Save the Christians

The Roman emperor Nero was notorious for fiddling while Rome burned and for persecuting Christians. Today his evil legacy lives on. Christians are still being tortured, enslaved, and murdered around the world. Yet American Christians seem unaware: We are the ones fiddling. To address this desperate situation Freedom House, a human rights organization, convened a conference in Washington, D.C., last week, which I attended. It was a wake-up call about the plight of Christians around the world. The situation is far more serious than many imagine. David Barrett, editor of the World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates that each year 160,000 Christians are killed by governments and by mobs of unrestrained citizens. The Muslim government in Sudan has made it a crime to convert to Christianity. As the Khartoum government moves south, where most Christians live, believers are given three options: convert, flee, or be killed. Thousands of children have been snatched from Christian families and sold as slaves—yes, slaves—to buyers in Sudan and other Islamic countries. Sudan is not alone in its hostility toward Christians. Michael Horowitz of the Hudson Institute has collected evidence of widespread persecution throughout Africa and the Middle East. In Ethiopia last year government troops raided the largest evangelical church, arresting most congregants. Many died in jail, their bodies thrown out to be scavenged by animals. Horowitz, who is Jewish, says it is ironic that Christians forcefully supported persecuted Jews during the Cold War, but have strangely fallen silent about the plight of their fellow believers. Horowitz warns that the persecution will intensify and that Christians will be, as he puts it, the Jews of the twenty-first century. As I sat listening to the litany of horrible stories, I wondered what could be more important to Christians than the mass murder of fellow believers. Then I found what might have been the answer in the Wall Street Journal the same week. The Journal announced that evangelical leaders representing 1,000 churches are planning a campaign to raise $1 million to protect endangered species. Now I realize that Christians are called to be the stewards of the world God created. But our priorities have become perverted if we emphasize endangered species and neglect our persecuted brethren. Christians also need to do something when our government refuses to safeguard religious liberties around the world. A recent case in point occurred in Saudi Arabia. According to the National and International Religion Report, the Saudi government recently demanded that the U.S. consulate close both the nightclub and the religious services on its premises. Our government negotiated a compromise. They closed the chapel and kept the nightclub open. The bar was more important than the chapel. How's that for backbone? What does that say about what our government considers important? Any country that receives assistance from the United States should be forced to maintain basic standards of human rights and religious liberties. It's time to call these modern Neros to account. They're getting away literally with murder.


Chuck Colson


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