target for violence in my community would I do it? None of these questions are easy to answer.

A final reason (although there are no doubt many other possibilites) that Christians may seem oblivious to the persecution that is taking place is quite simple: they do not know what to do. When a hurricane strikes, you can send a team to help rebuild. When an earthquake hits, you can send medical supplies. When people are in need, you can buy an extra bag of groceries and drop it off at the food bank. But what do you do when you learn that a Christian, thousands of miles away, was killed after the community found out he was baptized? For many, particularly North Americans whose benevolence and generosity is unrivaled, it may seem easier to ignore that the situation even exists than to acknowledge it only to be hit with a feeling of utter helplessness. However the Christian community is not, and will never be, helpless. There are things you can do. No, I am not about to suggest creating a group of Onward Christian Soldiers to venture into the world and fight on behalf of fellow Christians - there are real and practical things that individuals (or groups) can do.

1. Acknowledge the stories I have linked to above. Share them with your friends. These stories need to be told. It is as simple as that.
2. Pray for the thousands of Christians who are currently at risk because of their faith. (After all, you do believe in the power of prayer, don't you?)
3. Get involved. There are numerous organizations worldwide who, through various means, work to help protect Christians at risk of persecution. Drop me a line and I can recommend a few. Although you don't need to join a group to get involved - individuals can easily write letters to politicans regarding specific issues.

The Christian community remains silent on this issue at its own peril.