Over at the Her.Meneutics blog today, I argue that Western Christians need to pay more attention to what’s happening to Christians in the Middle East—literally the birthplace of the Christian faith. Through the Duck Dynasty hoopla and the support of Chick-Fil-A, we’ve shown we can rally to certain causes, so now it’s time to rally to this.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the culture wars going on in America are unimportant, for any prohibition of the full, free expression of religion is a cause of concern. I am only saying this: we need to be passionate advocates for the freedom of religion everywhere, not just here.
Since the focus of that article was to raise an awareness of the issue, I’d like to point you to some ways you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of persecuted Christians. Recently, I asked Jerry Dykstra with Open Doors USA about what we can do to help. Here’s what he said:
The greatest needs are now focused on the Middle Eastern and African countries, particularly Syria and Iraq in the Middle East and the African countries such as Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAR) and Sudan. Open Doors has boots on the ground in those countries, always partnering with Christian churches or Christian organizations. For example in Syria, Open Doors is providing basic necessities such as relief kits and shelter.
We are also standing besides persecuted Christians with such programs as trauma counseling. Some of the children have grown up knowing nothing but war. In correlation with this, Open Doors has been advocating on behalf of Syrian Christians and others at the United Nations and other major governmental agencies across the world. Our Save Syria campaign collected approximately 400,000 signatures from people around the world to bring attention to the on-going civil war in Syria. And, of course, Open Doors calls Christians in the West to pray daily for persecuted Christians.
Open Doors urges people to get involved and be informed…..become global Christians. At the Open Doors USA website (www.opendoorsusa.org) people can read the latest news from the Persecuted Church, sign up for several resources including many prayer helps, and give financially to the ministry of Open Doors, which has been working with suffering Christians for almost 60 years. Open Doors works in approximately 50 countries. In 2012 Open Doors delivered 2.4 Bibles and other biblical materials, trained 265,000 church leaders and served 207,000 through community development projects.
There are a few other things we can do, such as:
- Call government officials to press them to propose legislation that will protect minority religious groups in the Middle East.
- Find organizations who are working with the situation (or very near it, such as Open Doors) and ask what help you can provide.
- Pray. Sometimes we dismiss prayer, thinking almost as an apology, “Well, all I can do is pray.” Praying changes things, but especially our own thinking and attitudes about situations. Praying daily for those being persecuted for their faith will not only help them, but help us become more aware of how we can help.
- Ask your pastor to address the issue from the pulpit. As Kirsten Powers reported earlier this year at the Daily Beast, in January, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) penned a letter to 300 Catholic and Protestant leaders complaining about their lack of engagement. Nothing came of it.
- Hold fast/prayer meetings at your local church.
- If you have a blog, write about it. Tweet about it.
Yesterday, I interrupted a conversation between two men when I sauntered into the dry sauna after my workout. “You all just live in a bubble here. You have no idea. Your media doesn’t report the real news of what’s happening in the world outside your bubble. Seventeen thousand babies died in that bombing. A whole generation, wiped out. Did you hear anything of that? No.” Ermin, the huge, muscled man from Bosnia wasn’t angry; he was just stating the facts as he saw them. “I showed up here after the war in Bosnia with $20 in my pocket,” he continued as he got up to leave. “Don’t get me wrong. I am happy to be here with you in this bubble.”
Most of us know that we, as Western Christians, live in a protective bubble. Most of us want to make a difference for the better. The trouble is prioritizing our duties and fighting off the growing American isolationism. Most importantly, we need to believe that any little thing we can do has the potential to make a real difference.