THE CARPENTER'S SHOP: Persecution of Christians affects millions worldwide
Christians around the world are experiencing unprecedented persecution. Reporter and news analyst Kirsten Powers, interviewed in the Daily Beast, said, “Christians in the Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. The silence has been nearly deafening.” It seems open season on Christians. It is more pronounced, more bold, more contagious, and in more numbers than at any other time in history. It may appear to be happening a long way from Destin, Florida, but it is far closer than we think. But as Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere!”
Who among us is not infuriated watching news reports of ISIS’s rampage through Syria and Iraq, beheading “infidels,” murdering even children, and taking revolting religious pride in eliminating more than 2,000 years of Christian history, along with its adherents in ancient cities like Nineveh, of Bible fame, and Mosul, an historic center for the Nestorian Christianity of the Assyrians where the Old Testament prophet Jonah is thought to have been buried. Two-thirds of Iraq’s Christians have vanished from the country, reports Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer, in testimony before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Thousands “have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives,” she told Congress. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, remarked in USA Today that the persecution of Christians in the Middle East is “one of the most under covered stories in international news.”
Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute says that persecution, if you include discrimination, is affecting approximately 600 to 700 million Christians globally. According to a 2011 Pew Forum study, Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world with followers of the faith being actively harassed in 130 countries.
On Sept.15, 2014, the Daily Mail, a London news source, reported that Islamist police in Saudi Arabia stormed a Christian prayer meeting and arrested its entire congregation, including women and children, and confiscated their bibles. This is the latest example of intolerance by our “friends” in Saudi Arabia and their Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. In Egypt, Coptic Christians are facing the worst attacks on the Christian minority since the 14th century.
Twenty-eight Christians were reported to have been worshipping at the home of an Indian national in the eastern city of Khafji when the police entered the building and took them into custody. They have not been seen or heard from since.
In an historic visit to the Vatican, British Cabinet minister Baroness Warsi expressed her “fear” about the marginalization of religion, and specifically Christianity, through Britain and Europe.
“My fear today is that a militant secularization is taking hold of our societies ... one of the most worrying aspects about this militant secularization is that at its core and in its instincts it is deeply intolerant. It demonstrates similar traits to totalitarian regimes – denying people the right to a religious identity. … You cannot extract Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can erase the spires from our landscape.”
Before anyone says, “There’s another alarmist Christian right-winger for you,” think again. Sayeeda Warsi is a Muslim.
Here at home the Obama Administration is complicit in an assault on religious liberty within the U.S. armed forces. Christians are being “threatened with the loss of their careers if they dare speak out” against policies such as the recent removal of the words “so help me God” from the official Air Force oath. It appears we are more concerned about offending a Christian detractor than God!
Lt. General William Boykin was forced to retire from his post as deputy under secretary of defense after a Los Angeles Times reporter recorded him testifying of his Christian faith in churches in Oklahoma and Texas.
Navy chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt was forced to resign after he refused to quit praying in the name of Jesus. He says chaplains have been told they “will be charged with sedition and treason for opposing the Obama administration” by preaching against homosexuality, mandated birth control coverage or the sanctity of life. “They are actually threatening chaplains with court-martial if they dare to preach.”
Arleen Ocashio, director of the Houston National Cemetery, told Pastor Scott Rainey that he could no longer pray “in Jesus’ name” at Memorial Day ceremonies. The Christian advocacy group Liberty Institute obtained an emergency restraining order from Judge Lynn Hughes allowing Pastor Rainey to pray. However, the legal battle continues — with American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars volunteers being ordered to drop all references to God in their graveside services.
“Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is retreating after issuing an order banning family members from bringing Bibles and other religious items to injured soldiers,” reports the Daily Mail. In a memo on visitor and patient policy, one section said, “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit.” Colonel Norvell Coots, the commander at Walter Reed, who issued the order, told the press that the directive was meant to “preserve people’s religious rights.” After being confronted by members of Congress, Coots rescinded the order, saying it was “incorrectly written.”
A state government worker showed up to negotiate a new contract with a Christian ministry in Lake City, Fla., that has been providing food to the hungry and was told “they would not be allowed to receive USDA food unless they removed portraits of Christ, the Ten Commandments, a banner that read ‘Jesus is Lord’ and stopped giving Bibles to the needy.”
There are many more notable cases like the Little Sisters Catholic Charity, schools, and businesses that have become news cases simply because they practice the historic Christian faith whose tenets are etched in countless court houses around this nation. They are held in contempt now for doing the things American became a haven for! People who love freedom must wake up to the threats against Christians. Today it is Christians. Tomorrow it will be another group.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Dr. Barry Carpenter is pastor of Destin United Methodist Church and can be reached at email@example.com.