The Growing Worldwide Threat to Religious Freedom
- By Alan Sears
- Posted Aug 20, 2014
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“It is not one world,” Paul Harvey used to remind his listeners, and events of recent weeks have underscored that in heart-breaking ways, as word pours in of increasingly vicious and aggressive assaults on religious freedom all over the globe.
Like me, you’ve probably read how the Islamic State – which controls much of northern Iraq and eastern Syria – ordered Christian citizens of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to pay a protective tax, leave the city within 24 hours, or be executed. Most fled. These people make up one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, dating back 1,700 years. And yet, virtually overnight, their freedom to follow that faith in their ancient homeland is gone.
A few months ago, I wrote of the thousands of Christians in Wenzhou, China, who had come out in support of their new church, which had drawn so much positive attention that a local Communist leader ordered it destroyed. Despite the believers’ best efforts … despite the fact that the church is part of China’s official, government-controlled Protestant church … despite the fact that the Chinese constitution defends religious freedom … despite the fact that the building was approved by city officials … the church was demolished.
Since then, many other churches in the area have been targeted, in what some observers are calling the most sustained religious persecution in the country since the Cultural Revolution.
Even as we at Alliance Defending Freedom work so diligently to defend your family’s religious liberty here at home, events like these constantly remind us how crucial it is that we work where we can overseas – supporting, training, strategizing, and coming alongside Christian lawyers all over the world who are struggling to defend the freedom of believers within their own borders.
One of those lawyers is ADF allied attorney Emmanuel Ogebe of Nigeria.
Nigeria has been the scene of a high profile rampage of terror by Boko Haram, a group of Muslim extremists who, in their desire to exterminate Christianity, are turning northern Nigeria into a holocaust. In April, Boko Haram made international headlines when its members kidnapped some 300 schoolgirls and forcefully converted them to Muslim slave brides. In June, the terrorists entered a village disguised as soldiers and summoned Christians to a local church, ostensibly to protect them – then systematically executed over 200 believers.
Boko Haram has decimated the number of pastors in one northern Nigerian state from over a thousand a couple of years ago to less than 100 today. The few still alive say they are staying, despite the threat, so that the light of the Gospel – brought to Nigeria at the cost of so many Western missionaries’ lives – won’t be extinguished. Even so, at least two more pastors were killed in July.
With the help of ADF, Emmanuel Ogebe was able to complete a detailed report on Boko Haram’s activities that convinced the U.S. State Department to officially declare them a terrorist group under American law. Among other things, that label ensures that their international finances are frozen, and that their leaders can be arrested if they travel outside the country.
This victory was achieved despite years of denial by the Obama administration that this genocidal persecution of Christians in Nigeria is even happening. Yet in 2012, more believers were martyred for their faith in that country than in the rest of the world combined.
Emmanuel says the legal work being sponsored by ADF and its allies to protect Christians in his country marks “the last line of defense before a religious war breaks out in the largest country in the world with an equal population of Muslims and Christians. Already, some regions of the northeast have been de-Christianized, but we are keeping hope and faith alive.”
Watching these events unfold, sometimes I am reminded of President Franklin Roosevelt’s efforts, in the years leading up to World War II, to persuade his fellow Americans that the threats being experienced by free people in Europe and Asia were threats to our nation, too … that it was only a matter of time before the Axis powers turned their eyes and guns on the United States. America was not yet at war, but it was so essential to do what we could to help those already engaged in the fight that was inevitably heading our way.
The same thing holds true today, as the legal wars being fought for religious freedom in other countries preface the struggles we will soon be fighting in our own courts and culture, to protect the most precious liberties of our own children and grandchildren. Please join me in praying for God to bless our ADF allied legal team – and especially, for our allied attorneys around the world who are working so diligently to preserve the religious freedom we cherish against growing opposition.
Author: Alan Sears