FRC Blog

3 Alarming Developments for Religious Freedom in China This Year

by Arielle Del Turco

December 4, 2020

This week, Family Research Council updated its publication, Religious Freedom in China: The History, Current Challenges, and the Proper Response to a Human Rights Crisis. Just one year after the report was first issued, religious freedom conditions have noticeably worsened.

Bob Fu, President of ChinaAid and Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom at Family Research Council, knows well the dangers that the Chinese government can pose to people of faith. As a former pastor of a house church, Fu spent time in a Chinese prison for practicing his faith.

Concerning the recent uptick in persecution in the last several years, Fu said, “Xi Jinping has launched a war against faith. Any faith or religion independent of its absolute total control in China is perceived as a threat to the existence of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party]. Religious persecution has reached to the worst level since Mao’s Cultural Revolution in 1960s.”

Here are three ways that things have gotten worse for religious believers in China in 2020:

1. The Chinese government assaulted freedoms in Hong Kong.

One of the most disturbing provocations of the Chinese government over the last year was its breach of an agreement with the British government in which it promised to preserve Hong Kong’s autonomy and Western-style liberties for 50 years following the city’s return to China in 1997. By imposing a new national security law onto Hong Kong in June, the Chinese government endangered religious freedom in several ways.

The new law enables the government to crack down on offenses that are seen to undermine its authority. But in China, anything the government deems can be considered an act against the state. In mainland China, protestant pastor Wang Yi was sentenced to nine years in prison for “subversion of state power” because he pastored a well-known house church and spoke out against the government’s oppressive policies—hardly behavior worthy of a national security-related charge.

Now, many Hong Kongers fear a similar fate might befall them. Several prominent Christian pro-democracy activists have already been arrested under the new law. Just this week, young pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Agnes Chow were sentenced to 13 months and 10 months in prison, respectively, for charges related to participating in unauthorized protests.

The national security law is devastating for those in Hong Kong who wish to live out their faith and express their opinions freely.

2. Uyghur Muslims are being forcibly sterilized in Xinjiang.

New details have emerged this year about the genocidal nature of China’s crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region. While the world has now come to know about the estimated one million Uyghurs detained in “re-education” camps and often “graduated” to forced labor camps, the details of the situation in Xinjiang grow more horrific.

Attempting to cut the birth rates of the minority Uyghur population, local officials have required pregnancy tests, forced sterilizations, and at times forced abortions, on hundreds of thousands of women. The brutal campaign has proven successful. Birth rates in the largely Uyghur areas of Hotan and Kashgar decreased by more than 60 percent from 2015 to 2018.

One Uyghur hospital worker described the forced abortions she witnessed, saying:

The husbands were not allowed inside. They take in the women, who are always crying. Afterwards, they just threw the fetus in a plastic bag like it was trash. One mother begged to die after her 7-month-old baby was killed. It took three more days to give birth. It was a proper baby. She asked if they could bury it, but the doctors would not give it to the family.

The many tragedies inflicted upon Uyghur women and families are difficult to comprehend. The capacity for cruelty by the Chinese Communist Party is on display in Xinjiang like no place else.

3. Catholics continue to be targeted, despite the Vatican agreement.

In October, the Vatican renewed its agreement with the Chinese government which is thought to give the Chinese government a role in nominating bishops. Although the Vatican’s hope is to unite the long-divided Chinese Catholic church, things have not improved for Catholics since the initial agreement in 2018.

In September, a 46-year-old priest in the Fujian province was reportedly tortured by Chinese authorities for refusing to join the state-approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. After China lifted its COVID-19 lockdown this summer, reports surfaced that state-sanctioned Catholic churches were directed that Mass could only resume if they preached “patriotism,” which is code for loyalty to the Party.

Catholic human rights activist Nina Shea points to a litany of ways in which the China-Vatican agreement has failed to produce positive results for the faithful in China.

Yet, despite the government’s attempt to intimidate, harass, imprison, and oppress believers, religious belief is not fading in China. Throughout the often-brutal history of its rule, the Chinese Communist Party has tried to eradicate religion before to no avail. As Bob Fu says, “Xi Jinping and the CCP should know from history that this war against religion, in particular against true Christian faith, is destined to fail miserably.”

To learn more about the dire religious freedom violations happening in China today, read FRC’s publication, Religious Freedom in China.

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National Disabilities Day Should Be a Celebration of ALL Human Life

by Mary Szoch

December 3, 2020

On this National Disabilities Day, I’m struck by a great paradox. Today, in the United States and in many countries around the world, people with both physical and intellectual disabilities have more opportunities than ever before. Mass institutionalization of people with disabilities is a thing of the past. Workplaces have anti-discrimination policies that protect people with disabilities from unfair treatment. Sports for people with disabilities have become a worldwide norm. Universities are developing programs for people with intellectual disabilities. The “r-word” is largely recognized as derogatory and dehumanizing. And yet, while our society has come so far in its treatment of people with disabilities who are born, we have utterly failed to protect these people’s most basic right—the right to life.

A few weeks ago, an article titled, “The Last Children of Down Syndrome” appeared in The Atlantic. The article stated that because 95 percent of women in Denmark who receive a pre-natal diagnosis of Down syndrome choose to abort, only 18 babies with Down syndrome were born in Denmark last year. The article noted that in the United States, 67 percent of children pre-natally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In 2018, a press release from the government of Iceland noted that because of pre-natal screening, only 2-3 babies with Down syndrome are born in Iceland each year. While our society has recognized that people with disabilities who are already born have countless gifts to offer—we’ve missed the most basic point. People, regardless of what they can or cannot do, deserve to live.

My older sister, Marita, has multiple physical and intellectual disabilities. While she does not have Down syndrome, she has a genetic disorder very similar to it. Her life, though certainly not an easy one, is filled with joy. She has had more surgeries than I can count. Tying her shoes and cutting her food are mountains she climbs daily. Getting out a thought sometimes takes her several minutes. Marita struggles to do the things most people take for granted with one major exception. Marita does not struggle to love. No, loving is something Marita does better than anyone I know. If you walk into the room with a smile on your face, you are immediately her friend. About five minutes after meeting you, she’s likely to give you a hug and tell you she loves you. If you wrong her, it’s forgotten the moment you apologize. If you do something to make her feel special—she’ll remember it for life. 

Marita loves so well and so easily not in spite of the disabilities that have made her life so challenging but because of them. To love, we have to be vulnerable. For most of us, that requires breaking down walls and building trust. It’s a process that takes time and effort and can easily be destroyed. For Marita, being vulnerable is just part of being Marita, and consequently, loving is just part of being Marita.

That is what Denmark is missing, that is what Iceland is missing, and that is what the United States will be missing if we do not recognize that people with disabilities have dignity and worth beginning in the womb. By their very being, these people teach us how to love, and that’s something this world could certainly use more of. On this National Disabilities Day, let’s pray for a greater understanding of the gift people with disabilities are to our world. Let’s pray for a greater appreciation of those who teach us to love.

Mary Szoch is the Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.

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Brutal Attack on Indonesian Christians Stirs Renewed Fears of Persecution

by Lela Gilbert

December 2, 2020

On Friday, November 27, a jihadi attack took place against Christians in Sulawesi, one of Indonesia’s largest islands. This vicious attack resulted in the mutilation and death of four members of the local Salvation Army, including at least one beheading, along with the torching of several homes and a Christian house of worship.

Asia News reported,

Four members of the same Christian family have been found murdered, some of them beheaded. All four belonged to the Protestant Church of Salvation (Salvation Army). Their dismembered bodies were found yesterday, Central Sulawesi police reported today. The murder took place in the village of Lenowu, Lemban Tongoa district, Sigi.

This attack—which was preceded by a period of relative calm—has stirred up horrifying memories of similar brutalities in the same region beginning more than a decade ago.

On New Year’s Eve 2003, a bomb exploded at a Christian-area market in Palu, Central Sulawesi, killing eight people and injuring 56. That May, another bombing in the predominantly Christian village of Tentena, Sulawesi left 22 dead and at least 74 injured.

Months later, the Associated Press reported the beheadings of three Christian teenagers in October. Six men attacked four girls—Theresia Morangke, 15, Alfita  Poliwo, 17, Yarni Sambue, 15, and Noviana Malewa, 15—early in the morning as they walked to a Christian school in the Poso district. The first three girls were beheaded; Noviana Malewa received serious injuries to her face and neck but survived the attack.

The murdered girls’ heads were wrapped in black plastic bags. One was found on the steps of a Kasiguncu village church. The other two were left at a nearby police station. One of the bags contained a note, some of which read, “We will murder 100 more Christian teenagers and their heads will be presented as presents.”

In 2006, three Indonesian Catholics were executed by firing squad in Palu, Sulawesi having been found guilty of incitement to murder during rioting. At the time, Amnesty International responded, “Such murders approved by the State are even more unacceptable when there are, as in this case, serious doubts about the fairness of the trials.”

Indonesia’s population is 90 percent Muslim. But in recent years there have been largely successful efforts by Indonesia’s government to enforce religious freedom. Other attacks have happened in various Indonesian cities over the years, but the region of Sulawesi has been a particular hotspot of Islamist terror.

Sadly, this recent attack on Christians has renewed countrywide concerns. Central Sulawesi police have affirmed finding the four victims’ dismembered bodies, but so far the identity of the killers remains in question.

According to BBC, “The Salvation Army confirmed the killing of its members in a ‘savage attack’ in a statement last week. Our hearts go out to our people who have been victims of evil, and to the families of those whose faith have caused such harm.”

In a report from Reuters,

Indonesian President Joko Widodo condemned the brutal murder by suspected Islamist militants as “beyond the limits of humanity,” as the military chief prepared to deploy special forces to join the hunt for the killers. In a video address, the president said the attack on Friday in a region riven by bloody, sectarian conflict in the past was designed to drive a wedge among the population in the world’s biggest majority-Muslim nation.” That gross act had the purpose of provoking and terrorizing the people. They wanted to destroy the unity and brotherhood of our people,” he said. “We need to stay united in the fight against terrorism.”

I spoke to my friend and colleague Paul Marshall, a Senior Fellow in Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute and a scholar who focuses on Indonesia. He has spent much time there, over many decades. I asked him about these recent concerns regarding religious freedom, and the situation specifically in Sulawesi. He explained,

The dominant forms of Islam in Indonesia continue to be moderate and tolerant. But there are threats from more radical groups. Only one of Indonesia’s 34 provinces (states), Aceh, is governed by Sharia law but some other counties and villages are restrictive according to Islamic standards.

In Indonesia, there are also outright terrorist groups, some affiliated with ISIS, that have carried out sporadic violent attacks throughout the country, although they tend to be scattered and weak. Perhaps more ominous is the return from Saudi Arabia on November 10 of  Muhammad Rizieq Shihab, the founder of the Islamic Defenders Front, a radical militia. His reappearance has now emboldened more radical elements.

According to current reports on the recent violence, the Indonesia government has indeed pulled in military special forces to supplement police anti-terrorism units in the hunt for the Sulawesi terrorists, who are believed to be hiding in a remote area. Some locals have claimed to have seen and recognized the killers.

Thus far, however, there have been no arrests.

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The Dying Art of Gratitude

by Molly Carman

November 25, 2020

If I asked you to list some things you are grateful for in the year 2020, what would you say? In a trying year like this one, it can be far easier to list challenges, tragedies, complaints, disappointments, and frustrations. This Thanksgiving, it’s highly likely that the thing many people are most grateful for is a new year being on the horizon. However, as families gather this holiday season, I want to challenge everyone to look not only to the future but also to reflect upon the past. There is far more to be thankful for this year than we likely have taken the time to consider.

We cannot always control whether our circumstances get better or worse, but we can choose how we will respond. Scripture exhorts us to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4), learn the secret of being content (Philippians 4:12), and give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). We do not know what tomorrow will bring, and a new year does not necessarily equal a better one. But we do know that God holds the future, and we are called to remember His praiseworthy deeds, thank Him for what He has done, and trust Him for what He will do.

The Thanksgiving holiday is historically a day to remember the pilgrims and the founding of America, and traditionally a day to gather with family and friends to count our blessings. But being thankful ought not to start and stop on Thanksgiving Day.

Unfortunately, gratitude is an increasingly dying art in our culture, and Thanksgiving has become a mere speed bump on the way to Christmas. Far too often, we focus on what we want rather than being thankful for all we have.

God does not waste anything—not even 2020. Sometimes, trials we face may seem wasted when we are not paying attention and learning from our experiences. Everything that we see, hear, and feel is used by God to teach us. “[B]ut we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Instead of despising 2020 or wishing it were over, we can seek the beauty in the ashes. Consider Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie’s response to their difficult circumstances while being held in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. These sisters walked through the valley of the shadow of death together; it is hard to imagine anything in Auschwitz worth being grateful for. However, Betsie constantly encouraged everyone in her bunker to be grateful. One day, Betsie said that she was grateful for the fleas that infested their mattresses. Yes, the fleas! The guards hated the fleas and would not enter the bunker. This meant they could worship together without intrusion, and that was worth being grateful for.

The year 2020 has been hard, but it is thankfully not Auschwitz. We have much more than fleas for which to be grateful this year. As you carve the turkey, decorate cookies, roast corn, sit by the fire, sing hymns, or whatever your Thanksgiving traditions might be—and even if you are lonely this Thanksgiving—remember that we need not be anxious for anything, for the Lord has and will continue to supply all our needs in Christ Jesus (Matthew 6:25).

I am grateful for how 2020 has taught me to be humble before the Lord, to surrender my plans to Him, to trust Him in all circumstances, and to run with endurance the race set before me—not because I know what the journey will hold, but because I have hope in the final outcome, which is God’s glory and my sanctification. Being grateful is challenging because it requires us to forsake selfishness, whining, and complaining and embrace contentment. If the art of gratitude were easy, we would not need to be commanded and encouraged to cultivate it. Saying we are thankful once a year on Thanksgiving will not resurrect the dying art of gratitude. Rather, we must endeavor to start and end each day with a grateful heart.

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How Blasphemy Laws Violate Religious Freedom

by Rachel Nicole

November 23, 2020

What do an Austrian woman, an Indonesian Buddhist, and a Pakistani couple all have in common? In the past year, all of them were taken to court and found guilty of blasphemy laws in their respective countries.

According to Family Research Council’s newly updated publication, Criminalizing Conscience: The Status of Apostasy, Blasphemy, and Anti-conversion Laws Around the World: “Blasphemy laws generally prohibit insults to religion… in many Muslim-majority countries, they are often abused when allegations of blasphemy are made against religious minorities—often with no evidence—to settle unrelated disputes and vendettas.”

In 2018, an Austrian woman offered two seminars on Islam. She presented facts about the Prophet Mohammed’s life, including his marriage to an underage child. Soon after, she was convicted of blasphemy due to her “derogatory” remarks. The European Court of Human Rights refused to overturn the conviction, deferring to the Austrian courts’ judgment that her actions were “capable of arousing justified indignation.” However, even humanists agree that the case sets a bad precedent for Europe.

Indonesia has recently made great strides toward becoming a moderate Muslim nation. But blasphemy laws remain a problem. In 2018, a Buddhist woman was convicted of blasphemy after asking a nearby mosque to lower the volume of its speakers broadcasting the call to prayer. The Indonesian Supreme Court rejected her appeal in April 2019. She was paroled one month later.

In a particularly extreme case, an illiterate Pakistani couple, Shagufta and Shafqat, were arrested after a Muslim cleric claimed he had received a blasphemous text message from Shagufta’s phone. Authorities charged both Shagufta and Shafqat with “insulting the Qur’an” and “insulting the Prophet.” These crimes are punishable by life imprisonment and death, respectively. However, the texts they are accused of sending were in English, and the impoverished couple is illiterate, unable to text in English or their native Urdu. The couple remains imprisoned on death row, separated from each other and their four children. A recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan found that, as of December 2019, at least 17 people were on death row after being convicted on blasphemy charges.

Amid such dire human rights violations around the world, President Donald Trumpprioritized religious freedom in his administration, going as far as to make international religious freedom an issue ofnational security.

FRC President Tony Perkins has also been a consistent advocate of religious minorities who have fallen victim to religious persecution. In 2018, Perkins was in Izmir, Turkey, representing the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) at the trial for Pastor Andrew Brunson. He traveled with Brunson back to the U.S. upon the pastor’s release. Perkins was at Pastor Brunson’s side as he prayed for President Trump in the Oval Office within hours of reentering the United States.

From the very beginning, FRC has worked alongside the Trump administration to promote faith, family, and freedom, including religious freedom. On October 30, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order on Advancing International Religious Freedom, declaring religious freedom protection as both a domestic and foreign policy priority. The order dedicates $50 million for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to fund programs that promote and defend religious freedoms abroad.

The global community must come to terms with the human rights abuses that have been inflicted on religious minorities all over the world. Although the persecuted belong to various faiths, Christians remain the most heavily persecuted religious minority in the world.

Americans believe that freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech are God-given, unalienable rights. In contrast, a great majority of the world’s governments do not hold the same beliefs. At a time when the voices of so many oppressed religious minorities are being snuffed out, Family Research Council is determined to amplify its effort to promote religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world.

To learn more about blasphemy laws and other laws that threaten the fundamental right to religious freedom, check out FRC’s publication, Criminalizing Conscience.

Rachel Nicole is an intern focusing on international religious freedom with the Center for Religious Liberty in FRC’s Policy & Government Affairs Department.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 15)

by Family Research Council

November 20, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Trump Team Looks at Cause and Elect

In courtrooms across the country, the Trump campaign fights on. Whether his efforts will be enough to save his presidency, no one knows. But could they save an election system bogged down by doubts and questions? That, in the long run, may be just as important.

2. Update: Radical ’Heroes Act’ Is a Leftist Wish-List

The Left has recently called for the passage of the Heroes Act—an act Democrats are labeling simply as coronavirus relief legislation. But, this $2-$3 trillion bill goes beyond being a relief package. The Heroes Act is serving as a trojan horse for progressive legislation that foolishly uses taxpayer dollars and undermines pro-life and pro-family values.

3. Blog: 4 Disturbing Trends in Religious Freedom Worldwide

A new report released by the Pew Research Center has found that there has been a 50 percent increase in government restrictions on religion across the globe between 2007 and 2018, the most recent year studied. Such a drastic number indicates that religious freedom is on a rapid downward spiral.

4. Blog: Nagorno-Karabakh Survivors: “My Home Is in Ruins. I Have Nothing Left”

Currently, there is a terrible war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a community of Christians residing in an historic Armenian enclave. Their homeland was invaded in late September by neighboring Azerbaijan, a majority Muslim country. This invasion broke a 1994 cease-fire between the two countries. But to make matters worse, in this latest attack, Turkey seems to have encouraged if not inspired the assault.

5. Washington WatchDr. Albert Mohler Previews Biden’s War on Christian Institutions in the Name of ‘Equality’

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Human Rights Campaign demanding that a Biden administration deny accreditation to Christian colleges and schools.

6. Washington Watch: Senator Lindsey Graham Discusses the Big Tech Hearings in the U.S. Senate

Lindsey Graham, U.S. Senator from South Carolina and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Tony Perkins to discuss the Big Tech hearings in the U.S. Senate.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: A Time of Prayer

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Eric Metaxas, Michele Bachmann, and Rep. Jody Hice to lead in a special time of prayer for our nation.

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Christian Persecution: A Glaring Blind Spot in Nigeria and Beyond

by Lela Gilbert

November 20, 2020

Traveling by road into Maiduguri, the capital of Nigeria’s northeast, has become one of the most dangerous journeys on earth.” So begins an alarming and timely Wall Street Journal article about ever-encroaching violence in Nigeria, Africa’s largest country and most powerful financial center. 

Writer Joe Parkinson describes four primary highways that lead into that northern Nigerian city, once known as “Home of Peace.” Along those roads some 200 people have been murdered in the past six months. Since its happier days, today Maiduguri is better known as the birthplace of Boko Haram, the brutal Islamist terrorist group.

The attacks are conducted by militants fighting for Boko Haram and a splinter group loyal to Islamic State,” Parkinson explains. “With each passing month they become more brazen, targeting civilians, aid workers, soldiers and even the state’s most powerful politicians.”

And unlike most Western reporters, Parkinson notes that Christians are specifically targeted in these attacks. “Soldiers and Maiduguri residents who travel the roads say the extremists regularly erect mobile checkpoints, searching for Christians and government employees to kidnap for ransom or execute on the roadside.” 

Family Research Council’s 2020 report on Nigeria points out that although violence against Christian communities by Muslim attackers was recognized well before the founding of Boko Haram, it became much more intense and frequent after 2009, when the group’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by Nigerian authorities. Subsequently the group—along with other smaller jihadi sects—became notably more deadly and dangerous. 

With this acceleration in recent years, verified reports of murders, rapes, mutilations, and kidnappings of Christians in Nigeria have persistently increased. These attacks are frequently accompanied by the torching of homes, churches, villages, and agricultural fields. A July 15, 2020 headline reported that 1,202 Nigerian Christians were killed in the first six months of 2020. This is in addition to 11,000 Christians who have been killed since June 2015. Such violence has reached a point at which expert observers and analysts are warning of a progressive genocide—a “slow-motion war” specifically targeting Christians across Africa’s largest and most economically powerful nation.

In one well-known incident, a 14-year-old Christian girl was abducted by Boko Haram in February 2018. Leah Sharibu has been in captivity ever since. Leah and her classmates were rounded up during an attack on Dapchi, a small village in Yobe State. When Boko Haram shot its way into town, panic ensued, and everyone fled. Days later, once the scattered students had returned to their classes, a roll call revealed that 110 girls were missing— including Leah.

Although the Muslim girls who survived the attack were eventually released, Leah refused to deny her Christian faith. She remains in captivity to this day, enslaved and reportedly having given birth to the child of one of her captors. She continues to be the focus of worldwide prayer.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram isn’t the only group attacking Christians. Another group, known as Fulani herdsmen or tribesmen, have been slaughtering entire Christian communities during increasingly frequent attacks in Nigeria’s Middle Belt region. Yet—despite their obvious targeting of churches, Christian communities, pastors, and seminary students—some scholars, analysts and, unfortunately, even U.S. authorities refuse to recognize the religious nature of numerous attacks and attackers.

Paul Marshall, Senior Fellow for Religious Freedom at Hudson Institute writes:

While there is some recognition of the primary, self-declared, religious mission of Boko Haram and the numerous ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates that have made West Africa the world center of terrorism, there is still widespread resistance to recognition of the religious nature of attacks by Fulani tribesmen on predominantly Christian villages, people and churches 

In her July 17, 2019, confirmation hearing, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard referred to the carnage in the Middle Belt of Nigeria as “banditry and inter-communal conflict” and “escalating farmer-herder and inter-communal conflict frequently based in resource competition, but enflamed by conflation of ethnic and religious overlays.”

Abraham Cooper and Johnnie Moore, in their book The Next Jihad: Stop the Christian Genocide in Africa describe a meeting they had in February 2020 with Amb. Leonard in which they discussed the possible religious aspects of the violence wracking the country. “She denied that it was at all about religion and described the conflict as ‘fundamentally a resource issue…. Religion was, according to Ambassador Leonard, only relevant as it served as a potential accelerant to conflict. She left us with the impression that people like us, by speaking up for victims of religious persecution, were part of the problem. We found this to be hugely alarming.” 

Some years ago, Paul Marshall, Roberta Ahmanson and I co-authored a book called Blind Spot: Why Journalists Don’t Get Religion. We learned that many—if not most—mainstream journalists are from very secular backgrounds, know little about faith, spiritual awareness, or devotion, and simply don’t see how religion deeply shapes culture and conduct in most of the world beyond the West.

However, sad to say, it isn’t just journalists. A close look at many diplomats, intelligence officers, politicians, and academics exposes that they share that same blind spot with journalists.

It is still remarkable, however, that although self-proclaimed jihadis slaughter Christians in their homes, churches, and fields, beheading them and shouting Allahu-Akbar as a victory cry, observers do not acknowledge the killers’ Islamist intensions. As we’ve seen in Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, and far beyond, the truth about anti-Christian violence is seldom disclosed, understood, or reported. It’s a blind spot for sure. And it’s a deadly one.

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Of Dogs and Unborn Babies

by Mary Jayne Caum

November 19, 2020

For the last two weeks, fallout from the election chaos has dominated the news cycle. Because of this, state and local initiatives have largely gone unnoticed. But two important laws were on the ballot in Colorado: (1) Proposition 115 and (2) a repeal of Denver’s pit bull ban.

Proposition 115 was a state-wide initiative to ban late-term abortions throughout Colorado. If successful, it would have been illegal to commit an abortion in Colorado once an unborn child reaches 22 weeks gestation. Proposition 115 specified that committing an abortion on an unborn child who has reached at least 22 weeks gestation would be a misdemeanor and any abortionists who violated this law would be subjected to professional penalties including suspension of their medical license. Of course, the measure did exempt from prosecution the woman who underwent the abortion. It also allowed an abortion after 22 weeks gestation when the life of the mother was at risk. Despite scientific and philosophical support for banning these late-term abortions, Colorodans voted to continue the dangerous and deadly practice.           

In Denver, Colorado, another measure was in the hands of the citizenry. For 30 years, it has been illegal to own a pit bull in Denver. This law banning pit bulls resulted from several pit bull attacks in Colorado in the 1980s, and the stigma surrounding certain breeds including pit bulls. For years, pit bulls have been stigmatized as an inherently aggressive breed waiting to tear you limb from limb. However, the facts simply do not align with this myth. The National Geographic reports that there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that pit bulls are inherently aggressive and dangerous. Changing attitudes towards pit bulls combined with widespread initiatives to destigmatize the breed resulted in Denver’s decision to lift the ban on pit bulls. Personally, this author supports Denver’s decision to allow pit bulls. As a dog mom, it warms my heart to see dogs rescued, given a chance, or destigmatized. While I applaud the people of Denver’s decision to legalize pit bulls, I do find Colorado’s stance on human life and animal life troubling.            

An unborn child is viable somewhere around 22-24 weeks gestation. Neonatal medicine defines viability, “as the gestational age at which there is a 50% chance of survival with or without medical care.” Therefore, last week in Colorado, the voters elected to continue aborting viable babies while lifting a ban on pit bull ownership in Denver. Critics may claim I am comparing apples and oranges. Colorado is not populated by Denver alone. However, almost 6 million people live in Colorado, while almost 3 million people live in metro Denver. So it is safe to say that the attitudes of individuals in metro Denver represents the mindset of at least half of Colorado. With that in mind, let us return to the point of this article: the inherent worth of a child vs. the inherent worth of an animal.

As a Christian, I believe both man and beast have value. However, man is worth so much more. Because humans are made in the image of God, we have inherent worth and dignity. Our value is so great, God sacrificed His holy and glorious Son and raised Him from the dead to purchase us from the grips of sin and death. While reflecting upon His creation, God deemed nature and its animals “good” while praising man as “very good.” No matter how much we try to devalue life in our society, men and women are inherently priceless and imbued with a dignity God did not bestow on any of His other creations.

This is not to say we should be cruel to our animals. One of the wisdom books in the Bible espouses its readers, “the righteous care for the needs of their animals.” Therefore, according to God’s Word, one of the distinguishing features of a righteous person is the manner in which he treats animals. For this reason, I rejoice when another shelter dog is rescued, a dog fight organizer is prosecuted, and a pit bull is allowed to be loved.

However, we cannot confuse our duty to properly care for animals with the inherent worth and dignity of our fellow man. After creating man, God exhorted Adam to have dominion over the animals God created. Abortion fundamentally rejects the dignity and worth of every human being. Instead of recognizing the humanity of every unborn child, we devalue and sacrifice our unborn children in the name of convenience, preference, and career advancement. As a society, we cannot continue down this path of devaluing human life. 

While we pat ourselves on the back for being progressive and rejecting the fallacious notion that certain dog breeds are inherently aggressive, let us not forget our fellow man. It is a well known fact that when an abortion is committed against a child around 22 weeks gestation, the abortionist’s preferred method of murder is dismemberment abortion (also known as D&E: dilation and evacuation abortion). Although Denver was correct to statutorily reject the idea that pit bulls inherently desire to tear humans limb from limb, Colorado was wrong to leave unborn infants vulnerable to abortionists who tear these innocent children limb from limb.

Sadly, I believe the prophetic words of G.K Chesterton have been realized, “Wherever there is animal worship there is human sacrifice.” Let us reverse this trend of human sacrifice. Let us honor our Creator by protecting His creation: both animal and human. While enjoying the companionship of our furry friends, we should continue to recognize the inherent worth and dignity of each human individual—born and unborn.

Mary Jayne Caum works in State & Local Affairs at Family Research Council.

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4 Disturbing Trends in Religious Freedom Worldwide

by Arielle Del Turco

November 16, 2020

A report released last week by the Pew Research Center has found that there has been a 50 percent increase in government restrictions on religion across the globe between 2007 and 2018, the most recent year studied. Such a drastic number indicates that religious freedom is on a rapid downward spiral.

This is troubling, and it presents a myriad of security, economic, and human rights challenges for the millions of people who live under governments that are tightening restrictions on peaceful religious practices. For world leaders and advocates to successfully begin addressing these issues, it is critical to understand what is happening around the world and what is driving increasing attacks on religious freedom.

Pew’s extensive survey reveals a lot about what religious believers are enduring around the world—both from governments and from social hostilities. Here are four take-aways from Pew’s new report:

1. Government restrictions on religion are rising in Asia.

Asia and the Pacific had the biggest increase in the amount of government restrictions on religion in 2018. Pew researchers found that governments used force against religious believers and groups in 62 percent of countries in Asia and the Pacific, including detention, displacement, abuse, and killings.

Asia is a worsening hotspot for religious persecution. Just in the last several years, China has started a campaign of mass detention of Uyghur Muslims, North Korea remains the world’s worst persecutor of Christians, and apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws across Asia restrict individuals’ rights to choose and change their faith. These developments are all concerning and all deserve the world’s attention and advocacy.

2. Authoritarian regimes pose the greatest threat to religious freedom.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Pew found a “strong association between authoritarianism and government restrictions on religion.” Around 65 percent of countries with very high government restrictions on religion have authoritarian governments. In contrast, no countries with very high government restrictions were classified as full democracies.

3. Three Middle Eastern countries have both the highest levels of government restrictions and social hostility to religion.

Egypt, Syria, and Iraq are the only three countries which were found to have both very high government restrictions and very high social hostilities toward religion in 2018. Targeted religious believers in these countries endure governments that impede their freedom to practice their faith and face private groups or individuals that regularly harass or abuse them. This is a deadly combination, and it is indicative of the severe challenges faced by believers throughout the entire Middle East.  

4. Harassment due to religion remains high.

Harassment due to religion occurs in 185 out of 198 countries—the vast majority of the world. While this is slightly down from the previous year, the number of countries where Christians experienced harassment rose slightly.

Pew considers harassment to include everything from verbal abuse to physical violence and killings which are motivated because of a person’s religious identity. Christians and Muslims reportedly faced the most harassment for their faith worldwide. The region of the Middle East and North Africa is especially dangerous. In 2018, Christians in 19 out of the 20 total countries faced harassment by social groups or the government.

Ultimately, it should be a wake-up call to the world that religious persecution is at the highest point it has been in the past 11 years when Pew began tracking it. Things are getting worse, not better. And that is tragic for millions of religious people around the world just trying to live out their faith. The persecuted—especially those living under highly restrictive authoritarian regimes—are often unable to speak up for themselves. It falls, then, to those of us in free societies to speak up on their behalf.

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FRC’s Top 7 Trending Items (Week of November 8)

by Family Research Council

November 13, 2020

Here are “The 7” top trending items at FRC over the past seven days:

1. Update: Media’s Early Call: Dancing on the Stealing?

No one expected the media to play fair, but watching the networks declare Joe Biden the winner of a race that’s still unresolved in key states was not only difficult—but frustrating for fans of the democratic process. When all is said and done, Joe Biden may very well be the winner. But first we must make sure the rule of law was respected.

2. Update: The Presidential Election: A Work in Process

There are about 100,000 votes out of 150 million cast deciding states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Nevada. If this were Joe Biden, trailing by such a small margin, we would be dealing with the exact same scenario—except for one thing. The media, ever eager to delegitimize Trump, would never have called the election.

3. Blog: The Media Still Doesn’t Get It: Conservatives Tend to Vote Conservative

Four years after one of the most shocking presidential upsets in American history, and after another incredibly close election, the mainstream media still has not figured out why almost half of American voters filled in the oval for Donald Trump. The primary motivating factor is as plain as day: millions of Americans are conservative, and they voted for a president that has enacted conservative policies.

4. Blog: Legitimizing Looting Jeopardizes Liberty for All

The year 2020 will go down in history for a number of reasons, one of which will be the increase of protests, rioting, and looting following the tragic death of George Floyd. While some protestors have been authentically peaceful, others have resorted to destructive actions, which some argue “liberates societies from oppressive infrastructures.” Can that be right?

5. Washington WatchMatt Schlapp Highlights New Evidence of Voter Fraud

Are there legitimate claims of voter fraud? Matt Schlapp, president of American Conservative Union, joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to share what he saw on the ground in Nevada and the new evidence of fraud surfacing in Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

6. Washington Watch: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Discusses the World’s Reaction to America’s Election Drama

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined Tony Perkins on Washington Watch to discuss the Trump administration’s religious freedom agenda, the latest on China, and the world’s reaction to America’s election drama.

7. Pray Vote Stand broadcast: A Call to Prayer

On this edition of Pray Vote Stand, Tony welcomed Pastor Carter Conlon, Michele Bachmann, and Pastor Gary Hamrick to lead in a special time of prayer as we continue to pray for election transparency, honest public discussion, truth to prevail, and peace to reign throughout our nation.

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