Did you ever imagine a hashtag could help spread the word about Christian persecution in a matter of hours? Neither did I.
The #BringBackOurGirls Twitter trend has garnered global media and government outcries after Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, kidnapped over 276 mostly Christian girls ages 14-18 in Nigeria. Unfortunately, young evangelicals (and the broader world) did not take notice of this tragedy because the girls were Christians, but because their captors intend to sell them into human trafficking. Something is very wrong with this "social justice" scenario.
We thank God for the attention this egregious offense has gained worldwide. And so the problem is not that young evangelicals focus heavily on injustices like human trafficking. The problem is that too many only focus on issues like human trafficking, because they are deemed politically correct.
Constantly, young evangelicals, influenced largely by the Religious Left, speak out against the "marginalized," making the poor, women, and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community top priorities. But if we want to talk about the marginalized, then let's remember that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world.
Among Millennials, the term "persecution" is a dirty word when applied to Christians. Society continues to paint Christians as "clamoring and crying" over nothing when we decry discrimination targeted our way.
Let's face it, if media outlets were calling the Boko Haram travesty what it is, a matter of severe Christian persecution by Islamists terrorists, then many of us Millennial would shy away from voicing our outcry, all for fear of being called Islamophobic. Why do I suspect this? Because kidnapping Christian girls is not the first attack by Boko Haram. Far from it. Yet the evangelical world has remained largely silent.
Hanging on her office wall, Faith McDonnell, the Institute on Religion and Democracy's Director of Religious Liberty programs, has a calendar documenting all of Boko Haram's attacks on Nigerian Christians during 2012. It was put together by the Nigeria Working Group Washington, Justice for Jos+ Project, and Jubilee Campaign. To list just a few of a myriad of Christian-targeted assaults, the calendar included:
- January 20, 2012 -Boko Haram attacked and killed more than 200, including Christians
- March 11, 2012 -a Boko Haram suicide bomber attacked a Catholic Church, killing 13
- July 7-9, 2012 - 50 Christians were killed, 187 homes were burned and 200 families were displaced. Boko Haram took responsibility.
This is what injustice looks like.
Millennial evangelicals have big hearts. We know that social justice is an important facet of Christianity. So why are we ignoring the voices of our brothers and sisters in Christ who are being harassed, kidnapped, arrested, beaten, beheaded, and burned alive for their faith?
"Our biggest problem is we feel forgotten by the church," were the chilling words of the Rev. Dr. Canon Andrew White, chaplain of St. George Anglican Church in Baghdad, Iraq. Speaking at a Congressional press conference on American Christian Leaders' "Pledge" to Stand in Solidarity with Imperiled Christian Communities in the Middle East, Canon White explained that Iraqi Christians are under immense persecution, and yet, he said, "Our problem is not there in Iraq." It is here.
Christian persecution happens every day. Your local news channel probably didn't report this, but just Wednesday night, Muslims attacked a Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem during their annual St. George's Day services. Lela Gilbert, journalist and adjunct fellow at Hudson Institute reported that Muslims "stabbed a Christian man who was outside the church serving as a guard. He was hospitalized." Gilbert continued, "Several then started throwing stones at the church. Seven or eight Christians were injured and some physical damage was done…the police didn't show up for an hour."
"This is a multi-generational issue," said 30-year-old Jonnie Moore, the Senior Vice President of Liberty University back at the press conference on Christian persecution. "We live in a young world. 50 percent is under 25 years old. And 85 percent of that 50 percent lives in a country where severe religious persecution isn't an occasional occurrence." Moore continued, "If they fit in a certain group, they live in fear of going to school, they fear professing their faith, they fear even praying silently in their bed at night that they might be the next victim."
In America, young evangelicals take for granted how blessed we are to worship freely. We become fearful of the name-calling, including hateful, bigoted, narrow, and uncompassionate, for a start. But social justice is not always going to be politically correct.
It won't always be easy or popular to live our faith. It requires courage, boldness, Scripture reading and lots of prayer. Young evangelicals must refocus our commitment when it comes to social justice because there are marginalized people in this world, and most of them are called Christians.