Saturday, November 20, 2010

Advocates for Persecuted Christians

In several New Testament passages, there are references to the persecution and imprisonment of Christians. Jesus, in his eschatological and apocalyptic discourses predicts it. Luke in the Book of Acts mentions it several times; the apostles Peter and Paul speak of it; the author of Hebrews (13:3) speaks of it; the author of Revelation also refers to it. Jesus himself would endure such sufferings and says that any follower of his should expect the same. Indeed, such persecution and imprisonment was also viewed by the ancient church as a clear sign of one’s faithfulness to Christ.

What a contrast this is to the present state of Christendom in the affluent West! Here the masses flock to churches that preach a gospel of health and wealth. Christians and congregations are far too self-preoccupied; spending time and energy on petty conflicts about the colour of the church carpet; whining about their pastor’s long sermons; and complaining about singing too many new hymns.

Meanwhile, according to reports by organizations—including Christian NGOs—who monitor the violation of religious freedom around the globe; it is estimated that anywhere from 100 million to 200 million Christians are persecuted because of their faith in Christ. Yet, in the so-called mainstream mass media very little of this is covered or highlighted—one wonders why? Could it be that with an increasing secularization of the mass media, there is now a preferred bias against Christianity?

As Jesus taught in Matthew 25:40: ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ The apostle Paul, who described the church as the body of Christ with many members, yet one body, said in 1 Cor 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.” The 100 to 200 million Christians who are persecuted and imprisoned seek our support through our prayers and serving as advocates-ambassadors on their behalf to appeal to authorities for their safety, fair treatment, and release from prisoners.

In searching on Google, I discovered The International Day Of Prayer For The Persecuted Church website—the designated day was November 14 this year. On this website, there are 17 links to different Christian organizations who are involved in ministry to the persecuted Church. Many/most are evangelical, conservative or even fundamentalist theologically—one wonders why the more liberal and mainline denominations are not involved in this ministry—however, I do respect the work some of these organisations do. The Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s (who spent 14 years in Communist Romanian prisons) organisation, The Voice of the Martyrs—there are also several links on the main website that take you to other national VOM websites, and, which assists readers in taking action—is one that provides practical information on how to be an advocate through letter writing directly to imprisoned Christians to encourage them as well as to government authorities.

I encourage readers to check out these websites, choose an organisation that you can support, and become involved by taking action through a ministry of prayer and advocacy letter writing. You may also wish to start a special group in your congregation or denomination. The possibilities are open. For as concentration camp survivor, Pastor Martin Niemoeller once said: “In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak.”

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