The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ESV). He teaches us that through baptism Christians from every different background are joined together in the Body of Christ. Near the end of his discussion about the Body of Christ and what it means for Christians he went on to add, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV).
We live in a time when the Body of Christ is suffering in numbers and in ways that we have never seen before. The Church experienced tremendous persecution from Communist regimes during the Cold War. Authoritarian regimes that are holdovers from this period such as China, Vietnam and Cuba continue to persecute the Church. However the emergence of an ever more aggressive Islam is subjecting the Church to violence that seeks to exterminate her in places like Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Islamic nations subject the Church to intense persecution around the globe (see this link for a description of persecution in different nations).
The mainline media has given almost no attention to the persecution that Christians are facing. This is not surprising, since it runs counter to its prevailing attitude which seeks to give a positive view of Islam while considering Christians to be oppressors. However, what is troubling is that many Christians seem to be overlooking it as well.
The internet and social media allow information to be rapidly shared, and Christian groups have used these to means to alert the world to the persecution that is now occurring. During the last year I have watched this with increasing frustration as persecution has taken ever more extreme forms.
Naturally, I have long prayed for the persecuted Church. I have been doing this daily as an individual Christian. In my vocation as pastor, I have made the persecuted Church and individual Christians who are imprisoned a weekly element in the Prayer of the Church at my congregation. This is crucially important and is the place to start.
However, faith is active in love (Galatians 5:6); it is a living, active, and busy thing. So the question then arises: What else can we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ?
The next thing is to make the issue known. We need other Christians to know about what is happening. We also need non-Christians to know about the evil that is being done. Social media provides a powerful tool for this. As you see news items on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, share/retweet them. Make this a regular habit. “Like” The Voice of the Martyrs Facebook page so that you can receive regular news items about the persecuted Church and share them.
I have found Persecution.org to be an important resource. This organization encourages us to live out our vocation as citizens by contacting our legislators. What should we tell them? Robert P. George and Katrina Lantos Swett, chairman and vice chairwoman forthe U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, urge us to tell them to promote U.S. government policy that presses foreign governments to bring to justice those who assault religious minorities. In addition, tell them to promote U.S. policy that urges these governments to cease punishing the innocent through blasphemy law. There is also specific legislation the needs our support. We can contact both our legislators and also those of other states who play an important role in this legislation.
It is, perhaps, easy to feel cynical about what such action will accomplish. Yet as Christians we remember our Lord’s words: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28 ESV). We are called in Christ to lives of humble service and sacrifice which do not calculate things as the world does. Instead we, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 ESV).