Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Terrible? Yes. But Is It Persecution?

One of the biggest challenges we face here at The Voice of the Martyrs every week is going through the many stories and reports that we receive and trying to figure out which ones of them are truly cases of persecution and which are not.

It is not nearly as easy as one might imagine. There are those who seem to want to label any misfortune or disaster that befalls some believer somewhere as "persecution." And some of these cases are truly heartbreaking, even horrendous.

A case in point is the recent case of Manzoor Ahmad Chat, an Indian Christian who was beheaded by Hizbul militants on Saturday in Kashmir. The question is, was he killed because he was a government worker or because he was a Christian? In the face of the brutality of his murder, the rising persecution in India, and the fact that he was a leader of a local church, one would be inclined to call his death a case of martyrdom. But we cannot be certain, especially in light of the political situation there and reports that we are receiving which would seem to point to his death being more politically than religiously-motivated.

Another is a recent report of a massive forced abortion campaign going on in China's Guangxi Province (Autonomous Region). There are reports of Christian women being forced to have abortions. One such case is a pastor's wife who accidentally became pregnant and wanted to keep her child because of her Christian principles. She was reportedly forcibly given an injection today to abort her baby. Is this a case of persecution?

When faced with situations where is difficult to determine whether this is a situation of persecution or general suffering, it is helpful to ask, "If a person had other religious beliefs or would change their religion to the majority religion of the country, would things get better for them?" If the answer is "yes," then it seems that this would be a situation where persecution is taking place. If, however, this is suffering that is being inflicted on others as well as Christians, such as is the case with the forcible abortion campaign in China, it is probably not appropriate for us to call it "persecution." Is it terrible? Of course it is. Am I glad that the organization that reported on this (whom we greatly respect and work with) did so? Of course, and we will pray for these dear women who have been so terrible violated. Is this reprehensible and worth protesting? I would argue that it certainly is. But we will not call it persecution even though Christians are being afflicted. This does not minimize the suffering and injustice in any way. It does, however, help us to put such incidents into a proper context. And this ultimately helps our case when the time comes to act or speak to an issue. If we label something as persecution when it is not, we not only lose credibility then but also potentially for the future when we might want to speak to a legitimate case of persecution. We have shown ourselves to be less than careful in our use of words and in advocacy, words are important.

The challenge that we must avoid is allowing persecution to take on such a broad meaning that it soon comes to mean very little at all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is I believe crucial to the ‘cause’ that such reports are factual, can be verified as such and are indeed correctly identified as persecution and in so doing God is glorified. Equally I believe it is important to illustrate (as you have), that these reports are careful considered before “going to press”. There are of course those who would reject all such reports out of hand as fabrication, lies and exaggerating of the truth. By drawing attention to the reports that ‘didn’t make-it’, credence is conferred upon those that did.

May God bless the work of your hands.