Give Us Courage to Stand
5 ACTIONS TO HELP THE PERSECUTED
by Elijah M. Brown
Christians remain the most persecuted faith community worldwide. Millions of brothers and sisters live in contexts characterized by religious discrimination, violence, intimidation and imprisonment. Some of the most recent data from the Pew Research Center notes that Christians face persecution in 108 countries, Muslims in 100 countries and Jews in 81 countries. At times this marginalization unfolds within particularly difficult circumstances.
For example, earlier this year I was in Somalia visiting a network of underground believers. Our organization, the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, seeks to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, visiting and training people of faith in areas of persecution, and empowering churches to stand in solidarity.
One of the Christian leaders I met in Somalia was Abdullahi. When Abdullahi was a nine-year-old boy he had a dream and heard a voice say, “Follow me. My name is Jesus.” He immediately gave his life to Jesus – though it took him six years to find a Bible. Unfortunately, when his family found him studying that Bible they turned him over to the authorities, and at the age of fifteen he was incarcerated for six months.
Though those months were filled with beatings and torture, he described how Matthew 28:20 sustained him: “Do not fear. I will be with you always up to the very end of the world.” As he clung to this promise and proclaimed his faith, two of those torturing him secretly became believers in Jesus Christ.
Today, Abdullahi is married. He and his wife have four children and have adopted five more. But in 2016, his wife’s family realized that she and their children had decided to follow “the false religion of Christianity.” One night Abdullahi’s wife’s family descended on their home and stole his family. It left him devastated and heartbroken. Yet this is how he described his daily prayer:
“Lord, will you give me joy? I am trying to be the light and the salt. When those who know what has happened to me, how my family has been stolen, ask, ‘How can he have joy?’ I will be able to share with them about Jesus.”
To hear that even in the midst of this tragedy, Abdullahi’s first concern was to look for an opportunity to live as a witness filled with grace left me convicted. I followed-up by asking, “How would you ask others to pray?” Abdullahi concluded:
“Do not pray for an end to the persecution because without it we would die. But pray that the Lord will give us the courage to stand through it.”
Unfortunately, Abdullahi’s situation is far from unique. There are five actions we can each take to help the persecuted.
- PRAY. On average, each day 20 Christians are martyred for their faith. Would you begin to regularly pray that the Lord will stand with these 20 and the families they leave behind? A Baptist church leader from Syria recently told our team, “Sometimes I cannot pray, and that is when I depend on the Church in the West to pray.”
- PUBLICLY CHAMPION RELIGIOUS FREEDOM FOR ALL. Religious freedom must belong to all or it is vulnerable for all. For 400 years, Baptists have championed religious freedom for people of all faiths, and at a time of increasing societal polarization, we have an opportunity to continue to lean into this legacy.
- PRESS FOR CHANGE. The vast majority of embassies rarely hear from their own citizens. Write to the High Commission of Canada in Nairobi, which oversees Somalia, asking them to press for religious freedom across Somalia. Ask your pastor or small group leader to dedicate one Sunday to stand with the persecuted. Sign up for free resources at www.21wilberforce.org and encourage others to do the same.
- PRIORITIZE OUR RESOURCES. One mother I met in Somalia who had become a Christian and excluded from her family was struggling to find $600 to send her six children to school. As individuals and churches, we can prioritize our giving to align with Hebrews 13:3 and “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
- PARTICIPATE WITH THEM IN BOLDLY SHARING THE HOPE OF CHRIST. We have much to learn from these our brothers and sisters. Can we join the prayer of Abdullahi and ask for the courage, regardless of the circumstances, to stand as public witnesses for Jesus Christ?
Elijah M. Brown is the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), a position he began at the start of 2018. Previously he was the Executive Vice President of the 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, a Christian human rights organization working to empower a global movement to advance religious freedom as a universal right through advocacy, capacity building and technology.
Dr. Brown received his PhD from the University of Edinburgh with a dissertation that focused on the role of the church in the development of the Sudan-South Sudan peace process. He previously served as an Associate Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University where
he taught mission and world Christianity and where he was also the founding Director of the Freedom Center. He has conducted research in refugee and displacement camps in Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. He remains firmly committed to mission, world Christianity and justice engagement.
Dr. Brown is the 9th General Secretary of the BWA, founded in 1905, which is a network of 235 member bodies in 122 countries representing more than 45 million individuals and 170,000 churches. CBM is an active member of the BWA and looks forward to his leadership of this important global network. To get connected to Dr. Brown and the BWA, follow him on Twitter @ElijahMBrown.
Fast Facts On Global Religious Freedom
- 79% of the world lives in contexts facing religious freedom challenges
- Primary Drivers of Persecution Today:
- Crisis unfolding across the Middle East
- Authoritarian governments
- Transnational activities, especially those related to terrorism
- Countries to Watch:
- Iraq – the Christian population has plummeted from 1.5 million to 250,000
- Nigeria – 13,000 churches have been burned
- Myanmar – more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have been actively displaced as refugees
- Call to Prayer: On average, every day 20 Christians are martyred for their faith. Please pause today and each day to pray for these 20, their families and the communities they leave behind.
Source: 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative