Preying Silently: The Crisis of Christian Persecution
It was 5:30 a.m. when Friar Najeeb Michaeel looked out his window and saw what every Iraqi Christian feared: trucks filled with ISIS soldiers. Dozens of families were fleeing when the terrorists cut in front of them and stopped. "I gave everybody the last rites," the Friar said. "I thought it was finished for us." Instead, people abandoned their cars and started running. Miraculously, they survived. But, like most Christians in the Middle East, they don't know for how long.
It was 5:30 a.m. when Friar Najeeb Michaeel looked out his window and saw what every Iraqi Christian feared: trucks filled with ISIS soldiers. Dozens of families were fleeing when the terrorists cut in front of them and stopped. “I gave everybody the last rites,” the Friar said. “I thought it was finished for us.” Instead, people abandoned their cars and started running. Miraculously, they survived. But, like most Christians in the Middle East, they don’t know for how long.
Hunted down, beaten, enslaved, and tortured for their faith, Christians have been crying out for the world’s attention since they were first driven from their ancient homelands. Thursday, a group of American scholars did their best to give them that attention at a special event at the National Press Club. Called Under Caesar’s Sword, a partnership of Notre Dame, the Religious Freedom Institute and Georgetown University sounded the alarm for the millions of believers living in terror from the cradle of Christianity to the North Korean underground. “Life has not gotten better” for men and women of faith, said a somber Cardinal Donald Wuerl. In a world where at least one Christian is killed every hour for practicing their faith, the situation is dire.
The group’s report, “In Response to Persecution,” reads like a horror story, explaining that about 200 million Christians around the world are “at risk of physical violence, arrest, torture, even death simply because they live and practice a faith that is not acceptable to the rulers in that part of the world.” Just last year, 9,000 Christians were slaughtered for religious reasons — a 20 percent jump from the year before. To survive, more families are on the run, going underground, or even showing support for the regimes oppressing them. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, where the punishments are most severe, Christians are desperately trying to “[avoid] the attention of the authorities.”
The Hudson Institute’s Nina Shea pointed out that Christians still can’t go to the UN’s refugee camps for safety reasons — and, worse, are not receiving any government aid. That’s unacceptable, considering that the U.S. funds over a quarter of the UN’s budget. While the Trump administration has its work cut out for it climbing out of the hole Obama dug on the crisis, this is an obvious pressure point the White House can use to bring more relief to the suffering. Even now, we aren’t sure that the UN Security Council’s genocide investigation even includes Christians! The Trump team should lean on them to ensure it does.
As a lot of experts have pointed out, there’s also a role for the business community to play. And that starts with putting these basic human rights ahead of their economic interests or good relations. Dollars can speak louder than words, and corporate outrage would go a long way to bringing about change in these war-torn areas. Unfortunately for the White House, the eight years of religious hostility at home has led to a serious culture of indifference abroad. Cleaning up the mess left behind by the Obama administration won’t be easy, but it’s time for President Trump to pick up the torch and lead the way.
For now, American Christians face nothing like their brothers and sisters overseas, but the report makes it clear that this “subtle persecution” is growing – “particularly with respect to their convictions about sexuality, marriage and the sanctity of life.” When secularists turn up the heat on our churches, we can learn a lot from the courageous men and women abroad about how to live as Christians under pressure. After all, if Middle East Christians can face death without denying Christ, we can face name-calling and “hate” lists.
And if our nation wants to revive its reputation as the defender of the defenseless, the church will have to lead the way. We need to call on our pastors to be prepared for the coming persecution in the U.S. and help their flocks stand firm. As the Pope pointed out, the opposition to Christians here and abroad is rooted in the same opposition — it’s just different in degree. If that degree ever ratchets up to the terror we see on beaches in Libya or churches in Egypt, we have to be ready. Until then, we should all make a commitment now to lift up the persecuted, who are suffering for nothing more than confessing Jesus Christ as Lord.
Originally published here.
Florida School Up to Its Necklace in Legal Trouble
Making a fashion statement wasn’t the point of a 9th grader’s cross necklace in Florida. Making a statement of faith was. And to her LGBT activist teacher, that was the problem. At Riverview High School in Hillsborough, a freshman girl barely set down her books on her desk when Ms. Lora Riedas pointed to her small cross pendant and said, “I need you to take your necklace off.” Stunned, the girl asked why. The teacher refused to answer and instead barked that it was “disrespectful” and repeated her demand. Not wanting to seem disrespectful, the teenager did what she was told.
Upset, her parents contacted our friends at Liberty Counsel who sent a letter to the superintendent explaining that it was the teacher who was disrespectful. “In banning cross necklaces from three different students in her classroom, Ms. Riedas has ‘intentionally violate[d] or den[ied] a student’s legal rights.’ The right to wear a cross necklace is clearly established. There is no question that students have the right to wear religious jewelry, despite any specious claim of ‘gang affiliation’ by Ms. Riedas. Subsequent to her cross ban, Ms. Reidas has subjected at least one of the students ‘to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement,’ in singling the student out for false allegations of student behavior violations.”
This is exactly the kind of anti-faith hostility that flourished under the Obama administration. Of course, one look at Ms. Riedas’s classroom and it’s obvious where that hostility stems from. Plastered with rainbow flags, buttons, and propaganda, the teacher is a forceful LGBT advocate. At the beginning of the year, Liberty Counsel points out, she even put rainbow stickers on her students’ folders without their permission. When one student peeled hers off, she noticed that she was treated with more hostility than her peers. Talk about hypocrisy! This teacher is banning crosses on one hand and engaging in “wholesale LGBT activism” on the other. If anything’s offensive, it’s that! “Ms. Riedas has further engaged in impermissible LGBT political activism in the classroom, and has indicated her intent to further do so during instructional time,” the letter claims. “Ms. Riedas is planning to promote GLSEN’s ‘Day of Silence’ coercive political activities during instructional time in her classroom this April 21, 2017.”
None of this is a surprise to Ms. Riedas’s Twitter followers. The teacher’s feed is full of advice about “how to talk to kids about what it means to be an LGBT ally” and how to engage on the transgender bathroom issue. And according to school policy, posting these things isn’t the problem — posting them during class hours is. As Liberty Counsel reminds Riverview High, “It is the policy of the Board that students, staff members, and District facilities not be used for promoting the interests of any non-school agency or organization, public or private, without the approval of the superintendent.”
Together with her attorneys, this brave 9th grader is asking for the right to express her faith, which is already guaranteed to her by the Constitution. Students should never have to check their beliefs at the school house door — or anywhere else for that matter.
Originally published here.
Hidden in Plano Sight
If Plano leaders want to legislate in secret, then voters will sue them in the open! Texans Greg and Laura Hatch are just two of the locals frustrated by the city’s underhanded passage of an LGBT ordinance in 2014. Instead of debating the issue in public, members met behind closed doors and agreed to force a radical anti-faith, anti-gender measure down voters’ throats. Now, three years later, the Hatches are taking them to court.
“Texas requires local governments to operate with transparency,” said the couple’s attorney Cleve Doty. He was referring to the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), which bars any municipality from hiding their business from the people. “This is even more concerning than what is in the ordinance itself because the city refused to play by the rules,” Doty told Breitbart. “Plano’s politicians wanted to hide from the citizens what they were doing and, based on their actions, didn’t want citizen input.”
Of course, there’s a good reason for that. They had to do in secret what they know they’d never get away with in public! This is how the Left operates when it’s on the wrong side of public opinion (which is often!). As upset as Plano residents were by the ordinance, Breitbart points out, they were far more upset they never knew about it. “We are disappointed in our city officials. We know as a kind neighborhood city and we believe Plano can do better,” the Hatches said in a statement. They believe every Plano citizen, “regardless of faith or belief, deserve the right to observe or participate in his or her government.”
That would be a lot more difficult if the Plano measure is allowed to stand. The ordinance was one of the more extreme examples of LGBT activism, even going so far as to criminally fine people or businesses with natural views on marriage and sexuality. “It put many businesses under the thumb of City Hall about things as personal and private as bathrooms, among other things,” Doty explained. “This is a disservice to citizens no matter which side of the issue they’re on: people from both sides of the political debate were excluded from the conversation, and the City created an ordinance that will be void. Nobody wins when the city breaks the law.”
And thanks to this couple, Plano isn’t about to get away with it! Our (cowboy) hats go off to concerned citizens like these two who are fighting for everyone’s right to be heard.
Originally published here.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC. Reprinted by permission.