SBC Life Articles

In the Lion’s Den

The shocking untold story of our time is that more Christians have died this century simply for being Christian than in the first nineteen centuries following the birth of Christ.

Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world and that persecution is intensifying. Atrocities against Christians include torture, enslavement, rape, imprisonment, murder, and even crucifixions.

Mounting evidence indicates a worldwide trend of anti-Christian persecution based on two political ideologies — communism and militant, politicized Islam. Around the globe, leaders of these two ideological movements have consistently persecuted Christians.

Massive International Persecution

In the Lion's Den details extensive accounts of Christian persecution from communist and Islamic countries, including: China, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cuba, Sudan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Egypt, Nigeria, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The following samples provide a limited glimpse at the escalating atrocities.

China requires all Christians to worship in atheistic government-controlled church organizations. Between 60 and 100 million Christians refuse to do so and risk their lives and liberty to worship freely in underground "house-churches." At least three house-church Christians were beaten to death by police for their religious affiliation. Thousands of Christians are now being "reformed through labor" in China's vast religious gulag. Both Catholics and Protestants are saying that 1996 was the harshest year of persecution since the Mao period.

Sudan is waging a Jihad, or holy war, against its Christian and non-Muslim population. Christians are regularly sold into slavery for as little as $15 apiece; the UN Rapporteur on Sudan in March 1996, stated slavery is increasing. Christian mothers are forced to convert to Islam or watch their children starve because the government withholds food from them. Christian boys in the north are taken from their families and put in government camps where they are forced to convert to Islam, adopt Arabic names, and then sent as cannon fodder into battle.

Saudi Arabia completely bans Christianity. No churches, Bibles, Christian artifacts, literature, or symbols are permitted. Religious police seek out secret worship services by raiding private homes. Thousands are in prison for Christian worship and some have been beheaded.

Egypt's Coptic community, believed to have been evangelized by Mark in the first century, is vanishing under a violent onslaught by Muslim extremists. Tens of thousands of Coptic Christians have been forced to flee their homes and leave the country or convert to Islam after large mobs of fanatical Muslim youths laid waste to their villages in the Upper Egypt region in early 1996.

Iran's tiny Protestant community was devastated in 1994 by the brutal murders of three key pastors. One had been on death row for apostasy charges, but was released, only to be murdered "mysteriously." In October 1996, a fourth pastor, who had been caring for the orphaned children of a murdered pastor, was found hanged near his home in northwest Iran.

Ethiopian interrogators have been known to punish evangelistic efforts by suspending the "guilty" person by his feet for hours and pouring hot oil on the soles of his feet.

Administrative Indifference

The Clinton Administration has been indifferent, and sometimes hostile, to these beleaguered Christians. In some instances, the U.S. curbs the religious freedom of American citizens abroad under pressure from tyrannical regimes. For example:

In Saudi Arabia, the U.S. capitulated to Saudi demands to restrict Christian worship services for U.S. employees on U.S. embassy grounds.

The U.S. regularly denies religious refugee status to Christians fleeing persecution in Iran, Pakistan, Sudan, and China. The three Christian pastors mentioned earlier in Iran were murdered following a fiery speech by Iran's Islamic president in which he claimed "there is no longer validity to other religions." Even so, the U.S. rejected the religious refugee claims of twenty Christian clerics. This is because the U.S. delegates its refugee screening to the UNHCR, which in turn delegates screening to the Turkish police, who are Muslim.

Nina Shea met with the new American Ambassador Jim Sasser a few days before he took up his post in China in early 1996. Ambassador Sasser was well versed on the problems facing women, the Tibetans, and intellectuals, but he clearly had never been briefed about the existence of, much less the persecution facing, the some sixty-million strong house-church Christians. He asked: "What is a house-church?"

Naturalized American citizen Man Thi Jones was arrested in Vietnam on October 6, 1996, and detained, interrogated, and harassed for over two months on charges that she was engaging in "religious propaganda" because she had been caught distributing ball point pens with a Christian cross on them and audio tapes of the Scriptures in her native village. The U.S. treated her case as if she were a common criminal and not a human rights victim under international law and let Vietnam's "legal process play out." The American Christian was finally released after she paid Vietnamese local authorities a $1,000 "fine" without even having had a hearing. Hers is the fifth case of American Christians being arrested, detained, and fined for peaceful religious activity since 1994.

Evangelical Efforts

In the last year, some progress has been made in getting our government's attention. In June 1997, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution decrying the persecution and calling for action on the part of the U.S. Government.

The National Association of Evangelicals released a powerful "Statement of Conscience" in which it pledged to speak out against religious persecution abroad and outlined achievable goals for reforms within U.S. foreign policy. This statement was endorsed by the Southern Baptist Convention, The Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., the United Methodist Church, and the American Episcopal Church.

On September 29, 1996, over 30,000 evangelical churches observed an "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church."

In response, in September, both the House and the Senate unanimously adopted resolutions decrying "egregious" persecution against Christians abroad and calling for a more rigorous response from the Administration.



Your church has the opportunity to join with thousands of sympathetic churches in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters overseas. On November 16, an estimated 50,000 churches will observe an International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. If you would like to participate, or would like a resource kit for the prayer emphasis, call toll free (888) LETS PRAY (538-7772) or check the web site at www.persecutedchurch.org



Most Favored Nation?

Anticipating congressional action on China's most-favored nation (MFN) trade status, a report from early June indicates the Chinese regime stepped up its campaign against Christians.

The International human-rights group Freedom House, which conducted a fact-finding mission to China in the last two weeks of May, announced that "repression has intensified in all the provinces from which we receive reports."

Among the group's findings:

Authorities are now aggressively seeking out and arresting members of the Christian underground. Eighty-five house-church Christians were arrested in May in Henen Province alone.

Numerous torture incidents were reported, including "beatings, binding in agonizing positions, tormenting by cattle prods and electric drills, and other brutal treatment." One widely used method: forcing Christians to kneel while police stomp on their heels.

Ninety percent of the underground Protestant church members said the repression is the worst since the early 1980s.

This renewed repression has been directly linked to China's fear of the church's impact on their government. In 1992, the Chinese press declared that "the church played an important role in the change" in Eastern Europe, and that "if China does not want such a scene to be repeated in its land, it must strangle the baby while it is still in the manger." (Here, "baby" refers to the people who make up the church.)

"Denying MFN will send a strong message to Beijing," said Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Solidarity International-USA. "No more business as usual until Chinese officials stop the cruel persecution of Christians."

To urge your congressman and senator to oppose MFN status for China, contact them at (202) 224-3121 or 1-800-962-3524. Also, ask them to vote for Freedom from Religious Persecution Act. If passed, it would call for sanctions against offending nations and improve asylum proceedings for victims of religious persecution. The House version is H.R. 1685 and the Senate bill is S. 772.

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