Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Forgotten Oppressed

When the world thinks of oppressed peoples, it has a few favorite groups to be obsessed about. Palestinians. Women in the Muslim world. Followers of the Dali Lama. Maybe a tear or two gets shed for Egyptians who are also Liberals.

One group gets forgotten. Probably that group's members are like too much like many of us. They are Christians -- and Christians don't suffer too much here in the USA. But these Christians misfortune is that they live in the Middle East. Rep. Frank Wolf explains.
A phrase not often heard outside the majority Muslim world is ``First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.'' The `Saturday people'' are of course the Jews. Their once vibrant communities in countries throughout the region are now decimated. In 1948 there were roughly 150,000 Jews in many as 80,000 Jews and now less than 100 remain. It appears a similar fate could befall the ancient Christian community in these same lands. Iraq's Christian population has fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000. Churches have been targeted, believers kidnapped for ransom, families threatened with violence if they stay. 
It's easy to denigrate the evangelical Christian community's concerns, because many of their prescriptions for America are ones that people of other faiths do not necessarily want to follow. But is is this the sort of thing we in America want to ignore?
 Shabbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, and the only Christian Member of the cabinet and an outspoken critic of his country's blasphemy laws, was one such man. On March 2, 2011 he was murdered, his car riddled with bullets, leaving his mother's house for work. In a video filmed shortly before his assassination, Bhatti appears to sense that the path he has chosen will come with a price. When asked about the threats against his life, he said, without malice or fear, ``I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] cross. And I am following the cross. And I am ready to die for a cause.'' And so he did. 
 Apparently, with respect to this Administration, the answer is yes:
Bipartisan legislation to create a Special Envoy position at the State Department charged with advocating on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia overwhelmingly passed the House a year and a half ago. But it has remained stalled in the Senate as a result of State Department opposition and the refusal of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, rumored to be in the running for Secretary of State or Defense, to even hold a hearing on the legislation. 
Will the Church community speak out on this? Will the government hear?
The book of Proverbs tells us to ``Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. . . .'' Bhatti can no longer speak. The Chinese bishop under house arrest cannot speak. The North Korean enslaved in the gulag cannot speak. The Iraqi nun fearing for her life cannot speak. Will we be their voice? Martin Luther King famously said, ``In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'' Are we not their friends?
After a very bitter election, I fear much of the evangelical community is inclined to turn inward, lick their wounds, and not fight for anyone's liberty but their own. But if the Evangelicals are looking for the kind of fight where they might attract allies, rather than scare off those of different faiths, this might be a good place to start.


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