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Kindness amid Persecution

ICC Note:

This editorial highlights again the situation of Christians throughout the world. Christianity is still a despised and persecuted minority in a majority of the world, and we in the West often lose sight of that.

By Christopher Howse

Telegraph (10/21/06) – In all the hoo-ha about veils and crosses there has been a detectable vein of hostility to religion of any kind. Not that one religion is the same as another in any case. The Prince of Wales cannot be a defender of faith in the abstract, because faith has content, it is a belief in something. Some things are not fit to believe in: Nazism obviously, or witchcraft. As for Christianity, it is still a persecuted faith, and not just in rare cases. This was brought home to me by a 100-page dossier called Persecuted and Forgotten? compiled by the international charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN).

Right through the alphabet, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe , the lives of Christians are being made difficult, or brought to a violent end. Last November, in Zhaoxian in Hebei , China , for example, officials rounded up deacons training to become priests, deprived them of sleep and put pressure on them to sign a form accepting ordination by a government-controlled bishop instead of one in communion with the Pope.

Things a lot worse are happening in China , despite new Regulations on Religious Activities, promulgated in March 2005, permitting “normal” religious activities. To the authorities, “normal” means controlled by the state. Anything else is “delinquent”. So state oppression is sanctioned and mob attacks on Christians are left unpunished.

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In Pakistan , a notional ally of Britain ’s, “there are hundreds of poor and simple souls who have had to endure small and great indignities and humiliations just for living as Christians in a Muslim environment”, according to Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore. “My own experience has been that in the first years of the new millennium there is a growing tide of religious intolerance and hatred,” he says.

I am not quoting this judgment as any condemnation of good Muslims. A case history included in Persecuted and Forgotten? shows that persecution comes from bad men, or at least men who decide to do bad things.

Yusuf Said, a former buffalo trader from Sangla Hill, 80 miles from Lahore , Pakistan , gave an interview to ACN this March recounting the terrible consequences of an argument over a game of cards. Mr Said’s opponent demanded money that he did not get. Later he accused Mr Said of burning pages of the Koran (a crime theoretically punishable by life imprisonment under the country’s blasphemy laws).

Despite Mr Said’s vigorous denials, a crowd gathered, demanding he confess. He spent the night sheltering with a Muslim friend. The next thing he learnt was that a mob of 3,000 had rampaged through the town, burning the Presbyterian and Catholic churches, schools and a convent, and killing two people.

Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, Mr Said turned himself in to the police, still protesting his innocence. Over the next two weeks he was moved from police station to police station four times, and tortured.

A court found him guilty of desecrating the Koran and he was jailed. He remembered with gratitude a group of Muslims who gave him better food. “They knew the man who accused me was a robber and that the case was bogus,” he said.

After 15 weeks his conviction was overturned. “I am still not free,” he says, “I have to stay in a safe house. There are 55 men in prison, guilty of the attack on the Christian quarter of Sangla Hill. Their families and friends would kill me if they got the chance.”

“I know that a lot of my problems would disappear immediately if I changed my faith. But I would rather be beaten and put to death than change my faith. It is Christ’s love that has saved me.”…[Go To Full Story]