Church needs to be more involved in helping persecuted Christians

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By David M. Marz, Tribune Guest Writer
Here is an uncomfortable and often unwelcome truth. In the years since the end of the Cold War, Christians—Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox—have been the object of violence, state-sponsored persecution and discrimination worldwide.

Most Americans are vaguely aware that in areas controlled by ISIS, Christians have been martyred, subjected to forced conversion to Islam and sex slavery. Those Christians who have fled ISIS suffer the universal plight of refugees. They have no choice but to rely on strangers for food, shelter and medical care.
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While there are many Muslims who are also fleeing the violence of the intra-Islamic civil war in Iraq and Syria, few Americans appreciate that Syrian and Iraqi Christians are fleeing to Muslim-dominated areas, where they suffer the double indignity of being second-class refugees.

It is a core principle of Sharia Law that Christians and Jews living within Dar al-Islam (the world of Islam) are “Dhimmi”—third-class citizens lower in legal standing than Muslim women.

Not only are Christian refugees competing for access to scarce resources, but they are competing with other Muslim refugees, in alien Muslim communities, both of which feel justified in anti-Christian discrimination.

Outside of the war zones in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, Christians living in less war-torn areas of Asia and Africa are subject to various forms of governmental persecution, sectarian violence and, often, severe economic and social discrimination.

On Aug. 23, the Christian Post reported that police beat thousands of Vietnamese Christians participating in anti-pollution protests. On Aug. 18, World Watch Monitor reported that in Nepal, Christians had been arrested and beaten for engaging in the crime of evangelism.

On Aug. 24, the Evangelical Fellowship of India released a report documenting 134 cases of anti-Christian violence and persecution. In almost all cases, this was community-level violence and discrimination perpetrated by Hindus.

All of these actions violate Indian law. However, the current Hindu nationalist government shows no interest in arresting their co-religionists.

Within Muslim states not suffering from civil war, numerous Christians—both clergy and lay people—have been arrested for violating blasphemy laws.

While reports of contemporary Christian persecution are not really all that hard to find, surprisingly, Christian churches, as a collective, are largely ignoring them.

I have spent time searching many denominational websites looking for ways to connect with the persecuted church and there is little to no voice being given.

As a proud Lutheran, I must confess that even my own denomination is silent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s website shows no awareness or concern for the plight of the persecuted church. The Knights of Columbus’ website represents a rare and sharp exception, describing and documenting abuses of Christians in the Middle East and mobilizing Catholics to help.

Therefore, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, it falls to individual church members, lay leaders and pastors to inform themselves and then inform and educate their local cell in the “Body of Christ.”

I encourage my readers to cross the bridge between Western Christendom and the Non-Western church in search of the truth regarding the suffering and hardship of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

To our surprise, we may find more than victims of violence and persecution in need of our prayers and our help. We may also discover real-time, real-life stories of faith, courage and Christian witness, which could change our lives.

Be prepared to be surprised. Although our persecuted brothers and sisters need our awareness, prayer and charity, we may need their witness to the real-time works of the Spirit just as urgently.

– Dr. David M. Marz is pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, Phoenix. Reach him at Facebook- David Michael Marz or pastordavid@sov.us

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