Most of my blogs deal with fun topics like interesting places to visit or obscure historical facts. And that’s why I have avoided writing this one. But the recent news stories involving Asia Bibi reminded me that I can’t always ignore the ugly realities in our world.
Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. Eight years later, the highest court in the land overturned her conviction, but the government will not release her from prison, at least in part because of the rampant riots, protests and death threats. Her family can’t even set foot out of the house to buy food. While it sounds like a scene from the Middle Ages, this ugly drama is unfolding now in Pakistan.
What caused all this uproar? It started over a drink of water. Bibi had been picking fruit with her neighbors, but when they stopped to get a drink, she was told that if she drank from the water bowl, she would defile it because she is a Christian. She rejected her neighbors’ efforts to convert her to their Islamic faith, and in response, they accused her of commiting blasphemy against Mohammed.
We in the U.S. have grown accustomed to such a degree of religious freedom that we can scarcely conceive how the situation differs in other parts of the world. But some of the very, very sad story was revealed to me when I saw an exhibit at the Capitol a few months ago. ‘People of the Cross,” a traveling exhibit of photos and stories, shows examples of Christian persecution in numerous countries across the globe. This is only a small part of the picture—I realize people of other faiths suffer persecution for their beliefs and it is just as wrong.
But persecution of Christians surprises many people in the U.S. because here we are, nominally at least, a majority. We consider it a hardship if we have to get up earlier than usual for church. But in other places, the watchdog group Open Doors reports that Christians are tortured, maimed and murdered for practicing their faith.
In Turkey, some of the world’s most ancient Christian communities have been eviscerated by modern laws that prohibit ordination of clergy and celebration of religious holidays and confiscate church property. In China, the Communist Party works to demolish churches, forbid religious education, and force abortion and organ harvesting on unwilling citizens. And these are the examples of “civilized” repression.
In Nigeria, more than 6,000 Christians were murdered in the first half of this year. Many of the victims were women and children. Islamic forces in the country seek to eradicate Christianity from their nation. Christians make up nearly half the population, but not the half that controls the government.
In North Korea, those who dare practice religion of any type face torture, arrest and execution. In Syria, laws permit enslavement of non-Muslims, so thousands of young girls are legally held and sold as sex slaves. In Egypt, Christians are kidnapped and forced into marriage while churches are bombed. Even in Mexico, a nation with the second largest Catholic population in the world, drug gangs target and murder priests as well as recent Catholic converts.
In all these nations and many more, those who dare to speak out are imprisoned, tortured and killed as enemies of the state. Overall, according to Open Doors, well over 200 million Christians around the world suffer persecution, including enslavement, rape, and genocide. It’s happening now, today. And when you add in those of other faiths who are suffering for their beliefs, the number becomes mind boggling.
So mind-boggling in fact, that is it much easier to pretend it’s not happening. That’s why the exhibit “People of the Cross” is important. It shares the stories with those who are unaware. It reminds those of us who have heard of the atrocities that we should not simply wish it would go away but that we need to take action. We need to put aside our petty political squabbles over who insulted who and reach out to help in any way that we can.
The first step is the easiest. Become informed about what’s going on in the world. Step two is pretty easy, too. Share what you’ve learned with others. Most people in this world are decent and caring. If enough of us learn what is happening, we can bring about change. With internet access, it’s easy to find information if you just make the effort to look for it.
So start looking. And instead of sharing a goofy cat video the next time you’re on Facebook, share the story of Asia Bibi instead.
Do you want to live in a world where anyone can be killed for verbally expressing their beliefs? If so, then do nothing, because that world may be here before we know it.
To learn more about the persecution and what you can do to help, visit https://savethepersecutedchristians.org.
You can also learn about breaking news at Open Doors https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/stories/