War on Christians!

By Neil Earle

A WSJ (Wall Street Journal)/NBC poll shows that more than 6 in 10 Americans now back military actions against the Islamic State or ISIS.

National columnist and former Ronald Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan thinks she knows the answer for the bellicose mood. “Jihadists are de-Christianizing the Mideast, where Christianity began. An estimated two-thirds of the Christians of Iraq have fled that country since the 2003 U.S. invasion…In Syria, too, they have executed Christians for refusing to convert” (“The Genocide of Mideastern Christians,” WSJ, 9/13-14/14).

But…The Gospel Goes Out

In spite of life-threatening harassment in many many countries Christians find a way to get the life-saving redeeming message of Jesus to the world.

Mission coordinator Josh McDowell from Josh McDowell Ministry in reports on the “secret evangelist” working in one country closed to Christianity. This man was converted by watching “the Jesus Film” which some claim to be the most-watched film in history though largely unknown in North America. The secret evangelist works for a utility company, a job that gives him easy access to thousands and thousands of homes in the city where he lives. This man has secret pockets sewn into his jacket lining filled with New Testaments, Christian literature and DVDs to share for free. This often takes place over tea when his work is done.

Loma Linda, California is home base for John and Naomi Biswas and the Bengali Evangelical Association, a donation-based ministry working in that poor Asian country that is 92% Muslim and 7% Hindu. Through ingenious methods since the 1990s, the Gospel goes out to the towns and villages of rural Bangladesh through food and clothes for the needy, Bible schools and Bible handouts along with training thousands of nursing assistants.

One of the most innovative programs is purchasing goats to give to widows and single parents in Bangladesh as a ready source of fresh nourishing milk and as a source of protein as animals intermingle with each other and reproduce. Sewing machines for poor widows and a fishpond for growing yet another source of food makes BEA’s work exceedingly relevant and practical for this poor country, a “hands on” good work that has earned the praise of the Anglican Church in Bangladesh.

Where there’s a will there’s a way and Christian people in tough circumstances live out the timeless adage that “the more they persecuted them the more they grew.” In the Middle Ages a wise French bishop declared that the Church Jesus founded is an anvil that has worn out many hammers. And that truth lives today.

Thus on August 26 thirty or more faith groups led by Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals and Richard Mouw, emeritus president of Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, wrote an open letter to President Barack Obama. It stated:

“The Islamic state poses a serious genocidal threat to religious minorities in northern Iraq as well as Sunni and Shia Muslims that reject the Islamic Sate’s barbaric killings…We commend your authorization of food drops for the Yazidi population and airstrikes against the Islamic State forces holding them under siege. These actions provided a small window for thousands of Yazidi civilians to escape the siege on Mount Sinjar…much more remains to be done…

“Just this Sunday, August 17, at least 80 Yazidi men were executed for refusing to convert to Islam. More than 1000 women and girls were kidnapped by Islamic State forces with the intent of forcing conversion…”

Protection Needed

Other events noted in the letter include:

– 700 Sunni Muslims of al-Sheitat tribe in Syria executed

– flight of almost all Christian families in June when Mosul fell

– over 200,000 people displaced bringing the total number of displaced in Iraq to 1.4 million

– confirmed reports of beheadings and crucifixions in both Iraq and Syria.

The letter also welcomed the launch of a massive UN relief mission and the adoption by the Security Council of Resolution 2170 placing sanctions to cut off financing of ISIS.

It concluded: “As leaders of different faiths we strongly believe in the protection of civilians of any faith from mass slaughter based on their beliefs. We have seen your willingness to act swiftly and with compassion to protect religious minorities under threat…we urge you to continue to protect those in Iraq who remain at risk.”

A Dread Litany

On February 13, 2012 Newsweek magazine reported on “The War on Christians” in a cover story that made some hard reading. According to the author:

Terror attacks on Christians in Africa, the Middle East and Asia increased 309% from 2003 to 2010.

– The notorious school-girl kidnappers named Boko Haram in Nigeria (a 40% Christian nation) announced “it will kill all Christians in the country.” Already it has destroyed more than 350 churches and killed 510 people in January, 2012

– The Sudanese government has displaced between 53,000 and 75,000 innocent civilians

– In Cairo in 2011, more than 200,000 Copts (Egyptian Christians who make up 11% of the population) have fled their homes after brutal reprisals for protest marches against Islamist attacks.

– The 2.8 million Christians in Pakistan live in fear of draconian blasphemy laws. Simply assenting to the Trinity is considered blasphemous by the Islamic government. World Vision, trying to aid recovery from an earthquake, was attacked there in 2010 leaving six dead and four wounded.

– In Indonesia the 7% of the people who are Christians have seen attacks grow from 198 in 1998 to 276 in 2010-2011.

Iran has jailed dozens of Christians and pastors especially for daring to worship outside the officially sanctioned church system.

Saudi Arabia hosts more than a million Christians as foreign workers but bans church services and private acts of devotion. Homes are regularly raided.

– In Ethiopia with a majority of the nation Christian, church burnings are a problem.

Prayers and Petitions

Nina Shea of the Center for Religious Freedom sees minorities have lost the protection of their societies, especially where radical Islam is growing. In rural Bangladesh a small campus sponsored by Bengali Evangelistic Association, a group our church regularly sponsors (see “Links”), was raided four years ago by Islamic toughs and several people were injured. The local police chief either stood by or planned the raid.

Somali-born writer and activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali argues that Western nations need to monitor the billions of dollars it gives in foreign aid to the offending countries. Aid and trade should be made conditional on the freedom of worship for all citizens. Much of the violence, she claims, is not centrally planned but spontaneously erupts when festering resentment needs an outlet. This problem is as old as human civilization and as up-to-date as a reading of the Sermon on the Mount wherein Jesus warned that persecutions would surely come (Matthew 5:10). But where-ever nations, diplomats and individuals can make a difference it is time for Christians to create an opening, to petition the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to work on rulers and those in authority to take positive, preventative action (1 Timothy 2:1-5).

This many are doing.