It’s not surprising, therefore, that so little attention is being paid to Christian persecution in the Third World today. Our modern world—so technologically innovative—is morally and spiritually closer to that Roman Circus than we might like to admit. World Magazine, an Evangelical publication, is almost the only national news outlet that takes Christian persecution seriously. In the current issue, journalist Jamie Dean has provided a broad view of Christian persecution in the Mideast. It leads us to ask: Why should Christians anywhere view the “Arab Spring” with approval? Why should American Christians, in particular, join with the Obama administration in hailing every step they think they see toward greater democracy? Democracy requires more than people voting. In Egypt, there has been a sharp increase in the murder of Coptic Christians.
This administration entered office pledging to deal more openly with Iranian mullahs. These are the same men who jailed Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, 32, for the “crime” of sharing his faith with others. Reporter Dean makes clear that the recent release of Pastor Nadarkhani may have had more to do with the mullahs trying to avoid more stringent Western economic sanctions than with any lessening of their cruelties toward Christians.
Christians are familiar with the Bible passage in the Book of Acts where Jesus speaks to Saul. “Why do you persecute me,” Jesus asks. Saul is on his way to Damascus. How very appropriate this passage is to our own day. For it is in Damascus that Christians are being newly endangered. And when that is the case, it is not just Jesus’s followers are being persecuted, it is Jesus Himself. We have His word on that.
As we approach this Sunday’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, it is good to remember that we are citizens, too. We should pray for our brethren suffering all over the bloody crescent. And we should recall that when Saul became Paul he did not give up his Roman citizenship. He used that citizenship to advance God’s purposes on earth. As Christian citizens of this great republic, we can certainly cry out against persecution at home and abroad. And we can make our voices heard. John F. Kennedy said it well: "Here on earth, God's work must truly be our own."