Stand With the Persecuted

Stand With the Persecuted
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Religious liberty is not uniquely American.

Every person is an image-bearer of God and of equal value in His sight. And that person's primary duty is to the Creator, not the state.

Religious liberty precedes every human institution, including government, because our first allegiance and obligation is to the Giver and Sustainer of our lives. This is the affirmation of our key founding document, the Declaration of Independence. And that's why, when this liberty is denied, and when its practice is actively opposed -- even persecuted -- Americans need to act.

Throughout the world, Christians are being targeted for oppression and outright persecution. Consider the actions of the Boko Haram in Africa, the ISIS-affiliate terrorist group that has killed thousands of Christians in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and elsewhere. Boko Haram has destroyed hundreds of churches and prides itself on giving Christians the chance to convert -- immediately before slaughtering them.

Boko Haram is hardly unusual. There is ISIS in the Middle East, stretching from Libya to Syria. Iran's abysmal human rights record is not too much worse than Iraq's. Then we have North Korea's campaign against faithful believers, the recent Easter bombing in Pakistan, and China's suppression of Christian faith.

Christians are not the only ones suffering, to be sure. For example, since 2009, 130 Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns have self-immolated to protest the Chinese government's repression of their homeland. The Muslim Uyghur ethnic group in China has faced Communist hostility. And the minority-religion Yazidis of Syria were included in last month's State Department list of groups designated as victims of genocide by ISIS.

Yet in terms of sheer numbers, Christians are at the top of terrorism's hit-list. As reported in the Washington Post, "According to Open Doors, 2014 saw a huge increase in violence against Christians. Researchers for the group found that 4,344 Christians were killed for faith-related reasons between Dec. 1, 2013 and Nov. 30, 2014 -- more than twice the number killed during the same period the previous year." The Post notes that, David Curry, president of Open Doors USA, believes "those numbers are a low estimate, as [Open Doors] only counts incidents in which the victim can be identified by name and an exact cause has been attributed."

American Christians need to realize that the world is coming to our front door. They cannot ignore what is happening "out there" when "out there" is right in front of them. As of late 2015, at least 300 American citizens that had joined ISIS -- individuals involved in trying to eradicate Christianity from Iraq and Syria. There are many more that have already been radicalized who are living in the shadows.

This is why, with many other organizations, FRC has been warning for so long about the dangers of radical Islam at home and abroad. Our many lecture and panel events, most recently one just last week featuring "the Wilberforce of our time," former Congressman Frank Wolf, and other leading advocates for the persecuted, have given voice to this profound concern over the years.

For American Christians, praying for and giving to our brothers and sisters worldwide is imperative. If the church would awaken to bring them before the Father and feel their suffering, our own faith would be deepened so much more. This is not optional: as the writer of Hebrews tells us, "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body" (13:2).

That's why this Sunday, April 17th, FRC is hosting "Stand with the Persecuted," a call for churches nationwide to show a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally. We are partnering in this historic effort with such respected ministries as Open Doors USA, The Voice of the Martyrs, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, In Defense of Christians, Christian Solidarity Worldwide-USA, International Christian Concern, and the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative.

Christians across America have been blessed with so much. Perhaps one of the key reasons God has blessed us so abundantly, materially and politically, is "for such a time as this," a time when our brothers and sisters are in such grave need.

Rob Schwarzwalder serves as Senior Vice President for the Family Research Council.

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