Whenever the leader of Boko Haram sends a video message laughing about the persecution he is causing, I am sick to my stomach. How can another human being take joy in someone else's suffering?
In many parts of the former Soviet Union (Central Asia or 'the Stans' specifically), there has been a significant increase in religious persecution. Governments have placed a restriction on how many people must be members in order for a church to meet. If they don't meet this requirement, they can spend several years in prison and can be fined exorbitant fees. Zoning laws have also been used to shut down or prevent the building of churches.
In certain countries in the Middle East, Christians have been required to have their religion listed on their ID cards. This system allows the government to keep a database to track who the Christians are and allows others to discriminate against Christians if they see their ID card.
As the President and CEO of Open Doors, an organization that serves Christians worldwide, I see it all the time; Christians are discriminated against.... merely because of their religion. When I hear of persecution happening, I wonder how good people can stand by and let this happen. But then I realize, we Christians are doing exactly the same thing here in the US.
We remained silent as town members in Tennessee tried to use zoning laws to prevent a mosque from being built in their town, even though we are all granted the freedom of religion as Americans. And when the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that Muslims should be banned from traveling to the United States or that there should be a database to track all Muslims, we have largely remained silent, and some Christians have even shown their support for these proposals.
When we do this, we are no different than the Muslim neighbor in Central Asia who petitions the government to shut down a church by using a zoning law that other religious buildings have been exempt from. When we sit back silently while others advocate for monitoring all Muslims, we are just as bad as the countries who have used IDs to track Christians.
We are just as bad as the persecutors if we remain silent. We are just as bad as the persecutors if we support the removal of rights from our fellow Americans.
Moreover, how will our demands for action on behalf of the persecuted overseas be taken seriously if we are discriminating against a religious minority group here on our own soil? What credibility will we have with foreign leaders and bystanders to persecution if we are guilty of the very thing we are asking them not to do?
Could it be that our actions--or lack of action--are actually making things worse? Could we be fueling the flame for the persecution of Christians in these countries? Let me be clear; I am not blaming anyone in the U.S. for the persecution taking place beyond our borders. But allowing religious discrimination against Muslim Americans to go unchecked may provide additional fuel to what is already a flaming hatred of Christians and Christianity.
As we pray for the protection of persecuted Christians, we must also reflect on what we are doing. Our actions can and do have a ripple effect.
We must be bold and speak against the wrong that is being done in our own land, not only so we have a leg to stand on when asking other leaders to treat Christians fairly, but so we do not make their situation worse when other groups see how poorly Muslims are being treated in the West.
When Trump sees that Christians will not stand for discrimination against any religious group, he will be forced to abandon his plans to restrict the liberties of Muslim Americans. We can make a difference before November. We can be the reason Trump changes his tune. It is critical that we take this stand so that, by our actions, we can help alleviate the suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world, while loving our neighbors in the US.