Imagine being awakened by the police. They've come to tell you somebody broke into your next-door neighbors’ house in the night — and shot to death the entire family: Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and their three young children — Conner, Jacob and Olivia.
Shocking as this is, the police have more bad news: The Kellys across the street — who attend your church — were also killed. They burned to death after someone set fire to their house. And the Schneider family, two doors down: You're horrified to learn that Gerald, Kathy and their twin daughters were beheaded.
Thank heaven this sort of thing has not happened in America since the Manson family murders in 1969. But what if it did? What would you do if it had happened every week for the past year, in neighborhoods all over America? You'd be horrified, of course, and you'd demand that something be done about it.
The tragic reality is that this sort of thing is happening all over the world. Christians are being murdered for their faith in Africa and the Middle East. And if you just breathed a sigh of relief like I did because it's not happening here to people that you know or I know, well, shame on you and shame on me.
Open Doors ministry, which helps persecuted Christians around the world, keeps a watch list of countries known to torment believers. This year, the worst offender is North Korea, where Christians can be executed for the “crime” of owning a Bible. Between 50,000 and 70,000 believers — including children — languish in labor camps.
Next on the list is Saudi Arabia, where the religion police hunt down Christians and throw them in jail for daring to gather in house churches. Persecution of Christians has also shot up in Africa, where, according to Open Doors, “fundamentalist variations of Islam have rapidly gain[ed] influence.” Mali has jumped to number seven on the list, where hundreds of Christians fled after Muslims told them they would be slaughtered if they stayed.
In Syria, tens of thousands of believers also were forced to flee by rebels and jihadists. It's the same story in Egypt, China, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Iran and Yemen.
What can we do about this? First, urge your senators and representatives to support a bill that will be introduced soon by Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia. This bill calls for a special envoy at the State Department to advocate on behalf of religious minorities around the globe. I’ll keep you up to date on that bill.
We should also get our own churches involved. Congressman Wolf, who is co-chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, recently sent a letter to 300 religious leaders urging them to do more to help their persecuted brethren. “Every day around the world,” Wolf wrote, “men and women of faith are imprisoned, beaten, detained, tortured and even killed. Have we in the West ceased to be salt and light? Has our comfort led to complacency? Can the church in the West be galvanized to act?”
And then he quoted from Hebrews: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” And then Congressman Wolf quoted from one of my heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.”
Mr. Wolf is right. We cannot remain silent. We must urge our religious and political leaders to speak up on behalf of those who are forbidden to speak. And we must pray for them daily — suffering people who are neighbors in Christ if not neighbors in fact.
To read Frank Wolf’s letter and to learn more about the Open Doors watch list, please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
Publication date: February 6, 2013