Dear CRI Partner:
Some things just never end.
Apparently persecution is one of them.
Yet history shows clearly that the concerted action of growing numbers of people can make a real difference, and your partnership is helping to do just that.
Unless you’re one of the relatively few Christians in the West paying attention to the persecution of fellow believers around the globe, the numbers may rock you. As they should.
Take, for example, the fact that over 200 million Christians worldwide are facing severe persecution.
You read that correctly. Severepersecution.
Unlike “soft” persecution in the West, we’re talking about 3,066 deaths and 1,020 rapes just last year.
And in the list of 50 countries where severe persecution is taking place, in many of these countries the situation is deteriorating.
Heading the list, not surprisingly, is North Korea. It’s here, in the hermit kingdom, that many Christians are starving, languishing, and being broken under hard labor in North Korea prisons merely for owning a Bible and having faith in Christ.
Sadly, in many parts of the world, it seems to be “open season” for Christians. Whether it’s Communism in North Korea or China, pro-Hindu nationalism in India, or the horrendous atrocities of Boko Haram or other strains of militant Islam, the forces of ignorance, darkness, and sheer savagery continue their wanton attacks on churches and individual believers in countries around the globe.
And I’m guessing you won’t be surprised that 12 of the 17 worst violators of religious freedom are Islamic nations.
Yet as is always the case, numbers never tell the whole story.
They can’t begin to capture the horror of the kidnapped priest whose family received a box containing his severed wrist, tattooed with a cross, to confirm his death.
Or of the families where newborn babies are taken and given to Islamist families to be trained as terrorists. Or the young virgin girls who are sold into sexual slavery and will never see their families again and whose hope of anything resembling a normal life is gone forever.
As I’ve said in earlier letters, it’s time that as comfortable Western Christians we wake up to the plight of fellow believers around the world. And time that we act.
Thinking of CRI as primarily an apologetics ministry, some might wonder what the persecution of Christians has to do with apologetics. But that fails to note that our mission is to equip Christians to “think and liveChristianly.” And if we can’t stand with fellow believers around the world who are enduring persecution, one would have to wonder just what kind of Christians we really are.
Such a question, while understandable, would betray an alarmingly distorted notion of the essence of true Christianity and the teachings of Christ.
It would suggest that defending the lives of Christian men, women, and children is somehow less important than the intellectual defense of doctrines!
And that brings me to a resource I’d like you to have this month. It’s the video of the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ.
While clearly different than most resources we offer to equip you and other believers to think and live Christianly, my reasons for offering this are several.
First, in what is arguably the most iconic conversion of all time, the movie demonstrates how Paul — himself once a violent persecutor of Christians — underwent a radical transformation that in turn resulted in altering the course of human history. Paul is a compelling example, and an important reminder, that there is hope even for our persecutors!
Second, the movie is a poignant tool to bring home the horrible reality of persecution, something that typically becomes a remote abstraction for most Christians living in America and the West. It helps to take the senseless barbarism of persecution down out of the theoretical ether and remind us what fellow believers have suffered for centuries in the name of Christ.
Third, the movie confronts us powerfully with two examples of ways to respond to persecution. Either by taking up the sword and seeking revenge, or by choosing the way of Christ and realizing that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).
Fourth, the persecution in Paul, Apostle of Christ, just like the persecution of Christians we read about in our headlines, reminds us that the time to put down deep, strong spiritual roots is beforethe storm, not in the midst of the storm.
While we can count our blessings of not being on the frontlines of hard persecution, we owe it to fellow members of the body of Christ to stand with them in our prayers and advocacy.
We also can be alert to the growing “soft” persecution of Christians here at home, a persecution that will inevitably grow harder if Christians of all stripes do not heed the call to wake up, stand up, and speak up against growing abuses and violations of our religious freedoms.
Because your faithful support enables CRI to dramatically amplify your concerns, convictions, and voice through an array of communications channels reaching literally around the globe, I’ll ask you to help “turn up the volume” in our stand and advocacy against persecution.
God bless you for the difference your partnership makes here. Not just by standing shoulder-to-shoulder with me and the CRI team but by standing with persecuted fellow believers who know they are not alone in their trials.
Because Life and Truth matter…
P.S. In the hope that you’ll join me in lighting fires of prayer and advocacy for persecuted believers, we’re offering a number of resources that can serve as fuel for these fires. Whether for yourself or as gifts to awaken and enlist other Christian friends, I hope you’ll take advantage of these resources.