Steve here….Something many of you might not know about me is my interest in following the plight of the persecuted church around our world. I remember reading the book Their Blood Cries Out in the 1990s and having my eyes open to the justice issues occurring to Christians simply because of their faith. I sought to inform two churches that I pastored from 1996-2011 concerning persecuted Christians with weekly prayer updates and invitations for “The Voice of the Martyr” and “International Justice Mission” to visit. We all need to find ways to speak up as well as pray.
Recently, the Harper government announced the start of its long awaited “Office of Religious Freedom” hosted at a Mosque in Toronto the end of February. The government had made this promise two years ago but struggled to find a commissioner to take the post. The Prime Minister said that the seed of the idea came after he met with Pakistan Minister for Minorities, Shabhaz Bhatti, who was soon after assassinated by extremists in 2011. The extremists accused Bhatti, a professing Christian, of violating Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.
Ottawa has been a buzz about the down side of such a new office saying that any religious persecution should be cared for by human rights commissioners in the Foreign Affairs Office. Also mentioning that the small $5 million budget will do little to change anything.
I want to go on record that I applaud the recent effort to get religious persecution in the public square so that it can be discussed and debated. Most believers are completely unaware that about 180,000 Christians are murdered each year for no other reason than they call Jesus, Lord.
Each November, churches are encouraged to make the second Sunday an IDOP (International Day Of the Persecuted Church) Sunday. I hope many churches and missions personnel will seek to shine light on this dark issue. We must become better informed so we can pray and better lobby as advocates for the incredible injustices our brothers and sisters in Christ are suffering daily.
During a visit to Indonesia in 2011, I met the son of an Indonesian pastor named James. In 1999 Islamic extremists terrorized Christians in his region. Churches were burned down and bounties were put on the “heads” of area pastors. James’ family escaped from the area with no loss of life. James has continued to email me and recently graduated from the Indonesian Theological Seminary in Manade, Indonesia. Fellowship International missionaries, Edwin and Helmi Karwur minister there. James mentioned in a recent email he has decided to go back to the region his family escaped from and minister there. Such amazing faith and courage! Let’s pray for the persecuted church worldwide and applaud this small effort to open the “Office of Religious Freedom” in Ottawa.
Have a blessed week,