Pray for the Persecuted Church in Pakistan!


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From the New York Times:

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide attack on a historic Christian church in northwestern Pakistan killed at least 75 people on Sunday in one of the deadliest attacks on the Christian minority in Pakistan in years.

The attack occurred as worshipers left the All Saints Church in the old quarter of the regional capital, Peshawar, after a service on Sunday morning. Up to 600 worshipers had attended the service and were leaving to receive free food being distributed on the lawn outside when two explosions ripped through the crowd.

Dozens of people were killed and more than 100 wounded, said Akhtar Ali Shah, the home secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

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Review of ‘Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians’ by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea


persecuted Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea, Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013). $16.99, 368 pages.

Saeed Abedini is a Christian minister currently imprisoned for his faith in Iran. A native of that country, Abedini converted from Islam to Christianity in 2000 and became a leader in Iran’s house-church movement. In 2005, he moved to America with his wife, Naghmeh, and became a naturalized citizen here as well. In the summer of 2012, he returned to Iran to visit his family and to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht. He was arrested and indicted on unspecified national security violations. On January 27, 2013, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for his house-church activities and for evangelizing Muslims. The American Center for Law and Justice represents Naghmeh Abedini and has started the #SaveSaeed campaign to bring attention to his plight and secure his release.

Though not mentioned by the authors of Persecuted, because his case arose while the book was in production, Saeed Abedini is yet another individual example of their thesis: “Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today” (p. 4). Instead of compiling statistics on this problem, the authors of Persecuted document the stories of individuals and communities who, like Saeed Abedini, are suffering because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, and Nina Shea are veteran advocates of religious freedom. All are affiliated with the Hudson Institute, and Shea directs that think tank’s Center for Religious Freedom. Each has written extensively on the topics of religious freedom and Christian persecution. Marshall and Shea co-authored Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes Are Choking Freedom Worldwide (2011). Marshall edited Religious Freedom in the World (2007). And in 1997, Marshall and Gilbert published Their Blood Cries Out, while Shea published In the Lion’s Den.

The authors outline four causes of Christian persecution in successive chapters:

  1. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on countries where persecution arises from “the hunger for total political control, exhibited by Communist and post-Communist regimes.”
  2. Chapter 4 focuses on countries where persecution arises from “the desires by some to preserve Hindu or Buddhist privilege, as is evident in South Asia.”
  3. Chapters 5–8 focus on “radical Islam’s urge for religious dominance, which at present is generating an expanding global crisis” (p. 9). Abedini’s case illustrates the tenuous situation of Christians in many Muslim-majority countries. According to the authors, “The most widespread persecution of Christians today takes place in the Muslim world, and it is spreading and intensifying” (p. 123). In some countries, notably Iraq, centuries-old Christian communities are dwindling because of the persecution.
  4. And chapter 9 focuses on “national security states such as Burma and Eritrea” where “the military has sought to preserve its rule by any means necessary” (p. 13).

Chapter 10, “A Call to Action,” outlines a strategy of information, prayer, and political action for religious-freedom advocates.

Though persecution of Christians is the most widespread violation of religious freedom, the authors are careful to note that other religious groups suffer persecution too. Therefore, advocacy for the religious freedom of Christians must be advocacy of religious freedom for all. “Defending persecuted Christians and expanding religious freedom will also help other persecuted religious groups and minorities. Mandaeans and Yezidis in Iraq, Baha’is and Jews in Iran, Ahmadis and Hindus in Pakistan, Falun Gong in China, Buddhists in Vietnam, animists in Sudan, Shiites in Saudi Arabia, and Muslims in Burma all suffer imprisonment, exile, torture, and death at the hands of those who oppress Christians” (p. 291).

Persecuted is a well-documented book on the persecution of Christians worldwide. I highly recommend it to any person interested in promoting the “First Freedom,” that is, religious liberty. Because nations that don’t respect freedom of religion generally don’t respect other human rights or civil liberties either, raising consciousness about this violation has the salutary effect of raising consciousness about those violations too. Religious liberty is the “First Freedom,” but anyone concerned about it will be ineluctably drawn to concern about second, third, and fourth freedoms as well.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

Review of ‘Pentecostalism: A Very Short Introduction’ by William K. Kay


Pentecostalism Kay, William K. 2011. Pentecostalism: A Very Short Introduction. Vol. 255, Very Short Introductions. New York: Oxford University Press.

Pentecostal Christianity is the fastest-growing religious movement of the modern era. Over the past 100 years, it has grown from a handful of adherents to well over 500 million. Often associated with white, right-wing, American televangelists in the public mind, it is actually populated by poor, Majority World residents whose political commitments are diverse.

William Kay’s Pentecostalism: A Very Short Introduction ably introduces this movement by sketching an outline of its history (chapters 1–3), theology (chapters 4–5), and sociology (chapters 6–7). A concluding chapter (8) speculates on possible trajectories for the size and influence of the movement. Kay includes a “Further Reading” list at the end of the book for readers who wish to delve more deeply into these topics.

I highly recommend Pentecostalism as an introduction to this vibrant Christian movement for readers who know little to nothing about it.

P.S. If you found this review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

9/11 and the Mission of the American Church


Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11. As America remembers the enormities of that day and reflects on the State’s response to acts of terrorism, it is appropriate American Christians to reflect on the mission Jesus Christ gave his Church to make disciples of all nations. America’s response to 9/11 and American Christians’ response to 9/11 may not be the same.

Dr. Mark Hausfeld, my professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, delivered a challenging message today on the Church’s mission. I encourage you to watch it.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Can’s Syria’s Christians Survive?


From this past weekend’s Wall Street Journal:

Near the Syrian city of Aleppo, the Church of St. Simeon the Stylite commemorates the 5th-century ascetic who became an ancient sensation by living atop a tall pedestal for decades to demonstrate his faith. Krak des Chevaliers, an awe-inspiring castle near Homs, was a fortress for the order of the Knights Hospitaller in their quest to defend a crusader kingdom. Seydnaya, a towering monastery in a town of the same name, was probably built in the time of Justinian.

A nun there spoke about Syria’s current crisis from within a candlelit alcove this week, surrounded by thousand-year-old votive icons donated by Russian Orthodox churchgoers and silver pendants in the shape of body parts that supplicants have sought to heal—feet, heads, legs, arms, even a pair of lungs and a kidney.

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Krak des Chevaliers, a castle near Homs, was a fortress for the order of the Knights Hospitaller in their quest to defend a crusader kingdom.

“It’s not a small thing we are facing,” she said, speaking as much about the country as her faith. “We just want the killing to stop.”

Few places are as central as Syria to the long history of Christianity. Saul of Tarsus made his conversion here, reputedly on the Street Called Straight, which still exists in Damascus. It was in these lands that he conducted his first missions to attract non-Jews to the nascent faith.

A century ago, the Levant supported a population that was perhaps 20% Christian. Now it is closer to 5%. Syria today hosts vibrant, if dwindling, communities of various ancient sects: Syrian Orthodox, Syrian Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.

But Syria’s Christian communities are being severely tested by the uprising that has racked the country for more than a year. They think back to 636, when the Christian Byzantine emperor Heraclius saw his army defeated by Muslim forces south of present-day Damascus. “Peace be with you Syria. What a beautiful land you will be for our enemies,” he lamented before fleeing north to Antioch. In the 8th century, a famed Damascus church was razed to make way for the Umayyad Mosque—today one of Islam’s holiest sites.

Not a few Christians in modern-day Syria worry that the current crisis could end the same way for them if Bashar al-Assad and his regime are defeated by the rebel insurgency.

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