With the election season is full swing, I’m going to ask you to forget for a moment all the mud-slinging and scandal-mongering that is raging across your television set, coming from both sides. Instead, consider the really serious weighty issues before the American people this fall: the war on terrorism, Iraq, the sanctity of life, the definition of marriage, immigration, and so much more. Some politicians are talking about these critical issues—more need to. We need to know where our candidates stand on these questions.
But there’s another issue that Christians absolutely need to bring into the political discussion this election year: religious freedom—not only around the world, but also here at home.
Certainly the global outlook is grim. Just this past June, a pastor and members of the Full Gospel Church in the province of Than Hoa, Vietnam, were dragged outside by police and brutally beaten. Their only crime: gathering to worship Jesus. In Pakistan, a 7-year-old Christian girl was lured away from her home, raped, beaten, and left for dead in a ditch. She was targeted because of her faith. In China, Peter Xu Yongze, pastor of one of the largest underground Protestant churches there, was hung up across an iron gate during one of his five jail sentences. They then yanked open the gate, so that his chest nearly split in two.
As chilling as these reports are, even more chilling is the fact that the vast majority of religious persecution cases never make the news. While North Korea is in the headlines for testing a nuclear weapon, few Americans know that hundreds of thousands of Christians are penned up and tortured in grotesquely brutal North Korean concentration camps.
And lest we should think that Christians are the only ones subject to torture and death for their faith, consider the following cases:
Kurban Zakirov, a Jehovah’s Witness in Turkmenistan, was injected with psychotropic drugs while he was imprisoned for his faith. Farzad Kasiri, a Baha’i in Iran, was flogged for his faith. And in Uzbekistan, thousands of Muslims are imprisoned, denied due process, and subjected to torture.
So, what does America and the upcoming elections have to do with all of this? Let me put it this way: To whom much is given, much is expected. From the very early days of our republic, Americans recognized the truth that freedom of religion is a God-given right, in fact, the most basic of human rights. And, as the leading world power, the United States is in a unique position to help curb religious persecution around the world. To remain silent about religious persecution would be to betray all that we stand for.