As we speak, all over the world Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. The worst persecution of Christianity in its 20-century history is happening now. Yet we in the comfortable West basically don’t know about this or don’t give a rip about it.
We are far too entertained and amused in our pews to be bothered by anything “negative” like this – out of sight, out of mind. We are far too interested in the good life, in our masses of material goods and our non-stop entertainment – both in and out of the churches.
Indeed, we are far too busy anyway to be involved in these sorts of issues. After all, we have all those Farmville games to play, all those movies to watch, all those big plasma TVs to view, all those fancy vacations to enjoy, all those concerts to attend, all those feasts to consume, all those trivial pursuits to pursue.
Who has time for thinking about or praying for the persecuted church when we have so many goodies to fully occupy our time with? With 24/7 entertainment, we have all we need. And our churches are up to their ears in entertainment and celebrity culture as well, so we can have it all, seven days a week.
But the bloodshed, torture and violence elsewhere continues, whether we acknowledge it or not, and whether we care about it or not. Egypt is just one example of the horrific persecution of Christians. Christian Newswire just released this statement about the scene there:
“What has been described as the Arab Spring has evolved into deadly seasons, especially for the original Christian inhabitants of these lands. The dictators who once ruled these countries are being replaced by militant Islamic regimes that are bent on cleansing their nations from all Christians.
“Not a day passes in Egypt without Christian homes, businesses and churches burnt to the ground. Members of the Christian minority are wounded and killed. It is common for their children to be kidnapped for ransom or for coerced conversion to Islam. In village after village, militant Muslims drive Christians from their homes and businesses, where they have lived for generations.
“A recent atrocity in Egypt exemplifies violence unprecedented in modern history. On Sunday April 7, 2013, a funeral service was held at St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral for the victims of Muslim violence in the village of Al Khosous. As the four coffins were carried from the church, Islamic mobs attacked the mourners throwing rocks, grenades, tear gas and fire bombs, killing two more Christians and wounding dozens. The mob also attacked the Cathedral compound which includes the headquarters of the Coptic Papacy and residence of the Pope. Police took more than an hour to respond, and when they arrived, they did nothing to stop the attack. There are reports that some officers actually fired tear gas grenades into the Cathedral. The symbolic ramifications of these acts are frightening.
“The United States shares responsibility for what is happening to Egypt’s Christians. The USA encouraged the takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood with full knowledge that the organization has a history of violence and bloodshed. The United States has a powerful bargaining tool to help stop the violence. It gives Egypt 2 Billion Dollars annually in foreign aid. The President and Congress should make it known that the funding is at risk unless a quick peaceful solution is found for the plight of The Coptic Christians of Egypt.”
And here in Australia Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has just come out in support of the persecuted Copts. His media statement said this:
“The Coalition is concerned that Egypt’s Copts continue to face great stress. In the latest incident, on 7 April, a funeral at Cairo’s St Mark’s Coptic cathedral for four Copts killed in sectarian violence came under attack resulting in a further death and many injuries.
“Tragically, the collapse of the Mubarak regime has led to increased violence against Egypt’s Coptic community. Since then, Copts around the world, including the tens of thousands in Australia, have been increasingly anxious about the difficult situation faced by members of their faith in Egypt.
“As I said at a major prayer vigil in Sydney in October 2011, a democracy must be judged not by how effectively it implements the will of the majority but how effectively it protects of the rights of the minority.
“The Australian government should impress on the Egyptian authorities, including through a statement, its concerns about the situation of Egypt’s Coptic community and urge the country’s leaders to establish a fully democratic political system which protects the rights of minorities. For the Coalition, nothing less is acceptable.”
Well done Tony. It is certainly a start, although a somewhat stronger statement might have been preferred. But it is certainly more than we are getting from Labor, that’s for sure. We all need to write to Tony and encourage him in this, and see to it that he does more on this. Please write to him here: email@example.com
Let me close by making a risky statement – one that may alienate some folks. But I don’t really mind too much. It may be harsh, but I believe it needs to be said. In July tens of thousands of believers will rush to Hillsong in Sydney to hear preachers like Joel Osteen and other big celebs in the Christian world.
Speakers like Osteen will be telling the masses that ‘you can have a better life, you can be successful, you can be happy’. In the meantime Christians will continue to be tortured to death in Egypt, North Korea and elsewhere. I wonder if the crowds will hear anything about this all week at this conference.
Will they hear anything about the slaughter of the unborn: 100,000 babies a year in Australia? Some 50 million annually worldwide? Will anything be said about the assault on marriage and family? Will anything be said – or done – about the millions of starving people around the world?
Or will it be just one big bless-me club, with lots of entertainment, rock concerts, and feel-good messages? Time will tell. But why does Amos 5:21 keep coming to mind here? “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.”
I hope this is not how our Lord looks at some of our Christian gatherings today. But he is the same yesterday, today and forever – so he may well feel this way about all sorts of our holy huddles. I want to make sure this is not how he views me and my activities.
So if we concentrate on what is really important, rather than just seeking to have a good time and feel good about ourselves, we need not worry about this harsh judgment. But if not, we better stand up and take notice. As the next three verses of Amos 5 say:
“Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs;
I will not even listen to the sound of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Or as Jesus said in Matthew 25:34-40:
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’.”