We pastors are often accused of exaggerating the persecution of Christians around the world. But if you look closely, such persecution is growing at a rapid pace.
If you are inclined to believe that Christians are not persecuted much or that the proverbial “War on Christianity” is more skirmish than war, then take a look at the case of Meriam Ibrahim.
Ibrahim, now in the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan, gave birth to a baby girl in May. Unfortunately, she was in a Sudanese prison at the time, and her legs and hands were chained during the delivery. She fears her child was harmed due to the conditions of her delivery, and indications are that she may have been. Her husband reported that his wife spent two days in her own labor blood. The prison authorities, who participated in her taunting, refused to let her shower — until the human rights committee came to visit. Of course. But, that’s not the tragedy.
Ibrahim was in prison because she is sentenced to death. What did she do to deserve capital punishment? Nothing. However, Sudanese officials discovered that although Meriam Ibrahim was raised Christian, her father — absent from her life from an early age — was Muslim. That means, to them, that she left Islam. And since she will not renounce her Christian faith, she must die. Of course.
But it gets worse, if that is even possible. The authorities have declared that in Sudan a Muslim woman cannot marry a Christian (her husband is American Daniel Wani). That being the case, her marriage is therefore null and void, so these Rhodes Scholars reason.
Now, it follows logically that since her marriage is null and void, she has committed adultery as evidenced by her pregnancy. For this, she is also sentenced to 100 lashes, which of course must be given prior to her execution. Of course.
Now, to be sure, people of all religions can be persecuted. And we Christians have our own history of abuse. But that was wrong, and so is this.
Fortunately, the governments of the United Kingdom, Canada and the Netherlands all called for her to be freed. The U.S. chimed in, and even the Italian government worked to get Ibrahim out of Sudan. That led to her release. Until a day later when she was re-arrested. Of course.
Will Meriam Ibrahim ever be allowed to leave Sudan? Who knows?
David Cameron, prime minister of England, said recently that “our religion (Christianity) is now the most persecuted religion around the world.” And that comes from a leader of a country that has seen a dramatic drop in church attendance and Christian affiliation.
Cameron went on to say, “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so.”
He’s right. Every single one of us has a responsibility to speak out when we see such evil and injustice. It is our Christian obligation. And the continued persecution of Christians will never stop if it is perceived that the greatest nation on earth will do nothing to stop it. Of course.
The Rev. Dr. Bob LeFavi, installed member of the Society of Ordained Scientists, is pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church, Springfield.