Left, Right & Center
Jewish World Review / December 22, 1997 / 23 Kislev, 5758
No merry Christmas for persecuted Christians around the world
WHILE CHRISTIANS ARE DECKING their halls and fa-la-la-ing, they should pause to consider the fate of their persecuted brethren.
Those ornaments from China that adorn your Christmas tree might have been made by Christians in slave-labor camps. An estimated 40 percent of the inmates in Henan province were incarcerated for belonging to the underground church.
Worldwide, Christians are the main targets of religious persecution. They are imprisoned, tortured, raped, enslaved and murdered for following the Nazarene.
In her 1997 book, "In The Lion's Den," Freedom House's Nina Shea notes that more Christians have been martyred in this century than in the preceding two millennia.
The modern Neros are communist and radical Islamic regimes. In the former, the state's first commandment is: Thou shalt have no gods before me. The latter believes theological truth comes out of the barrel of a gun.
China has 40 million Christians. The Central Committee of the Communist Party calls the home church movement (the Chinese catacombs) "a principal threat to political stability." In Shanghai alone, 300 of these underground churches were closed in 1996.
On Sept. 25, Peter Xu, head of the evangelical New Birth Movement, was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp, the harshest punishment handed out to a Christian activist since 1982.
Currently, seven Roman Catholic bishops are imprisoned, under house arrest or in hiding. Bishop Su Zhimin, age 65, was arrested again on Oct. 8. During a previous prison term, lasting 15 years, the bishop was beaten with a wooden board until it was reduced to splinters, hung by his wrists and confined to a cell partially filled with water. His offense? Refusing to renounce the pope's authority.
Since 1990, Vietnam's 5 million Catholics have increasingly felt the lash. One priest is serving a 20-year term for teaching an unauthorized adult catechism class. Ha Seign, an evangelical who ministers to tribesmen in the central highlands, was beaten unconscious with metal bars and briefly confined to a mental institution.
In the Islamic world, there are regimes that persecute Christians and governments too weak or craven to prevent anti-Christian atrocities. In Saudi Arabia, defended by Americans during the Gulf War, the religious police show their machismo by hunting down Filipino houseboys and Sri Lankan maids who worship in their homes.
If Saudi Arabia is Nuremberg, the Sudan is Dachau. Since the 1980s, Khartoum has waged relentless jihad against Christian tribesmen in the south. Thousands of children from Christian villages have been sold into slavery, to live out their lives as field hands, soldiers or concubines.
In Egypt and Pakistan, the government generally ignores crimes against Christians committed by Moslem fanatics. On Feb. 5 and 6 of this year, three Christian villages in Pakistan were destroyed by a mob of 20,000, following reports that a Koran had been desecrated.
In September, Moslem terrorists killed 18 Christians in the Egyptian village of Arroda. Two had their heads smashed with spades to prevent their families from identifying the bodies for burial. The murders were a warning to others to pay protection money.
The voices of the murdered, the tortured and the persecuted merge into a universal cry of anguish. But if a Christian is killed in Egypt, can the sound be heard in Washington?
The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act (H.R. 2431 and S. 772), which would establish a White House office to monitor governmental involvment in these crimes and provide exceedingly modest sanctions, languishes in committee.
The Pilates of the business community fret, lest the blood of Christians stanch the flow of profits.
Bill Clinton, who likes to pose with a Bible leaving church (a mighty fortress is his rhetoric), says he supports the concept -- just not this particular legislation. Like the partial-birth abortion bill, he'd be pleased to endorse a revised version with all of its teeth extracted.
What will you do? Do you care enough to stop buying Chinese products, to write your legislators and demand immediate passage of H.R. 2431, to get your church involved?
As a Jew, it pains me to recall the deafening silence that greeted the Holocaust. If I were a Christian, I'd find it hard to have a merry little Christmas knowing I'd none nothing to save my coreligionists from the flames.