Continuing our focus on the plight of persecuted Christians, I mentioned last Sunday that we can assist the persecuted Church in three ways:
§ Pray for them
§ Support organizations that are on the front lines of helping them
§ Encourage our President & State Department to put pressure on countries that persecute Christians
Countries that persecute Christians are often sensitive to political & diplomatic pressure from the United States.
For example, in 2001, President Bush gave a speech strongly condemning the persecution of Christians in Sudan, an African country that is 61% Muslim and 26% Christian. Among other atrocities, the Christians in Sudan were being denied food unless they converted to Islam.
The President’s forceful speech started a chain of events that resulted in a 2005 peace agreement that included significant reforms with regard to religious liberty. Today, the Church in Sudan is experiencing tremendous growth!
This is an example of the effective use of the presidential “bully pulpit.”
By comparison, the current Administration has been mostly silent on the subject of religious persecution.
In 2011, thousands of Christians in Egypt (a country which is 87% Muslim & 13% Christian) were staging a peaceful demonstration near the city of Maspero in support of religious liberty and the protection of religious minorities.
In response to the demonstration, government security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 24 and wounding 322. (Three security forces were also killed, possibly by friendly fire.) This event is known as “the Maspero Massacre.”
Here is an excerpt from the President’s statement following the massacre:
“[I am] deeply concerned about the violence in Egypt that has led to a tragic loss of life among demonstrators and security forces. The United States expresses our condolences to the families and loved ones of all who were killed or injured, and stands with the Egyptian people in this painful and difficult time. Now is a time for restraint on all sides so that Egyptians can move forward together to forge a strong and united Egypt.”
Christian leaders in Egypt were demoralized by the President’s statement.
§ There’s no expression of outrage in the statement
§ The statement makes no mention of the fact that the victims were Christians
§ The statement makes no mention of the fact these Christians were demonstrating peacefully for religious freedom
§ In calling for “restraint on all sides,” the statement drew a moral equivalency between the victims and the aggressors
Samuel Tadros, an Egyptian scholar, commented on the President’s statement:
“Perhaps I ought to join the president in his concern and call for restraint: I call upon the security forces to refrain from killing Christians, and upon Christians to refrain from dying.”
Unfortunately, that is not happening. Christians continue to die in Egypt.
Again, as we have opportunity, we can encourage our political leaders to speak out on the subject of religious persecution, and to do so forthrightly.
P.S. I apologize for the especially long service last Sunday and hope nobody was inconvenienced. I included too many pieces in the service. When it comes to preaching & planning services, it can be a struggle knowing what to leave out.