WASHINGTON — Activist groups are now going beyond trying to convince the world Christians in many nations are facing death and persecution. At the recent Global Persecution Summit on Capitol Hill, they were asking why believers aren't doing more to help their brothers and sisters facing these attacks around the globe.
They hit at Christians in the first world living cushy lives with little thought for the estimated 215 million Christians under attack overseas.
"We cannot claim Christ only to form our lives around the comforts and conveniences of the modern Western life, without paying mind to the injustice of the Christian persecution that we see around the world," said Dr. Scott Redd of the Reformed Theological Seminary.
"Many Christians are focused on what a friend of mine called 'the three B's of good church life,' the budget, the baptisms and the building program," said Rev. Julian Hobbs, a bishop with the Missionary Diocese of Cana East. "And if those three things are all in sync together, well then the church is deemed to be successful."
But are those the priorities Jesus Christ wants His people to have?
Those Who Persecute Christians Persecute Jesus
The keynote speaker at this summit spearheaded by the Institute on Religion and Democracy pointed out Jesus told Saul of Tarsus in their famous encounter on the road to Damascus that Saul was attacking Christ when he attacked Christians.
Dominic Sputo, author of Heirloom Love: Authentic Christianity in This Age of Persecution, said, "When people persecute Christians, they're really persecuting who? Jesus. In the same way, when we care for the persecuted, we're really caring for Jesus. And that's why Jesus said, 'Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.'"
Sputo recalled he was once considering and praying about how much money to donate to starving Christians in Nigeria.
What God Whispered
He remembered, "And the Lord whispered something into my heart that I don't believe I'll ever forget. He said, 'That's me. I'm hungry. And I'm waiting and watching to see who loves me and will give me something to eat.'"
A long-time defender of religious freedom, Frank Wolf of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, knocked believers' willful silence about their overseas brothers' and sisters' suffering.
"The Church in the West can never say it does not know what is taking place in Iraq or in the Middle East today," the former congressman insisted. "Dr. Martin Luther King said 'in the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'"
Wolf then had a warning for America's Christians, saying, "If the Church slumbers, Washington will scarcely lead the way."
But he added, "The Old Testament book of Isaiah said 'If you spend yourself on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness and your night will become like a noonday.'"
More Persecution Than Ever Before
Sam Brownback is America's new Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.
"There's more persecution going on now than — a number of authorities have said — that any time in the history where we've had recorded history," he told the audience.
But he said governments that persecute believers ignore studies showing their nations will be less successful and more troubled due to their oppression.
"If you want less terrorism, you need more religious freedom. If you want more economic growth, you need more religious freedom," Brownback asserted.
He suggested as nations begin to accept these truths, they may begin to curb their attacks on Christians and other believers.
No Activism Without Action
As for here in the U.S., teenager Alex Inman encouraged fellow young people to learn about Christian persecution and get involved in fighting it.
Because, as he put it, "A friend of my older brother said it really eloquently: 'Awareness without action is not activism.'"
To that point, Brownback said, "This administration is strongly focused on religious freedom and you're going to continue to see that push and that taking place."
He added, "It's a tough and a tense time. But there are reasons to hope. And there's no time like the present to push."
"There are people today who because of their ideologies are determined to mistreat and malign God's people. Who is it if not God's Church who will pray for them? Who is it if not you and me who will stand for them, who will speak out Christ's name against injustice?" Hobbs said.
A Look Back at a Campaign That Freed Millions
Many of the organizations that have been trying to raise awareness about Christian persecution or come to the aid of its victims have now banded together in the Save the Persecuted Christians Coalition. It is offering resources like banners churches can display to raise awareness in their neighborhoods or materials suggesting how individuals can get involved.
One of the models for this effort was the way American Jews and their allies campaigned during the Cold War to get the Soviet Union to release the millions of Jews it wouldn't let leave the U.S.S.R. Politicians soon became involved and helped put tremendous economic pressure on the Soviet Union, which eventually crumbled.
Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, said of those who took part in this campaign, "They brought down the Soviet Union, which means that millions of Jews did get out. But hundreds of millions of other people were freed in the process."
He then asked those at the Global Persecution Summit, "Could we by holding the persecutors of our time accountable today, by creating costs to them today for persecuting these people, could we make a difference in the lives of hundreds of millions of Christians around the world? I believe we can."
"And I believe if American Christians understand that's possible, they will not only demonstrate they care for their Christian brethren overseas," Gaffney added. "They will do something about it by coming together in the kind of powerful political force that will allow us to hold the persecutors accountable, and make it less attractive to engage in that horrific crime against humanity."
"Do What God Says to Do, Do It Right Now"
Jordan Allott, a documentary filmmaker and the founder of In Altum Productions, insisted, "We're the only hope that a lot of persecuted Christians have. And they are looking to us."
Luke Moon of the Philos Project suggested to those who want to do more, "It doesn't require anything other than putting one foot in front of the other; do what God says to do; do it right now."
Sputo added, "Just remember, we're here today because Jesus is still being persecuted through His children. And how we respond to them is really our response to Jesus."