Persecuted, but Not Forgotten


Date:  May 10, 2017

Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.

May 10, 2017

"We have come to drink your blood." The angry arc of graffiti leapt off the wall, screaming its hatred at the Christians who walked through the ruins of the church where they used to worship. "You love life," ISIS scrawled in the Mosul sanctuary, "We love death." And over and over again, the enemies of the West have proven it -- with charred pews and bloody beaches stained in the killing of God's children. Rev. Franklin Graham, who tells the story of touring that Iraqi church in USA Today, could only stare at the message that was meant for all believers: we are coming for you.

In the comfortable cocoon of the United States, we may be temporarily shocked by the violence overseas -- we may even stop to pray earnestly for the hurting. But in a society where the biggest crisis is often whether or not we'll have WiFi at our destination, the idea of Christian persecution seems far-off and unreal. Most of us go about our day without any thought to the dark shadow of oppression that holds our brothers and sisters captive. In a nation so blessed by -- and shielded almost to the point of complacence -- it's hard to wrap our minds around that kind of evil and suffering. It's not that we mean to be complacent -- it's just human nature. We all take our health for granted until pain strikes. We also take our freedom for granted until we can't exercise it. And this week, Franklin Graham is here to remind us that day has already come for 215 million Christians around the world.

Together with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, Franklin is bringing more than 600 victims and advocates to Washington for the first-ever World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians from today until Friday. The goal is to do something the Obama administration never cared to: bring about change in the worst human rights nightmare of our day. More than 130 countries will be represented at an event that FRC's director for the center of religious liberty, Travis Weber, calls "absolutely crucial for our time." It's his hope -- and ours -- that more people come away -- not just with a burden to help those in need, but to learn from their suffering how to model Christ's love in the face of our own, much less severe, problems at home.

But as Franklin points out, the threat is creeping closer to our shores by the day.

"The persecution of Christians is not just happening in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, and other hotbeds of extremist ideology. It may come as a surprise that some of our neighbors and allies are on the list of perpetrators. For example, did you know that not only is Mexico among the top 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution, but 23 Christians were recently killed by drug cartels there, specifically because of their faith?... Also consider the Christian refugees across Europe, including 88% of those surveyed in German shelters, who have experienced religiously motivated persecution -- 32% of whom have received death threats."

Here in America, the beating that religious freedom took under President Obama didn't leave people fearing for their lives – but certainly for their livelihood. As Franklin and I talked about on "Washington Watch" last week, we not only need to put a spotlight on what's happening around the world but on what's happening in our own country. "Like you said, it's not with a gun or a sword but they're being forced out of businesses because they do not support the gay-lesbian agenda," Franklin pointed out. "You take the bakers, the Kleins who had the little bake shop in Oregon," he said. "The family in Washington State that had the Christian pharmacy but they refused to carry the morning-after pill because they felt that was abortion, they were a Catholic family -- and they lost their case before the courts... It's over and over and over again across the country where Christians are being singled out, their businesses, because they won't support the agenda of another group of people," he told me. "We need to protect them."

Hopefully, the executive order issued by President Trump last week -- and the Justice Department guidance to follow -- will help. For now, the focus is on the World Summit, where Travis is participating as a special advisor and panelist on how to advocate for the religious freedom of the persecuted. In a powerful contrast from the last administration, Vice President Mike Pence will also be speaking which is an encouraging sign that the White House not only recognizes threat facing Christians -- but is committed to addressing it.

For more on how Republicans are tackling religious freedom at home, check out Mandi Ancalle's op-ed in The Hill, "GOP's Religious Freedom Bill Restores Free Speech, Not 'Dark Money.'"

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