On Sunday afternoon I attended an introductory meeting for Voice of the Martyr’s, Canada. My friend Mark is the new representative for our region and made the program possible. If you are not familiar with Voice of the Martyr’s they are an advocacy group that not only informs the Canadian Christian public about persecution around the world, but also gives direct and indirect support to the persecuted in scores of countries.
Our guest speaker, from the National headquarters here in Canada, introduced to us a short film about a young Chinese Christian girl who suffered terribly for her faith and ended up doing six years in prison. The irony of this story is that while in prison she made Christmas lights for export to Western Christian nations.
We also learned that seventy-five percent of all religious persecution in the world is aimed at Christians and that close to a hundred nations have some form of intolerance towards Christianity. In many of these countries the persecution is not government policy but more organized by local populations who use Christians as scapegoats for a whole series of problems. For example, a local religious leader might stir up the local population against Christians if crops fail blaming the Christians for the disaster.
In other parts of the world there are movements to return to the historical native religions and as a result western culture, government structures, and perceived western religions are unwelcome. This also leads to persecution. And of course there is persecution in nations that have official state religions that are hostile to Christianity and its spread.
The short of it is, that it is becoming more and more difficult for our brothers and sisters to not only evangelize, but to remain Christians in many parts of an increasing hostile world.
So, what can we do? We need to pray for these Christians who find themselves isolated and suffering from a sense of loneliness. Our speaker Sunday pointed out that on a trip to Ethiopia he met Christians who were overjoyed to know that there are Christians who have remembered them in their suffering.
My nephew, Tim, who is a pastor in a Los Vegas church, recently returned from a mission trip to a Middle Eastern nation where he met with children who have disabilities. The school that is set up for them is a story of miracles and God’s hand at work, but there is so much to be done that they are only chipping at the tip of the Iceberg. He mentioned that the school has a second floor and that children have to move to the second floor for the next grade of study. One young boy, because of his disabilities, is unable to get up the stairs so his ability to advance his education is thwarted by a simple lack of an elevator.
Tim said something that has really impacted me about his mission journey. He said, “I am going to try and live more simply so others can simply live.” Wow! It might be only a slogan but it speaks volumes.
A friend recently told me that he sent a fairly large amount of money to a pastor that we know and trust who is working in a far eastern nation. The pastor, who takes no salary but works as a Taxi driver, uses all the money for his congregation of homeless Christians.
So, we can support mission efforts. I read somewhere that the average North American giving for missions each year comes out to twenty-five cents per Christian. I am sure the funding for the persecuted church is even less.
Now here is the problem, as I see it, for what it is worth. We live in such a politically correct nation that to even talk about persecution of Christians means someone is persecuting them and we don’t want to label any religion as intolerant. So we sweep our brothers and sisters under the rug and try to tell ourselves we are all one big happy family.
Maybe the problem is we live in such a prosperous and self-serving part of the world that we don’t want to be reminded about those who share our faith but linger in prisons, have their lands taken, are beaten, raped, and tortured for their faith. Maybe, somewhere in the back of our mind we know that persecution can come to us just as easily as it does in other parts of the world and so we push the thoughts out of our mind.
I don’t want this post to make you feel guilty or anything like that. I just want us to remember how amazingly blessed we are to live in this part of the world where we have so much. I would like us to remember that many of our fellow followers of Christ have it much tougher than us and to remember them in prayer and financially whenever we can. They need to know they are not alone. Over the last few years whenever Christians, in the west, have mobilized and taken on the cause for a persecuted fellow believers, we have seen prison gates open and people go free.
One last thing that we could do is to go to the Voice of the Martyr’s or Open Doors and educate ourselves on what is happening, then encourage other Christians to become involved as well. Alone we are a flicker of light but together we become a raging fire of support for those who most need our prayers and support.