Our 24/7 news cycle is consumed these days with American politicians sparring over the debt ceiling and the implementation of President Obama’s controversial healthcare plan, both important debates to be sure. Meanwhile, the tragic fact that followers of Jesus Christ are being targeted and slaughtered across the globe is given scant attention.
We learned recently of the horrific attack against a Pakistani church by Muslim extremists that killed 85. In Kenya, the jihadists that attacked an upscale mall in Nairobi reportedly killed hostages that couldn’t recite the Koran. Christian pastors in Iran are being jailed and Indian Christians endure violence, imprisonments and even death.
Physical attacks against Christians appear to be on the rise around the world, and yet both the American media – and all too many American Christians themselves – seem to be setting their sights elsewhere. It’s not that we don’t care, it would just appear that we care more about other issues.
Not surprisingly, I’m deeply concerned at this prospect, as I imagine many of you are, too. But why do we find ourselves in this difficult spot? For several reasons, I think.
First, the ease and access of global communication alerts us to these atrocities more quickly than ever. What once took days to reach us now takes seconds via social media. The filter of traditional media is gone. A tiny camera on one smartphone is all it takes to expose the violence of a despot or mob a half a world away. As a result, there seems to be an inordinate amount of bad news to process lately, both domestically and internationally. I think many of us become paralyzed under its weight. We feel helpless. We’re here and they’re there – and so what can we possibly do about it? Unfortunately, many of us tune out, I think, as a means to cope with the sorrow and sadness.
But I wonder if behind the American Christian’s disconnect with the plight of our brothers and sisters across the globe is also an ignorance of historical Christendom itself. Could it be that we’ve become so comfortable with the freedom we have to worship in the United States that we too easily dismiss the violence against Christians elsewhere as something of an anomaly? To do so is a grave mistake.
Dating back to the early Church, Christians have been the victims of regular and repeated persecution. From the Emperor Nero in the first century to Diocletian and Galerius in the third and fourth, right up to modern-day oppression in communist countries and Bashar al-Assad in Syria, millions upon millions of believers throughout history have died for espousing a belief that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world.
According to Pew Research, the growth of Islam and Islamic-led governments in the Middle East and North Africa has led to a steep decline in the numbers of Christians in those regions, from 9.5 percent of the population just a few generations ago to just 3.8 percent in 2010.
This is not to say that Christianity is dying. The fact is, the Gospel is a force that cannot be stopped. But it would seem a wise and worthy endeavor if Christians in the U.S. would commit to praying earnestly for those sisters and brothers in harm’s way elsewhere. We need to ask the Lord to soften our hearts to the plight of the persecuted church.
Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Freedom International and Freedom House are three organizations that can help you stay connected with our brothers and sisters living through unspeakable hardships for the sake of the Gospel. I encourage you to connect with them through social media so you can get periodic updates that will prompt you to take a minute and pray.
By lifting up this important issue and encouraging believers to “pray without ceasing,” we unleash God’s power.
Prayer is effective.
Prayer is the answer.
Lord, I ask you to pour out your grace, strength, and mercy upon our brothers and sisters across the globe who are suffering in your name. Amen.