Recently I happened to be in a Moslem dictatorship where the president of the country had just purchased 300 new Ford trucks for his army. For the moment I will assume he actually needed the trucks, and they will have nothing to do with enforcing his military rule over his country. I will assume he is a beneficent dictator who wants to lift his people above their current poverty and improve his country's G.N.P.
While I was in his country I talked to a young man who had managed to escape from prison where he had suffered torture — nearly to the point of death — simply for leaving the Islamic faith and becoming a Christian. This young man's body was covered with scars where the president's soldiers had repeatedly cut him, filling his wounds with salt in the attempt to get him to recant his Christianity and return to the Moslem fold. This vibrant young martyr literally bore in his body the marks of the Lord Jesus.
By some miracle he had survived. Many, he told me, were not so fortunate as he was. Some of his fellow converts had died, unable to survive the torture. Some, he said, had recanted and were given prison sentences of between three and four years for the high crime of having been baptized.
It was not only the persecution of conscience that troubled me. It was the 300 new Ford trucks that bothered me most. Cathy Lee Gifford was forced to publicly apologize for a line of clothing produced with her label because those clothes were made by children who were abused by countries with neither conscience nor child labor laws. Southern Baptists boycotted Mickey Mouse for an agenda that violates biblical and family values.
So why should Ford Motor Company be allowed to do business with countries currently in the business of torture and martyrdom? We have finally, gratefully begun to hear the rumble of conscience in America over human rights abuses in other countries. But we have not yet begun to fight. How important it is that Christians in the West protest, not for the export of trucks, but for what has always been America's best product — religious freedom, freedom of conscience.
If we demonstrated in China for women's rights, and held a rally in Washington for Moslem rights (and we did both), how about a worldwide rally for human rights. God has given America a moral edge on freedom. American businesses should step up to the plate and say loudly and clearly, "We will not do business with those nations who torture and persecute any group — Christians, or otherwise — for any matter of conscience."
Shortly after I met this young martyr I found myself atop a minaret in Delhi at the Friday Mosque. The high clean air (it was an unusually clear day in Delhi) exhilarated me. I was carrying my shoes and socks, for all mosques are holy ground to Moslems (a custom I really rather like and wonder why we Christians haven't emulated). Out of breath from climbing the minaret, I met a handsome young Hindustani. This young Moslem turned to me there at the top of the world and asked, "Are you Moslem?"
I felt a slight moment of terror and then I stiffened and replied, "No, I am a Christian."
"No matter," he smiled, "we are friends."
Perhaps we are.
I wonder if Ford could help such brotherhood along in an uncertain world where such a simple confession of faith can end in imprisonment. The answer isn't to drive Chevys, the answer is a national cry of conscience where American goods and services are never made easy commodities to those who terrorize their own people who refuse to sin against their conscience. After all, as Luther once noted, "To go against conscience is neither safe nor right."