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“Since 2003, more than half of Iraq’s Christian population of 800,000 has fled,” notes Fox columnist Lela Gilbert. (But the world’s a better place without Saddam Hussein, right?)
The factoid is not only alarming, it is also not alone. Kirsten Powers, who previously shook up the pitiful silence of the journalistic world on the Kermit Gosnell horror, is now calling out the American pulpit, religious leadership, and even the Senate for their own shameful silence on the widespread persecution (murders) of Christians in the post-Arab Spring Middle East. She chronicles,
Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not so. The silence has been nearly deafening.
Christians were also the target of Islamic fanatics in the attack on a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, this week that killed more than 70 people. The Associated Press reported that the Somali Islamic militant group al-Shabab “confirmed witness accounts that gunmen separated Muslims from other people and let the Muslims go free.” The captives were asked questions about Islam. If they couldn’t answer, they were shot.
In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancé’s cell and was told by member of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat.
About those Iraqi Christians? They have been consistently persecuted since 2003. Powers reports the testimony of Nina Shea, a human rights lawyer who testified before Congress in 2011: “[I]n August 2004 … five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad … The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians … have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes. . . .”
So, Powers’s question looms: why the silence? More importantly, what do we do about it?
Some have tried. She notes,
In January, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) penned a letter to 300 Catholic and Protestant leaders complaining about their lack of engagement. “Can you, as a leader in the church, help?” he wrote. “Are you pained by these accounts of persecution? Will you use your sphere of influence to raise the profile of this issue—be it through a sermon, writing or media interview?”
There have been far too few takers.
Wolf and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) sponsored legislation last year to create a special envoy at the State Department to advocate for religious minorities in the Middle East and South-Central Asia. It passed in the House overwhelmingly, but died in the Senate.
Consider the insistence of the Obama administration and the warhawk wing of the Republican Party (most of it), including John McCain and Lindsey Graham, and you can understand why such legislation died in the Senate. The Democrat-controlled Senate would hardly go against their leader’s foreign policy. The mad McCain cabal hardly would, either—not because they love Obama, but because they love the foreign policy, and don’t mind its collateral damage.
To overcome these forces, if they can be overcome, constituents must place heavy pressure upon reluctant Senators. But this means many Christians must be informed and motivated. This is why Wolf went after religious leaders. His letter read in part, “Every day around the world, men and women of faith are imprisoned, beaten, detained, tortured and even killed. . . . Have we in the West ceased to be salt and light? . . . Has our comfort led to complacency? Can the church in the West be galvanized to act?”
Notably shameful in the silence is leftist ministry Sojourners, led by Jim Wallis. Normally willing to speak out against persecution of minorities, Wallis’ loyalty to Obama and Democrats seems to have kept him quiet on this issue. Since January when Wolf’s letter went out, I don’t see a single one of Wallis’ newsletters even mention the issue. They have tons of emphasis taking sides with Democrats on gun control, food stamps, and immigration reform, but not a word on Obama’s foreign policy and wars which have led to countless deaths of fellow Christians.
Wolf also asks the important question, “So how do we account for the Church’s indifference?” If I had to answer in a word, I would say eschatology. The answer is much broader, varied, and more complicated than just that, but a huge part of the “indifference” in the American church derives from the millions who believe the powder-keg that is the middle east is supposed to be overrun by murderous hordes who will persecute Christians and especially Jews. There are literally millions of American Christians who:
- Believe the current Russian-Syria-Iran alliance will be the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38–39—the alleged “prince of Rosh” and “Gog and Magog,” “Meshech and Tubal” who will team up to invade Israel for Armageddon. (Gary DeMar has marvelously debunked this is Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future.)
- Believe the world will inevitably come under the grips of tyrannical one-world government, and the Middle East in fire and blood, and this is the God-ordained way it should be.
- Believe that trying to stop such persecution is to fight against God’s will.
- Believe we are literally in the last few years of this dispensation, and that this will all culminate in our living generation.
- Believe that they personally will be raptured up to heaven before all this culminates, so they personally will miss the carnage.
As much as the murders and persecution may be lamented on the level of humaneness, the bloodshed is all part of the divine plot. They may feel for those Middle-eastern Christians, they may feel shocked at just how barbarous those jihadists can actually be, but they are neither surprised nor taken aback at the news. They have been taught to expect it—indeed, to hope for it.
And with the expectations and “blessed hope” they have been given, these millions of American Christians have no incentive at all to stop or even speak out against the violence in the Middle East. In fact, they have every incentive not to. As such, their silence should not be interpreted by these journalists and representatives as complacency or ignorance. It should be interpreted as tacit approval.
And that is the greatest theological tragedy in the world today: that through their eschatology, Christians not only leave this world to the devil, the beg him to take it. And they sit back and watch it burn while smiling upon their dreams of escape through divine teleportation.
Meanwhile, the mainline churches are so liberal they dare not speak a word against Obama’s foreign policy, even though that foreign policy is no different than Bush’s, and despite the fact that countless innocent people whom they should consider fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are being murdered and maimed.
What can you can do? Two things. Preach, and pressure Congress. If you’re a pastor, you need to preach sermons on a foreign policy of peace. Use Isaiah 2:1–4 as a starting point. Bring in the facts of the persecutions reported by these journalists. Make sure your congregation hears and understands these things, and make sure they leave knowing that God’s plan is not divine escape for American Christians while the Middle East burns. Christians must have a voice, and a voice in the public square. A voice for peace, and they must be involved in service and self-sacrifice until that peace arrives.
If you’re not a pastor, then you can give these articles and facts to your pastor and encourage him to preach on the subject.
Second, you can pressure Congress. Powers says that Wolf’s “legislation was reintroduced in January and again passed the House easily. It now sits in the Senate. According to the office of Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the sponsor of the bill there, there is no date set for it to be taken up.” As Powers suggests, such a measure may find remarkable support if constituents get involved. With the House done, call your Senators and let them know.
To be sure, the bill is not perfect nor the whole answer. But it something helpful at least, and it is a proper function of government to send ambassadors and agents of Christian freedom.