Is there a “War on Christmas”? The bigger question is about a war on Christians.
As part of America’s Christian majority I have never been threatened or persecuted for my faith in Jesus as God in the flesh. But I have had to make the case for my beliefs.
Atheists have dismissed me as delusional. They say there is no Son of God. I disagree.
Agnostics who see no evidence of God have misunderstood me. I have faith.
And I argue with people who object to manger scenes and the Christian cross on public land as violations the legal divide between church and the government. I think people of all faiths can reach agreement on reasonable, limited displays of religious symbols without offending anyone.
But even as we debate religion in American life we cannot forget a bigger threat -- the violent, global “War on Christians.”
Here are some of the worst examples of Christian persecution around the world:
-An American Christian pastor has been in an Iranian prison for more than a year. The U.S. State Department has confirmed that he is jailed “on charges related to his religious beliefs.” Saeed Abedini set up churches in that country for almost a decade and the government found his work threatening. The pastor’s wife told reporters earlier this week: "My husband is suffering because he is a Christian. He's suffering because he's an American... Yet his own government did not fight for him when his captors were across the table.”
- In Egypt fundamentalist Muslims regularly attack Coptic Christians. A House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee heard testimony last week on the sad plight of the Copts. Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Britain spoke of "an unprecedented wave of violence erupted against Christians" that is being "carried out by radical elements in society.”
-And in Syria there are reports of Christians in the northern part of the country being targeted for rape, kidnapping and murder by Muslim groups. Christian churches have been vandalized throughout the country as civil war has torn the country apart for the last two years. The Civil War has forced thousands of Christians to flee the country in droves, seeking refuge in neighboring countries. Earlier this month, more than a dozen Greek Orthodox nuns and Christian orphanage workers were held hostage. One 65-year-old Syrian Christian woman put it bluntly in an interview: "They’re coming after us. All they do is massacre people, all they know is killing."
The British Parliament debated this worldwide persecution of Christians earlier this month. One Member of Parliament called it “the biggest story in the world that has never been told.”
Earlier this week, nations around the world marked International Human Rights Day. Let’s not forget that the right to worship freely, without fear of persecution, is not only an American constitutional right. It is also guaranteed by the United Nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This holiday season I am asking American Christians to pray for fellow Christians who live under the threats of violence in other parts of the world because they dare to stand up for Jesus.
And let us give each other the gift of awareness this Christmas to the real persecution of Christians around the globe.
One act of love that all Americans -- Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists -- can agree on is that our nation must be a light to the world as we stand for religious freedom everywhere.