SILENCE DEEP AS DEATH

by David Sisler

"We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what to do, but we do not give up the hope of living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. We carry the death of Jesus in our own bodies so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die."

That paragraph, from the Apostle Paul's second letter to the church in Corinth, could have been printed this morning.

Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world today. Their faith is justification for torture, their beliefs are reason for imprisonment, their trust in Jesus of Nazareth is the basis for a death sentence. It is estimated that 100 million Christians have been killed in this century, more than the previous 19 centuries combined. It is also estimated that the number of martyred Christians could reach 150 million before this year ends.

A U.S. State Department report, mandated by Congress, and issued on July 21, 1997, details persecution of Christians in 78 countries.

The worst offender is the radical Islamist government of the Sudan. A jihad, a holy war, unleashed in the southern section of that nation, dedicated to wiping out all non-Muslim religions, has seen more than a million die. Its focus (and this is verified in a separate United Nations report) are Christians who refuse to convert. In a region plagued by famine and sickness, food and medicine are denied to Christians. Children are sold into slavery a fact documented by both the State Department and the U.N. Enslaved children as young as six-years-old provide expendable labor, or are used as concubines. If they escape and are recaptured, they are beaten and branded.

In China more than 80 percent of all Christians are not legally allowed to meet in buildings or private homes. They are not allowed to evangelize openly. Amnesty International reports that, "Unregistered churches have been under increased government pressure since the end of 1995 and Christians have been arbitrarily detained, beaten or fined by police." And all the while China maintains Most Favored Nation status, while for the sake of maintaining lucrative business connections, America looks the other way.

Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Embassy reports that citizens and foreigners are targets of harassment by members of the religious police and by religious vigilantes acting independently. The Los Angeles Times reports that Christians are arrested for praying in the privacy of their own homes.

Cuba, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, North Korea, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam the list of atrocities goes on and on where governments and individuals act as if they have been issued hunting licenses against vulnerable communities of faith.

And in this nation, the most prosperous, most prominent "Christian nation" in the world, there is virtual silence. We do business as usual with governments that murder and torture pastors, burn church buildings, and assault female worshipers. Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute think tank, a leading spokesman against the persecution of Christians, and a Jew, says Christians "are the scape goats of choice" of tyrannical regimes around the world.

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va) and Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) have introduced legislation to establish a White House office to monitor religious persecution. The office would impose automatic trade, economic and political sanctions on nations found to violate religious rights.

One week ago today President Clinton placed the awesome power and prestige of his office behind the homosexual movement when he attended the first annual national dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, but there has never been, as of this writing, a major speech by President Clinton dealing with the persecution of Christians. With the marked lack of concern over the persecution of Christians, and with this Administration's focus on foreign aid without restraints on foreign nations, it will come as a surprise to no one if the Wolf/Specter bill is opposed from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Tomorrow is an International Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians. We must pray. And we must also remember that faith, without works, is dead. The passage of Wolf/Specter would be a small step. A national policy based on morality, not money, would be a giant leap in the right direction. Have we forgotten that constant pressure by America in support of Soviet Jews was one of the hammers which brought down the Iron Curtain? Silence is not always golden, sometimes it is just plain yellow.

"I was sick and in prison and you visited me not," Jesus said.

"When did we see you in prison?" the unbelievers asked.

"Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me."

-30-

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 11/15/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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