Caroline C. Lewis / February 22, 2018

Saving the Persecuted Christians

Multiple studies show that Christians face growing violence and persecution across the globe.

Whether due to extremist terrorism, oppressive governments or a combination of the two, Christian persecution is a reality. Yet what is to be done? We pray and we donate, but can we stop it?

According to Open Doors USA, an advocacy group for the persecuted church, 215 million Christians across the globe face high levels of persecution. This persecution has grown increasingly more violent than during any other period in modern times. One study by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that in a 10-year period (2005-2015), 900,000 Christians were martyred for their faith.

A recent report by Aid to the Church in Need notes that violence against Christians has increased in almost every country reviewed, with the exception of Saudi Arabia, where Christianity remains illegal and the situation for Christians could hardly be worse. The countries examined include China, Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Turkey between the years 2015-2017. The report also highlights the genocide committed against Christians in Iraq, Syria and Nigeria and the human rights abuses faced by Christians including “Rape, unlawful detention, unfair trial, prevention of religious assembly and peaceful (religious) expression.” The report states, “It is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

North Korea, which ranks number one on the Open Doors World Watch List, has committed unbelievable crimes against Christians, including forced starvation, forced abortion, crushing Christians with a steamroller and reports of Christians being crucified over fire. Highly oppressive places in the Middle East, Asia and Africa have seen rapes, church burnings, beheadings, enslavement and murders become commonplace occurrences.

The increase of Christian persecution seems insurmountable, but the Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition thinks we may have a chance to turn the tide. Here’s how.

In 1963, an Ohio synagogue began a campaign advocating for the Jews oppressed by the Soviet Union. Aided by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the State of Israel, student activists and others, the campaign centered on signage stating, “Save the Soviet Jewry.” These signs, displayed in front of synagogues, churches and other locations, gave rise to mass demonstrations and, ultimately, political pressure.

In 1974, the Jackson-Vanik amendment linked trade privileges to emigration policies in non-market economies (originally a reference to communist countries). The U.S. only granted Most Favored Nation trading (MFN) status to countries in compliance who allowed their people to freely emigrate. In other words, the U.S. did not grant MFN trading privileges to countries that refused to allow their people to leave and emigrate elsewhere. Under President Ronald Reagan, because the Soviet Union refused to comply, the U.S. denied its MFN status and Moscow lost the ability to invest and otherwise economically cooperate with the U.S. This action along with other factors led to the demise of the Soviet Union and freedom for the Soviet Jews.

While differences exist between the Soviet Jewry case and that of today’s persecuted Christians, the principle of economic leverage as a tool to aid those suffering oppression remains the same. The Save the Persecuted Christians initiative seeks to raise awareness of global Christian persecution and to create political and economic pressure to stop it. The United States can deny trade privileges, monetary aid and other economic advantages to countries that actively persecute Christians.

The Save the Persecuted Christians campaign launched last week on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. Across the world, Christians observe the season of Lent, the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, as a time to focus on Christ’s sufferings endured as He journeyed toward the cross. His sacrifice and His suffering unites all who follow Him as Lord.

The Save the Persecuted Christians campaign seeks to unite Christians across denominations and traditions to stand as one in defense of the suffering Christians around the world. As one light can quench the darkness, so one sign can begin a movement that can save a life and change the world.

Learn more here.

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