- (Photo: Open Doors USA/File)
Within the last few weeks we have seen a rounding up of Christians in Mosul by ISIS, a radical jihadist group, forcing over 3,000 households to choose between death, conversion to Islam or registering and paying a tax that equals a yearly salary. Most Christians fled to northern areas of Iraq.
Presuming that an Iraqi believer could pay such a tax, the Christian would be trusting that once registered and identified as an infidel, the ISIS wouldn't kill or torture him/her. ISIS, the group that then just days later allegedly reported that every woman remaining in Mosul would be genitally mutilated to keep them subjected to their regime's medieval view of Islam, is not a group to be trusted to. say the least.
As if to further remind one of Nazi Germany, the group then proceeded to go throughout the area marking a "N" on every home and business of followers of "the Nazarene" Jesus. Remind anyone else of the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during World War II? It's positively chilling.
Days before that, more women and girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Nearly all the almost 300 girls originally kidnapped in April are still missing; undoubtedly all scattered in hideouts in bordering countries.
A few weeks before that, in an entirely different part of the globe, the southeastern Asian country of Brunei instituted strict Sharia law on the country, effectively putting Christians in the crosshairs. They are now considered Infidels and practicing their faith is very dangerous.
These are just a handful of the troubling incidents that are occurring this summer. How about 70,000 Christians being held in North Korean labor camps for their faith or what happens to a Saudi believer who reads a Bible? How about the imprisoned Iranian pastors and church leaders? I have no doubt there will be more attacks on Christians and their right to religious freedom. Of course, many extremists and radical governments have been targeting Christianity for extinction for years.
All this and hardly a peep from the United States government. Not one word on the tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians who have now effectively lost everything they own. There are only 300,000 Christians left in Iraq with the number dwindling every month.
One glimmer of light was the State Department issuing a report last week on the state of religious freedom around the world with a warning that the Christian presence in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East is becoming a "shadow of its former self." Also on Monday, President Obama nominated Rabbi David Nathan Saperstein as ambassador at large for international religious freedom. That key position has been vacant for the last nine months.
The media coverage is also strangely silent. Stories of persecuted Christians you do see are often covered from a second perspective: women's rights (Meriam Ibrahim's case in Sudan), education and crime (kidnapped girls in Nigeria), refugee crisis (Syrian and Iraqi Christians) and so on.
At what point will the intentional targeting and cleansing of Christians, especially in the troubled Middle East, be not just a story, but the story, in the media and elite circles of government? This one is easy; it won't happen.
Persecution of Christians will not become a major humanitarian crisis for a couple of key reasons.
First, secular and media elitists have no understanding or sympathy for Christianity in general, and specifically oppose the idea of evangelization. Themselves not wanting to be bothered with do-gooding "zealots," aggressive secularists cannot intellectually balance their personal distaste for faith in the marketplace with the human right to express one's faith if he/she chooses.
The idea of compressing expression of Christian faith is both socially pleasing and politically expedient for secular media. Throughout Europe and America there has been a rise in what is called "aggressive secularism." It actively seeks to push faith out of the public square, believing that religion and faith have no place with science and reason. Can there be any doubt that this secularist viewpoint remains untroubled by the persecution of Christians?
Secondly, some Christians have so little Biblical training that they believe Christ's warning that we will be persecuted as He was persecuted means that there is no point in rallying to persecuted believers' defense. How often have I heard people say, "why are you defending persecuted Christians when Christ said we would be persecuted?" How foolish and uninformed; but it is common. Some Christians seem to lack the understanding that we are admonished in the Bible to "strengthen what remains" and that "when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer."
What kind of support can people of faith expect from media and government in the protection of the expression of their Christian faith? Don't count on any.
However, we should be able to count on our own family. The persecution of Jesus followers should be preached from every pulpit and prayed for at every kitchen table. One day soon it may be your faith that is under attack and you will be hoping that others will be praying for you…or even notice that it is happening.