Archive for the tag “International Christian Concern”

U.N. report: The most troubling violation of human rights

Recent rhetoric at the United Nations condemns criticism of Islam, but a new report from a UN task force on religious freedom — released, ironically, when Christians worldwide were observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — says the far greater human rights concern is prejudice against certain religions and restrictions on the right to believe and worship as a person wishes.

Melissa Steffan reports for Christianity Today:

Nov. 9, 2012 — Restrictions on religious conversion have “become a human rights problem of great concern,” according to the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Speaking to the UN General Assembly last week, Heiner Bielefeldt said those violations need to stop. He urged states to “consistently respect, protect and promote the human right to freedom of religion or belief in the area of conversion.”

Bielefeldt relayed the findings of his comprehensive report, which was distributed in August. The report analyzes “patterns of abuses that are perpetrated in the name of religious or ideological truth claims.”

In his address, Bielefeldt said some religious freedom abuses were perpetrated by state agencies, but many more were the result of widespread societal prejudices against certain religions. In addition, he said the violations against women were of particular concern.

… This is a particular problem in countries like India, where Hindu nationalists initiated attacks on Christians, 20 of whom were arrested for celebrating baptisms, in Orissa in October. A similar attempt to force Christians to convert back to Hinduism occurred in September.

CT has previously noted the case of Ethiopian Christians who were detained and pressured to convert to Islam in Saudi Arabia. In 2011, CT noted the arrests of 12 people in India for converting to Christianity without notifying government officials first.

You can read the UN press release about the report by clicking here. The full text of the report can be found by clicking here.

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It is true that some people who claim to be Christians behave hatefully toward those who do not share their religion, but anyone who reads the teachings of Jesus knows that is not authentic Christianity and that the vast majority of Christian teachers tell followers Jesus requires them to love their enemies and bless those who persecute them.

By the same token, extreme strains of Hinduism and even Buddhism restrict anyone who teaches other beliefs and punish anyone who leaves those religions to follow another path. In the world of Islam, however, ordinary Muslims discriminate against and persecute followers of other faiths and Islamic teachers in unnumbered villages tell their adherents that anyone who leaves Islam for another way deserves to die. By far, the greatest discrimination and persecution is experienced by people who choose to follow Jesus.

You don’t have to look far to find evidence that followers of Jesus, by the hundreds of thousands, suffer every day at the hands of dark-hearted individuals. Christian girls are abducted, raped, and “permitted” to “convert” to the religion of their rapist. Young men who “disgrace” their families by deciding to follow Jesus are beheaded in front of the entire village. In many places, Christians are not allowed to own land or hold jobs, except as slave labor to wealthy men of the dominant religion. So-called “blasphemy” laws, instead of protecting a vulnerable religious tradition, most often are used as a club to steal the property of Christians or settle grudges against them.

None of this is surprising. Ignorance and false teaching are widespread, and prejudice is actively promoted in many houses of “worship.” Jesus told his followers they would be hated by everyone. But even the thin gruel of a statement like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or belief and to practice it.

Religious discrimination and atrocities of persecution must be vigorously opposed, and followers of Jesus have an obligation to protect and assist brothers and sisters in distress. You can make a difference through organizations like International Justice Mission, International Christian Concern, and Christian Solidarity International.

The US government is actively undermining religious liberty in the United States. You can learn more about that from our friends at The Becket Fund and The Manhattan Declaration.

Nov. 4: A day to pray for the persecuted

Christians are martyred for their faith in many countries of the world today. Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and India are regularly in the headlines — if you know where to watch headlines. In other places, such as North Korea, acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said, “Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.”

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — observed Nov. 4 by many congregations, as well as on other dates — is set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

Godfrey Yogarajah writes at idop.org:

The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:3 to ‘remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering’.

Can we today pause our busy lives and think of those who are enduring persecution for the sake of the Gospel? Let us remember those who have not eaten for days because they are given nothing to eat … those languishing in prison … Christian families who have watched their homes burn to the ground … pastors who are beaten and tortured for their faith and enduring physical pain … Christian families and children living in constant fear of violence … those who have lost their loved ones … those who are facing death, even right at this moment, for refusing to denounce Christ…

If you or I were in such a situation, what would you ask your wider church family to do for you?

Every time I ask a persecuted Christian what we can do for them, the answer is always the same: ‘please pray for us’.

On a visit to India, I met several widows of Christian leaders who were killed in the Orissa violence in the summer of 2008. They had lost everything: their homes, their possessions and their husbands. ‘We have lost everything except our faith,’ one told me, clutching her baby. ‘Pray that we stay strong and bring up our children in the faith for which their fathers gave their lives.’

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) gives us the privilege of joining together with over half a million churches in 150 countries to pray for the suffering church. It plays a vital role in encouraging and strengthening the persecuted church and also awakening churches in places where there is no persecution.

Let us unite in prayer in 2012 for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: ‘For, if one suffers, we all suffer.’

Godfrey Yogarajah is executive director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.

Resources to help your congregation or group participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are available from idop.org and the website of International Christian Concern, persecution.org.

Persecution news is available from Compass Direct, a service of the Open Doors with Brother Andrew ministry.

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