FRONT ROYAL, Virginia — Christians continue to be martyred abroad, but few American believers are aware of how pervasive religious persecution is around the world. “Christians in this nation don’t realize how fortunate they are to live in the U.S.,” observes Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International.
The Taliban’s kidnapping of the South Korean aid workers in Afghanistan illustrates how that conflict is essentially religious. Yet “the U.S.-backed government is little friendlier to Christians,” observes Jacobson. “Last year Christian convert Abdul Rahman barely evaded a death sentence, and only after Western nations placed substantial pressure on Kabul.”
In Turkey attacks continue on Christians and churches. In an area along the Black Sea coast where an Italian Catholic priest was previously murdered, a Protestant church was vandalized and its pastor threatened. “Earlier this year three Christians were murdered in a particularly gruesome fashion by Muslim extremists,” Jacobson points out.
Attacks on Christians are up in India. In one city a Catholic convent school was attacked; in another town Hindu fanatics murdered a Christian convert; elsewhere a Protestant minister was arrested for allegedly offering money for a conversion, after seeking to mediate a dispute within a Buddhist family; in another case Christian missionaries were beaten. “India might be a democracy,” notes Jacobson, “but it is far from free religiously.”
In Kazakhstan, Christians were tossed out of their home because they held an unauthorized prayer meeting. A Baptist minister was arrested in Azerbaijan while conducting services.
Malaysia’s top court prevented a Muslim woman from legally converting to Christianity. Egypt similarly discourages conversions away from Islam; while mobs recently attacked Coptic Christians thought to be planning to build a church.
Pakistan is preparing to execute a Christian falsely accused of blaspheming Islam and the prophet Mohammed. China continues to close down Protestant home churches and promote the official “patriotic” Catholic church over the underground, legitimate church.
Vietnam recently arrested and tortured Montagnard Christians. In Indonesia scores of Christians have been arrested for blasphemy; Muslim extremists forced the Carmelite Prayer Centre in West Java to cancel a planned international conference. Christians were killed and wounded in a bomb attack in Ethiopia.
Far worse “is the plight of Christians in Iraq,” says Jacobson. Christians are routinely murdered and kidnapped; Christian churches are regularly destroyed; hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq.
American Christians “belong to an international fellowship of believers,” explains Jacobson, and “have an obligation to care for their brethren around the world.” The U.S. government could speak out more, he notes, but often refuses to do so because of other political considerations.
“Which means that it is up to Americans, all Americans who believe in freedom of conscience and faith,” says Jacobson. “It is ironic that in an age when many people once thought religion was on the wane, persecution has become a bigger issue than ever.”
But this means that our role as Christians and as Americans is more important than ever. As persecution rises abroad, “we must make our voices in protest even more loudly known,” he explains.
For more information about Christian persecution, visit www.christianfreedom.org.