The worldwide persecution of Christians reached horrifying heights in 2015. But what do the presidential candidates have to say about it?
It's campaign season, which means the media has us entertaining vitally important questions as we decide who their next president will be. Questions such as: What's behind Hillary's coughing fit? Is Bernie Sanders really a Communist? Is Ted Cruz actually a Canadian citizen? And why is Donald Trump's hair orange?
If the level of political discourse makes you feel like boarding a cruise ship, sailing to Tahiti, and staying until the election is over, I don't blame you. But if you have no plans to leave, I'd suggest we focus on a far more important campaign issue — one the candidates aren't saying much about, but should be: The persecution of Christians around the world.
The organization Open Doors USA recently came out with its 2016 Watch List. It revealed that last year, 2015, was the worst year in modern history in terms of Christians being persecuted for their faith. The killing of Christians nearly doubled since 2014 — to a horrifying 7,000 people. The worst offenders: North Korea, Syria, Iraq, Eritrea, and Afghanistan. Rounding out the top ten: Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Iran, and Libya.
For the most part, those who kill Christians embrace radical Islam. The rise of violent Islamic extremism is "the lead generator of persecution for 35 out of the 50 nations on the list," according to Open Doors. In regions of the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, "persecution has risen to a level akin to ethnic cleansing." A new phenomenon, the report said, was the rise of non-state terrorism, such as ISIS.
And persecutors are not merely murdering the faithful. They're also driving them out of lands where they've lived for centuries. More than a million Christians have been forced to flee to Europe or America from Africa and the Middle East. In Iraq, Christians are "on the verge of extinction." In Eretria, Christians are tortured in an effort to force them to recant their faith in Christ. Violent Hindu extremists put India on the top twenty list for the first time. And in other countries, Christians experienced attacks on their religious freedoms, or saw their churches burned down by those who hate them.
The only real good news in all of this, notes the World Watch List, can be summed up in statements by the victims of persecution. "Persecuted Christians the world over will often say, 'We are persecuted because we are doing something right, and this persecution shows we are ripe fruit for Christ.'"
Amen to that.
As western Christians, we must pray without ceasing for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ — for their protection, and for their ability to stand firmly for Christ in the face of torture and death.
But we also must insist that our government do everything possible to prevent the killing, torture, enslavement, and imprisonment of Christians around the world. There is much it can do.
I urge you to read the full report of the 2016 World Watch List from Open Doors. Come to BreakPoint.org and we'll link you to it. And you can learn more about Christian persecution at our upcoming Wilberforce Weekend, taking place April 8 through 10 in Washington DC. Experts on worldwide persecution — like Congressman Frank Wolf and Johnnie Moore — will be speaking to us. I hope you'll join me, Eric Metaxas, and many other Christian thought leaders for this important weekend.
And instead of allowing our presidential candidates to focus on such trivial matters as who has a higher "likability" factor, or calling competitors "dumb," we should demand they get serious, and hold their feet to the fire, so to speak: Every single one of them should be made to explain what he or she will do to help protect Christians from being slaughtered around the globe.