Tag archives: Religious Persecution

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).

The “Top Ten” Countries for Violence Against Christians

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 12, 2014

The respected anti-persecution ministry Open Doors has released its annual “Top Ten Violence List of countries in which Christians have experienced the most violent incidents for their faith in Jesus Christ.”

Nigeria, thanks to be vicious actions of the Islamist “Boko Haram” group, ranks first on the list. The others, in order, are: Syria, Egypt, Central African Republic (CAR), Mexico, Pakistan, Colombia, India, Kenya and Iraq. For a complete country summary of the Top 10 Violence List, click here.

Today, FRC President Tony Perkins and a host of FRC staffers went to the White House to call on President Obama to work for the release of Meriam Ibrahim from a fetid Sudanese prison, in which she is being held with her toddler son and newborn daughter. Her crime? Her refusal to jettison her lifelong Christian faith. FRC joined 40 other groups in calling on the President at least to make a public statement of support for this woman, who is married to an American citizen and whose children arguably are thus themselves American citizens. Meriam and her little ones should be released — now — and the U.S. government should take the lead in making this happen.

You can read Tony’s remarks and learn more about this tragic situation here.

Religious Persecution Around the World is Growing

by Rob Schwarzwalder

January 17, 2014

Religious persecution around the world is growing. Consider two recent studies from respected sources, Pew Research and Open Doors USA, and a summary analysis by The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University. Here are excerpts and links to each of these moving reports:

Pew Research: “The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.”

Open Doors USA: “For the 12th consecutive year the hermit communist country of North Korea remains the world’s most restrictive nation in which to practice Christianity, according to the Open Doors 2014 World Watch List (WWL). However, a major trend which the WWL tracked in 2013 was a marked increase in persecution for Christian communities in states that are commonly regarded as ‘failed.’ A failed country is defined ‘as a weak state where social and political structures have collapsed to the point where government has little or no control’.”

Berkley Center: “A common myth is that it is just fear-mongering to imagine that Christians and other religious groups could suffer serious restrictions in Western countries. Of course, Western countries have been free of the kinds of violent attacks on Christians and other religious groups that have occurred in countries such as Egypt and Syria in recent years. But the trend lines are not encouraging.”

We do not experience physical attacks or imprisonment in the U.S. We do experience a growing tide of anti-religious bias, not just from our culture but from the current administration (as FRC has documented at length).

Loss of liberty is seldom, if ever, sudden. Almost invariably, it occurs incrementally. The Obama mandate that even explicitly Christian-based businesses, religious colleges and universities, and faith-based hospitals must provide their employees access to at least one health insurance plan that includes coverage of drugs that can produce abortions is a troubling sign that the incremental erosion of our “first freedom” is real.

FRC continues to lead the battle to oppose the mandate and is active with the conservative legal community to fight this disturbing Obama Administration proposal. We also continue to stand with people of Christian faith who are killed, tortured, and expelled from their homes and schools simply because of their profession of faith. If you already haven’t, please join us.

Albrecht Dürer Unsequestered

by Robert Morrison

June 10, 2013

I must applaud The New York Times’ review of the Albrecht Dürer exhibit recently offered at Washington’s National Gallery of Art. It is heartening to know that the great Sequestration—about which there has been so much hype and hubbub—did not shut down this amazing exhibit.

Exhibit organizers refer to Dürer’s famed Praying Hands as the most famous painting in the world. Can it be? Can we really say that of this devout artist’s most beloved work?

There is nothing idealized in these hands. They are rough, veined, wrinkled, hard-worked hands. They tell a story in themselves.

The Martyrdom of St. John the Evangelist is a work of the young Dürer (1496-98). It shows the death by boiling oil, supervised by a ruler dressed as a Turkish sultan. No political correctness here. (Or, historical accuracy, either, since these martyrs died centuries before the Ottomans came on the scene.)

Adam and Eve are depicted as ideal human forms, part of Dürer’s lifelong effort to get the human body right. (My theologian friend notes the strategic placement of the leaves, saying that this was chronologically incorrect since Adam and Eve had not yet fallen. Or, Fallen. And thus they had no need to feel shame. But I’m not sure those are fig leaves.)

I especially like the great German artist’s rendering of lions. He drew some of them from the stone lions of Venice, which he had seen on a youthful trek to that fabled republic. But then, in 1521, the mature Dürer sees a real lion for the first time in a Netherlands zoo.

The contrast is startling. One wonders whether we will react the same way when we see the real savior for the first time. Is he safe? Certainly not, but he is good.

I come upon Dürer’s “Head of an African.” The Museum text tells us he probably encountered this young black man during his Venetian sojourn. It’s a powerful portrait, rich in empathy.

You have to think: If all Europeans had seen this drawing could the African Slave Trade ever have existed? Well, all Europeans (and Americans) today have seen incredible pictures of unborn children and yet the abortion traffic still exists.

Albrecht Dürer depicted himself as Jesus in a work titled “Man of Sorrows.” We might think this egotistic, but it was no less a Reformation figure than Martin Luther who said we should each strive to be “little Christs.” Albrecht and Agnes Dürer were childless and they doubtless knew what sorrow was. Dürer announced his sympathy with Luther and grieved when he thought the Bible scholar had been kidnapped and might face the flames of martyrdom.

It is interesting to see Albrecht Dürer as a Medieval figure in his religious sensibilities and also as a bridging figure in his commercial striving and obvious yearning for fame.

By comparison, the great artisans of the High Middle Ages often left us no record of their names. They who carved the statues at the magnificent Chartres Cathedral in France pointedly did not sign their work. It was all done for God, in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, so why would you need to sign it?

Dürer, faithful as he is, wants the credit. He signs everything. He even makes a signature block print of his initials “AD” and places them where lesser artists might have placed anno domini (in the Year of our Lord).

One Dürer work not included in this exhibit is one I had hoped to see—The Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand. The painting is a vast tableau, an incredibly complex and vivid visual representation of a mass killing dating from the earliest days of Christendom. Dürer has portrayed himself and his friend, Konrad Celtis, in the center of the painting. They are clad in funereal black, as if in mourning, as if they are mere witnesses to the massacre of innocents.

The story of this martyrdom is a part of what is called the Golden Legend, a work familiar to Christians in Dürer’s day, filled with stories of the true cost of discipleship. Ten thousands Roman soldiers converted to Christ are killed in one act of vengeance and persecution. The killers are Persians and local forces aligned with the pagan emperors of Rome and acting upon their direction, just as the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate felt he was remembering Caesar when he sentenced blameless Jesus to death.

Dürer depicts those ordering the killings as Oriental despots, arrayed in Turkish attire. We know from the legend itself they are not Muslim Turks. Still, it makes one wonder if a public display now of Muslim Ottomans killing Christians would be considered too inflammatory to show.

Will future painters dare to depict the martyrdom of the ten thousand Copts? Will artists memorialize the murder of Christians in Pakistan? Or Northern Nigeria? Maybe Drummer Lee Rigby’s beheading in broad daylight on a London street will be the subject of an artist’s heart’s desire to witness to the truth.

We are living in the times of the Martyrdom of the Ten Thousand. We need to witness to these truths, as our ancestors in the Faith did unhesitatingly. Or will these truths be sequestered?

Albrecht Dürer is at once quintessentially German and a wholly universal figure. Like Johann Sebastian Bach, he exemplifies that broad Christian humanism, that caritas that embraces all mankind.

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