Tag archives: Religious Persecution

Fighting Religious Persecution with Mustard Seeds

by Caleb Seals

February 18, 2019

Due to security concerns, the location of this country cannot be disclosed.

For someone who has never been outside of America, I was pumped up about going on my first mission trip overseas. Before the journey, our group went through an intensive preparation course. This course required us to grow in our faith, prepare our armor, and know the laws of the land we were traveling to. We had to practice praying with our eyes open, talk in coded language, and have the ability to detect undercover law enforcement.

The country that we were going to was not Christian-friendly, to put it mildly. We were officially traveling as tourists in a hiking club. We would need to constantly be alert for authorities that could be following us. Per the country’s laws, we were banned from teaching the Bible or sharing the gospel. Of course, that wasn’t going to stop us.

After over 20 hours of flying, we finally arrived at our destination. The very next day, we left the city and went into the outer countryside to start our mission. For the first few days, we stayed in host homes that were a part of small villages on the mountainside. We used translators to speak and encourage believers in their walk with Jesus.

After news of our arrival spread, we were constantly stopped and asked to come in to people’s homes so that they could question us about our activities and take a group picture with their phones. It is also important to note that most of these people had other gods in their life. In almost every hut we went into, there were false idols that they would worship. Many people in these communities seemed to mostly put their hope in the local fortune teller.

After visiting multiple villages, we then set out to a region that no other group had gone to before us. This area had never even heard the name of Jesus, let alone knew what a Bible was. Due to the threat of being compromised, we simply spoke to the people in this area and did prayer walks. During our prayer walks, we would drop mustard seeds, hoping that the Holy Spirit would fill that area (Matthew 17:20).

At the camp, there were undercover officers who posed as fishermen that were sent there by the government to observe our activities and document who we were in contact with. Most of our friends in the country that traveled with us had left so that they would not be endangered.

One night, after an interesting encounter with a fortune teller, we arrived back to our camp. Our host, along with the law enforcement officers, told us that our time staying there was over. I had no idea what to expect. I had heard of several stories in the news about Christians being persecuted and had no idea what would happen to us. We immediately thought of the worst possible outcomes. Are they going to arrest us? Will we be able to return home? What will happen to the contacts we made in the area? The authorities then told us that we were required to leave the area immediately, but we had no idea where to go.

We loaded up the van and had to leave in the middle of the night to a hotel hours away. To securely inform our church of what had just transpired, we had to talk in the bathroom and turn the water on to avoid eavesdroppers. Eventually, we found out that the government compensated visiting tourists to find out information about us. We eventually left the country without any further problems.

On our flight home, I reflected on our journey and prayed that it was not a waste of time. We were all a little discouraged because we did not know why God would send us there only to be shipped right back home again.

Several months after we returned home, we got an update from our contact in the country where we had spent our mission trip. Our contact stated that since our departure, hundreds of people had been saved in the same area where we did not even mention the name of Jesus and had merely prayed while dropping mustard seeds. It was awesome to see how God revealed himself through only the faith of a mustard seed!

Since then, we continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to move every day in that country. It is obvious from the news that not all stories about international religious persecution end as safely as ours did. You saw what happened with Pastor Brunson. You see what is happening with the persecution of our brothers and sisters by ISIS. You see what is happening in China. We need to remember that we have millions of brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world who risk their freedom and their lives every day, merely for being Christian. I hope that you will join me in praying for the persecuted Christians around the globe.

Caleb Seals is an intern at Family Research Council.

In the Face of ISIS Aggression: Trusting an Unknown Future to A Known God

by Joshua Denton

May 1, 2015

Not more than 24 hours ago ISIS released a shocking new photo that is of an entirely different nature than any previously released.

ISIS has largely waged its war on the West with an eerie online presence, by taping and capturing videos of massacres of Christians, numerous beheadings, burnings, stonings, etc. These images, which once shocked us and filled us with horror, have become almost mundane. We turn our heads and forget because it does not have a direct impact on us. Yet.

Since many Americans have largely closed their eyes to the brutality that defines ISIS, the terrorist group may be trying a new method to strike fear into the hearts of those whom it opposes. 

The picture recently released is of a very young infant sleeping peacefully with a handgun placed on the one side of the child, and a grenade on the other.

It is very tragic to think of the violence and destruction that this child will experience. Undeniably, this child will grow up in an environment surrounded by unspeakable brutality – and never know that there is anything different. Yes, this is heart wrenching to think of.

The intentions of the photo are unmistakable. And their implications should send a shiver down our spine as we sit comfortably in front of our laptops or electronic devices viewing from a safe distance. Clearly, ISIS intended this photo to say “We mean business. We aren’t going away anytime soon. We may die, but our children will follow in our footsteps. The plans we fail to accomplish, those who come behind us will achieve.”

If this isn’t disconcerting to you there is a problem.

Although ISIS undeniably poses a potential threat to our security as a nation, this picture didn’t cause me to advocate for a declared U.S. government disapprobation of ISIS – although that certainly is in order. Instead, this image motivates me to follow the principles of Scripture and be an intergenerational influence for the sake of Jesus Christ. Viewing our service to God in this manner isn’t an option, it’s a command.

My complete and committed life purpose is to be a positive, animated influence on families - inspiring them to motivate others, thereby creating an explosive, multi-generational chain reaction - that encourages individuals to stand strong and courageous for Jesus Christ! 

Eph. 6:12 (KJV) reminds us: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

We will always have adversaries to contest in both the physical and spiritual realms, and we can’t be certain what we may face in the days ahead. But as long as I am faithfully following God and assisting others to do the same, I can have full confidence in what is forthcoming – no matter what the outcome.

Corrie Ten Boom put it so aptly when she said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

Hashtag Persecution

by Jourdan Stuart

November 14, 2014

When one hears a story about God’s people being persecuted for their beliefs, many examples throughout history come to mind. Adolph Hitler, the German dictator, ordered the extermination of six million Jews during the Holocaust. Many of the Jews were marched into gas chambers as participants of one of the largest genocides in world history. The Biblical account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a historic example of individuals being persecuted for their religious beliefs. In this story, King Nebuchadnezzar throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship the king’s golden image. Mark Twain once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme”.  Is genocide on a large scale more appalling than the individuals affected by it?

One contemporary example of modern-day persecution is the story of Asia Bibi of Pakistan. In 2010, this mother of five was convicted of blasphemy for speaking out against Muhammad and was sentenced to death. Her government-justified execution does not end her story but extends to her family who are facing a similar fate.  Supporters can bring attention to her story using the hashtag #FreeBibi via social media.

Meriam Ibrahim was sentenced by the Sudanese government to death by hanging for her Christian faith.  While in prison, Meriam gave birth to her child. After much international pressure she obtained her release and was returned to the United States.

Saeed Abedini is a pastor from Idaho being held in Rajaei Shahr prison for building an orphanage in Iran.  In 2012, Saeed, after being detained for being a Christian, was denied a court hearing, and was placed in a solitary confinement facility. He has been tortured and his communication with his family has been cut off. Facility medical staff refused him treatment because he is an “unclean” Christian.  In 2014, his condition deteriorated and he was transported to a hospital outside of the prison, where he received only minimal medical attention. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called for Saeed’s release and over 610,000 people have signed a petition to that end. Saeed and his family have remained steadfast thanks to the support and prayers of godly people. Awareness is being raised for Saeed on social media through the hashtag, #SaveSaeed.

North Korean officials were detaining American, Jeffery Fowle, an Ohio native, this past spring simply for leaving a Bible in his hotel room. Thankfully, through the efforts of the White House and prayers of believers worldwide, Mr. Fowle has obtained freedom. Matthew Miller and Kenneth Bae, Americans being held in North Korea for “crimes” of the same nature, were also recently released.

Many in the U.S. are not aware of the persecution experienced by Americans overseas. As noted, Americans are not immune to this persecution. We must pray that God will give strength to endure trials, and we must pray for the safe return of our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution for their beliefs. We must also pray for our leaders to aggressively defend persecuted Christians around the world.

ISIS: and the New Damascus Road

by Family Research Council

November 6, 2014

The New Testament book of Acts tells us that Saul’s persecutions scattered the church throughout Judea and Samaria. Saul later converted to Christianity, on his way to Damascus to eradicate Christians, and began planting churches throughout the Mediterranean region

Today a new scattering in the Middle East has begun and a new group of persecutors on the road to Damascus has risen up. The new so-called caliphate, ISIS, which has emerged in the Middle East is seeking to remove from its borders all those who claim allegiance to the Jesus Christ. The slaughter of Christians has been one of the most troubling aspects of the rise of ISIS among many horrific stories coming out of Iraq and Syria.

While persecution is not new to Christians in the Middle East, many communities which have existed for millennia are in danger of being eradicated. You can read some of the troubling news in a recent article published by the Gatestone Institute.

Christians can pray for the persecuted by asking for God’s protection of them and for their boldness in sharing the Gospel. We should also pray that the Lord would change the hearts of the persecutors like He changed the heart of Paul and in so doing stop their evil rampage. May God turn this wave of persecution into one that turns the heart of a great persecutor into the heart of a great missionary, and one that uses the scattering of the faithful to spread new hope in Christ wherever they are driven.

Beachheads of God’s Kingdom

by Rob Schwarzwalder

November 3, 2014

So, things can look pretty bleak, at home and abroad. But in addition to the fact that we have the legal right and moral duty to try to restrain evil and advance good, Christians can celebrate some very good things that are happening concurrent with the gloom that sometimes seems to surround us.

Here is some news to encourage believers who sometimes feel at sea without a rudder in the waves of our culture. Some stories deal with specific events, others with broader trends. All should help keep us steadfast as we work for life, family, and liberty.

  • The adoption movement is bringing thousands of little ones, at home and abroad, into loving Christian homes).
  • Although a recent survey says that most Americans see religion’s influence in culture waning, the survey also shows “most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing”. This presents a real opportunity for Christians to talk about how God’s standards for society actually work – and use them to share the good news about Jesus, too.
  • Believers in the U.S. are growing more and more aware of their suffering brethren across the globe; for example, FRC played a key role in the release of Christian Mariam Ibrahim from Sudanese captivity earlier this year. Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors are among those leading in this area.

Is this list comprehensive? No. Does it diminish the grim news about abortion, violations of religious liberty, erosions of the family and our culture and other bad things we hear about so often? No.

But God is doing wonderful things despite the fallenness and corruption that is in the world. Let’s rejoice in that truth and from it gather continued strength to keep fighting the wrongs of our time.

Hostility to Religion in America” — new FRC publication

by Rob Schwarzwalder

July 8, 2014

As we have just witnessed in some of the responses to last week’s Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, there are those in our country who would not only diminish religious liberty through government coercion but denigrate as an archaism that our culture should jettison. According to C.J. Werleman in Salon, “The hyper-religious conservatives on the bench of the nation’s high court, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, see the federal government as being controlled by ‘secular humanists’ who wish to make war against the purity of the Christian belief system. Like the 89 million Americans who count themselves as evangelicals, they seek total cultural and political domination … The American Taliban is on a roll” – and America is a “corporate theocracy.”

Yikes - all that from a decision that says a privately-held company can’t be forced by the government to serve as a conduit for potentially abortifacient drugs. Who knew?

Granted, Werleman’s comments are extreme. Still, they nonetheless reflect the rage of those for whom religious liberty is a matter of ultimate privacy – one’s personal thoughts and occasional, four-walled worship. Rather, religious liberty is the very foundation of all other liberties: If our liberties and dignity do not come from a personal, sovereign Creator, from whence do they come? And if they do come from Him, then government’s role is one of stewardship of those rights, not manipulation or erasure of them.

So, when government seeks to curtail religious liberty, it is affronting the God Who gave it, and asserting its authority to abate all other freedoms. If the ability to believe and practice (in public as well as private life) one’s faith is eroded, what is the foundation of our other rights and liberties? The whim of the state is an unnerving master.

FRC has been at the forefront of the effort to “preserve, protect, and defend” our religious liberty, which is why we wanted you to know about our most recent publication, “Hostility to Religion: The Growing Threat to Religious Liberty in the United States.”

This publication, collated by the Director of FRC’s Center for Religious Liberty, Georgetown-trained lawyer Travis Weber, contains a list of documented accounts of hostility toward faith in the United States today, broken down in the following four definable types of incidents:

  • Section I: Suppression of Religious Expression in the Public Square
  • Section II: Suppression of Religious Expression in Schools and Universities
  • Section III: Censure of Religious Viewpoints Regarding Sexuality
  • Section IV: Suppression of Religious Expression on Sexuality Using Nondiscrimination Laws

Hostility to Religion” can be both downloaded and shared on-line at no charge. Please use this resource in considering the stakes for people of faith in a culture in which articulate religious belief is viewed by some as comic and pathetic and, thus, unimportant and disposable. We need to keep making the argument, graciously but consistently and firmly, that religious liberty matters – to everyone.

Washington Watch Interview on Nigeria & Boko Haram

by FRC Media Office

June 24, 2014

On Friday’s edition of “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins,” Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) guest hosted for Tony and had a very special guest on the program. Referred to as “Marie” during the interview because revealing her true identity could put her in great danger, she is one of the most important influencers on the ground in Nigeria. Marie is working to secure the rescue, and subsequent restoration, of the nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram two months ago. She is working with the captured girls’ mothers and with several of the girls who have escaped from Boko Haram’s custody in order to raise awareness of the situation and to call the Nigerian government to act on behalf of the innocent girls. Join FRC in praying for Marie and for this deplorable situation in Nigeria. Take a moment to listen to Congressman Gohmert’s fascinating interview with Marie here.

Sudan must redress Meriam’s new plight along with its legal system, which is already leading to other apostasy charges

by Travis Weber

June 24, 2014

Just when it looked like Sudanese mother Meriam Ibrahim and her two children would finally be free from the grip of injustice, they were snatched back into the clutches of the Sudanese authorities, who detained them when they arrived at an airport to leave Sudan today. Though it’s unclear on what basis they are being detained, we call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam and her children. In addition, the United States government, specifically Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum – must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again.

Yesterday, in a heartening turn of events, a Sudanese appeals court overturned a lower court ruling in which Meriam had been sentenced to death for apostasy and 100 lashes for adultery. According to Sudan’s official SUNA news agency (as reported by the Independent), “The appeal court ordered the release of Mariam Yahya and the cancellation of the (previous) court ruling.”

This was certainly a good bit of news, as numerous human rights organizations and governments had pressured Sudan and called on the ruling to be reversed. The U.S. government had been slow to respond, however, only recently issuing statements bearing on the matter. Numerous groups had spoken and petitioned on Meriam’s case, including the Family Research Council. And in Sudan, Meriam’s attorneys had filed appeals and vowed to fight to the end.

It is important to note that the Sudanese court ordering Meriam’s release got this issue right. Yet her re-arrest appears arbitrary – no basis for her detention has been offered – and it will be increasingly harmful to Sudan’s relations with the United States and the other countries outraged by the original charges against Meriam. Moreover, in the eyes of the many of the activists and NGOs which have spoken out on her case, Sudan’s reputation as a just and reasonable country will continue to degrade until it safely releases this family and allows them safe passage out of the country. 

Many have made their voices heard around the world on Meriam’s case. In addition, however, voices within Sudan have made it known that they wanted justice for Meriam too. Here, Muslim men (Meriam’s Sudanese attorneys) are defending a Christian woman (Meriam) in her quest for justice. These attorneys strongly believe in her case, and despite receiving death threats for defending a Christian, they vowed to fight to the end and exhaust all appeals. Furthermore, other Muslims in Sudan have been demonstrating on Meriam’s behalf.

While her attorneys and others in Sudan were on her side, not everyone was happy with Meriam’s freedom. When she was released, Meriam had to go into hiding due to threats against her life. Now, as she is trying to leave the country along with her family, she is being detained by Sudanese national security forces for an unknown reason. We call on Sudan to immediately release Meriam in accordance with the court order overturning her conviction and sentence. In addition, Secretary of State Kerry and the U.S. Embassy in Sudan must pursue high level engagement on Meriam’s case. Sudan needs to know that the United States and its high level officials are watching whether Sudan pursues justice or regresses backwards into permitting the unjust detention of Meriam and her children to occur once again. Sudan is close to bringing justice to Meriam, and must not fail her now.

We have witnessed Meriam’s attorneys and the protesting crowds expressing their support for Sudan to take ownership of this issue and be ready to handle religious freedom challenges when they inevitably arise in the future, for this issue is not going away. Indeed, it has already shown itself again: On April 2, 2014, Sudanese police arrested Faiza Abdalla near Sudan’s eastern border. Though details are scant, it appears that Abdalla, whose parents converted to evangelical Christianity before her birth and raised her in the same faith, was arrested because she has a Muslim name and yet professed Christianity. Her Catholic husband fled Sudan two years ago because of persecution, Morning Star News reported. As in the case of Meriam Ibrahim, Sudanese officials voided her marriage and accused her of apostasy when she refused to deny Christianity.[1]

There is no reason for these cases to recur—Sudan’s apostasy laws are inconsistent in light of the commitments it has made under its Constitution and international agreements, and must be repealed. Sudan’s 2005 Interim Constitution states that the government “shall respect the religious rights to … worship or assemble in connection with any religion or belief and to establish and maintain places for these purposes.”[2] Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Sudan is a party, states: “[e]veryone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”[3] The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights states, to which Sudan is a party, states that the “[f]reedom of conscience, the profession and free practice of religion shall be guaranteed. No one may, subject to law and order, be submitted to measures restricting the exercise of these freedoms.”[4]

 

Sudan’s apostasy laws are in conflict and inconsistent with these legal authorities, which provide a religious freedom that includes the freedom to choose one’s beliefs. Sudan has given its word and agreed to abide by these sources of authoritative law, and yet the apostasy laws under which Meriam was jailed and Faiza is detained are still being used to work injustice in Sudan. As a matter of integrity for the Sudanese nation and its legal system, and to avoid ongoing and future injustices like Meriam’s and Faiza’s, Sudan must repeal its apostasy laws.



[1] 2nd Sudanese Woman Jailed for Her Faith, Baptist Press, May 28, 2014, http://www.bpnews.net/printerfriendly.asp?id=42656.

[2] 2005 Interim National Constitution of the Republic of Sudan, art. 6.

[3] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, G.A. res. 2200A (XXI), art. 18, 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force Mar. 23, 1976 [hereinafter ICCPR].

[4] Organization for African Unity, African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, art. 8, June 27, 1981, CAB/LEG/67/3 rev. 5, 21 I.L.M. 58 (1982).

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