Category archives: Religious Persecution

Religion in Immigration: How to Handle it Properly

by Travis Weber

August 2, 2016

An opinion by Judge Reinhardt out of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday shows how to properly view the role of religion in asylum and immigration matters.

Kurniawan Salim had first filed for asylum in 2006 when he was a Buddhist on the grounds that he feared returning to Indonesia because of his Chinese ancestry. His claim was rejected. Still in the United States, he has since converted to Catholicism, and now asserts a fear of persecution based on religion if he returns to Indonesia. Yet the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) rejected his request to reopen his case, claiming the evidence offered was “largely cumulative” of that offered in his first case.

Thankfully, Judge Reinhardt reversed the BIA, which had apparently missed the significance of the fact that Kurniawan was now a Christian and had offered significant evidence he would be persecuted on that basis. As Judge Reinhardt observed, the BIA’s “reasoning makes little sense where, as here, the motion to reopen presents a different basis for relief than was relied upon during the prior hearing. In such cases, the evidence related to the new claim for relief is necessarily “qualitatively different” from that offered at the earlier hearing.”

Kurniawan had submitted significant evidence that hostility toward Christians in Indonesia had dramatically increased since his first case, with a letter from his sister in Jakarta describing the immediate threat of attacks against Christians in her area. Judge Reinhardt additionally found that the BIA erred by failing to examine the evidence that Christians were threatened in light of Kurniawan’s membership of this specific religious group.

Judge Reinhardt accurately diagnosed the religious freedom threat for this asylum applicant, while the BIA showed an ignorance of the role religion plays in this type of case. If those at the BIA can’t understand that evidence of threats against Christians matter because someone is a Christian and not a Buddhist, we are in trouble. It is not sufficient to merely recognize the role of religion generally (though that is not always properly done), but government officials must also understand the religious freedom component of these cases as informed by the social, political, and interreligious dynamics of specific areas around the world. They must also bring this clear-headed approach to the broader context of immigration and security, which needs our objectivity and understanding much more than our simple, one-size-fits-all “solutions.”

This case is a glimpse into how international religious freedom as a human right should inform our values as they play out in our immigration system. America has been and will hopefully remain a beacon around the world for the freedom to choose one’s beliefs and live them out without fear of harm. Kudos to Judge Reinhardt for protecting this freedom today.

Question of the Week - May 16, 2016

by Daniel Hart

May 16, 2016

Question: I want to effectively protest the killing/genocide of Christians around the world. How do you suggest I do that? Thank you.

FRC: Thank you for asking how you can protest the genocide of Christians around the world. While believers face growing hostility in America, we have experienced nothing like the mistreatment, displacement, violence, rape, crucifixions, and beheadings experienced by followers of Jesus in Iraq, Syria, Libya, other parts of the Middle East and beyond. The most tangible form of helping persecuted Christians is to participate in practical ministries. If possible, you might consider following the example of a church in Indiana who sent a group of church members to Iraq along with donated medical supplies and additional money to purchase much needed food and bedding. Obviously, most churches would not be capable of this kind of direct aid, so we primarily recommend donating to the organizations listed on World Magazine’s “Aid for Iraqis” site. These organizations have provided aid to those in need ever since the beginning of the conflict, and through this lasting presence in the region have intimately gotten to know the communities they are involved with. It is also very important to promote policies that protect the persecuted. You can help do this by supporting the ministries that we have partnered with like Open Doors USA, Institute on Religion and Democracy, and others listed here. Finally, please pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world. Thank you for standing with us!

Stand with the (Unstoppable) Persecuted” Church on Sunday, April 17th

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 31, 2016

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is unstoppable.  Consider what happened last year when 21 Christians were beheaded on a beach along the shores of the Mediterranean:

Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity. “We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, “Two Rows by the Sea” (the story of the Libyan victims) was sent to the printer. One week later, 1.65 million copies (had) been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.

We weep with the families of those slain and pray for their killers.  But we also rejoice that what man planned for evil, God has used for good (Genesis 50:20).

Yet even as human evil can be employed by the Lord of all for His glory, He never excuses or countenances it, and He calls on His people to oppose it (see, as just one of many scriptural examples, Psalm 82:3-4).

That’s why FRC and our allies Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, In Defense of Christians, and the Institute on Religion and Democracy are hosting “Stand with the Persecuted Sunday” on April 17th.

We are calling on churches across America to “view a brief, two-minute video, distribute a special bulletin insert, and spend time in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters internationally.”

To learn how your church can participate, go to http://frc.org/stand.  Stand with “the least of these, His brethren,” and thereby stand with the unstoppable Lord Jesus Himself.

MEMO TO THE STATE DEPARTMENT: CHRISTIANS WERE MURDERED IN LAHORE. THAT’S C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N-S

by Rob Schwarzwalder

March 28, 2016

Yesterday, “Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a splinter faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility” for a suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan that killed at least 69 people and wounded about 300. Why? Jamaat-e-Ahrar makes its reason very clear: “Its spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, said in a statement that Christians were the target.”

The Taliban murders Christians on Easter Sunday: This is the essential headline of myriad news reports, at home and abroad. But you’d never know that Christians were in the killers’ bulls-eye from the U.S. State Department’s news release. “The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s appalling terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan. This cowardly act, which targeted innocent civilians in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, has killed dozens and left scores injured,” says the statement. No mention of the Taliban. No mention of Islamism and it’s brutal aggression. And no mention of Christians.

What happened yesterday in Lahore was the mass murder of Christians by Muslim radicals. This is not a statement of bigotry or an overreaction to violence. It is not inflammatory or hostile or anti-Muslim. It is a statement of fact, based on the remarks of the killers’ official spokesman (a sickening thought — barbarians have a “spokesman”) and the indisputable carnage at a park where Christian children were playing after Sunday services.

Yet this administration cannot summon the moral courage to say what actually and obviously occurred. This is repulsive and a shame to our country, which proclaims itself “the home of the brave.”

Former federal prosecutor and expert on radical Islam Andy McCarthy, in a recent lecture at Hillsdale College, said, “In the real world, we must deal with the facts of Islamic supremacism, because its jihadist legions have every intention of dealing with us. But we can only defeat them if we resolve to see them for what they are.”

The Obama Administration lacks such resolve. Its fear of giving offense exceeds its willingness to defeat our enemies. Brussels, Lahore, San Bernardino, 9-11: the list goes on and on, as does the Islamists’ intention of destroying us.

It is hard to know how to destroy an ideology grounded in a fanatical faith. But at least we can destroy those of its adherents intent on spreading their faith through vicious brutality. We must do this, even if it necessitates a recognition that such destruction could be a multi-generational endeavor. The security of 320 million Americans and the dignity of human life worldwide demand it.

Listen to FRC’s Executive Vice-President, Lt. Gen. (ret) Jerry Boykin, talk with FRC President Tony Perkins about the threat of radical Islam in a March 21 broadcast of Tony’s “Washington Watch” radio program.

Council of Europe Body Calls Actions of ISIS “Genocide”

by Travis Weber

January 28, 2016

Yesterday, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe passed a resolution calling the actions of ISIS in Iraq and Syria as “genocide.” The resolution, passed with 117 votes for and only 1 against, shows clear resolve on the part of our neighbors across the pond to call a spade a spade.

Several statements of the Parliamentary Assembly stand out:

The Parliamentary Assembly … notes with great concern that many of these recent terrorist attacks are claimed by, and may be attributed to, individuals who act in the name of the terrorist entity which calls itself Da’ish and who have perpetrated acts of genocide and other serious crimes punishable under international law. States should act on the presumption that Da’ish commits genocide and should be aware that this entails action under the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The Assembly recalls that under international law States have a positive obligation to prevent genocide, and thus should do their utmost to prevent their own nationals from taking part in such acts.

Fighters who may have perpetrated acts of genocide and/or other serious crimes prohibited under international law, and who seek international protection upon their return to Europe, should under no circumstances be granted refugee status.

While not specified in the resolution, the genocidal actions of ISIS have targeted Yezidis, Christians, and others. Such a clear statement that genocide has occurred, and a proper conclusion that this obligates nations which are parties to the Genocide Convention to do something about it, is a breath of fresh air.

Parliamentary Assembly member Pieter Omtzigt, who introduced the amendment to the resolution making it clear that ISIS has committed genocide, reiterated that “[u]nder the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, countries are obliged to take positive action to prevent crimes of genocide.”

Next week, the European Parliament will also weigh in on this issue and vote on a resolution on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. We hope its members follow the strong lead of this resolution and call the facts on the ground for what they are. The world depends on it.

We also hope that the Obama Administration recognizes this obvious fact as well, calling the genocide against Christians in the Middle East a “genocide,” and does so before it is too late. While the Administration has recognized actions of ISIS against Yezidis as “genocide,” it is wrong to not bring full attention to the genocide against Christians, and others, as well. Years from now, we may all rue the day when we could have done more to prevent another Rwanda.

Israel, Oregon, and Religious Persecution

by Joshua Denton

October 6, 2015

Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu stood before the UN and berated the assembled members for their deafening silence over the Iran Deal and the threat it poses to Israel.

He reminded them of the promise made by Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s, “there will be no Israel in 25 years,” and recounted to his listeners that only 70 years after the murder of 6 million Jews, Iran’s rulers have promised to destroy his country and murder his people. He rebuked the individuals represented at the UN for their lack of response, saying it has been “Nothing but absolute, deafening silence.”

Netanyahu then proceeded to silently glare at the UN for a full forty-five seconds before proceeding with his speech explaining why Israel was not celebrating this deal. And with good reason. The Iran Deal is in fact, a deal which will almost invariably provoke a nuclear arms race and is nothing short of a machination to destroy his country.

Also last week, in our very own United States a young gunman murdered innocent victims in a mass shooting. Why? Simply for their Christian faith. CNN reported the testimony of a father of a wounded student:

Before going into spinal surgery, Anastasia Boylan told her father and brother the gunman entered her classroom firing. The professor in the classroom was shot point blank. Others were hit, she told her family.

Everyone in the classroom dropped to the ground.

The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.

And they would stand up and he said, ‘Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second,’” Boylan’s father, Stacy, told CNN, relaying her account.

And then he shot and killed them.”’

In the history of the universe, the persecution of Israel is nothing new; religious persecution of the people of God is nothing new; even Christians slaughtered for their faith is not a new phenomenon. It may be new to Americans because it is on our soil, and in our lifetimes.

Israel is currently defending the right to protect its very existence. The jailing of Kim Davis marks the first time in American history a Christian citizen was incarcerated for not compromising a sincerely held religious belief. Last week, we had American citizens shot in cold blood for testifying for their Christian faith.

Franklin Graham said so aptly, “Persecution and targeting of Christians isn’t just in Iran or the Middle East, its right here in America. The bold souls at Umpqua Community College who stood up to say they were followers of Jesus Christ were heinously gunned down with no mercy. Jesus said, ‘If they hate you, remember they hated me before they hated you.“’ (John 15:18)

If you were faced with a similar situation, how would you react? Ponder that question deeply. It should drive you to your knees. While you’re there, pray for Israel. Pray for those facing religious persecution. Pray for the victims of those in the Oregon shooting. Pray for your family and friends.

In the Face of ISIS Aggression: Trusting an Unknown Future to A Known God

by Joshua Denton

May 1, 2015

Not more than 24 hours ago ISIS released a shocking new photo that is of an entirely different nature than any previously released.

ISIS has largely waged its war on the West with an eerie online presence, by taping and capturing videos of massacres of Christians, numerous beheadings, burnings, stonings, etc. These images, which once shocked us and filled us with horror, have become almost mundane. We turn our heads and forget because it does not have a direct impact on us. Yet.

Since many Americans have largely closed their eyes to the brutality that defines ISIS, the terrorist group may be trying a new method to strike fear into the hearts of those whom it opposes. 

The picture recently released is of a very young infant sleeping peacefully with a handgun placed on the one side of the child, and a grenade on the other.

It is very tragic to think of the violence and destruction that this child will experience. Undeniably, this child will grow up in an environment surrounded by unspeakable brutality – and never know that there is anything different. Yes, this is heart wrenching to think of.

The intentions of the photo are unmistakable. And their implications should send a shiver down our spine as we sit comfortably in front of our laptops or electronic devices viewing from a safe distance. Clearly, ISIS intended this photo to say “We mean business. We aren’t going away anytime soon. We may die, but our children will follow in our footsteps. The plans we fail to accomplish, those who come behind us will achieve.”

If this isn’t disconcerting to you there is a problem.

Although ISIS undeniably poses a potential threat to our security as a nation, this picture didn’t cause me to advocate for a declared U.S. government disapprobation of ISIS – although that certainly is in order. Instead, this image motivates me to follow the principles of Scripture and be an intergenerational influence for the sake of Jesus Christ. Viewing our service to God in this manner isn’t an option, it’s a command.

My complete and committed life purpose is to be a positive, animated influence on families - inspiring them to motivate others, thereby creating an explosive, multi-generational chain reaction - that encourages individuals to stand strong and courageous for Jesus Christ! 

Eph. 6:12 (KJV) reminds us: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

We will always have adversaries to contest in both the physical and spiritual realms, and we can’t be certain what we may face in the days ahead. But as long as I am faithfully following God and assisting others to do the same, I can have full confidence in what is forthcoming – no matter what the outcome.

Corrie Ten Boom put it so aptly when she said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

New Annual Report on International Religious Liberty Now Available

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 30, 2015

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), where I served briefly as Acting Director of Communications, has issued its 2015 annual report on religious liberty worldwide.

As noted by Knox Thames, USCIRF’s Director of Policy and Research, “The Commission is an independent U.S. government advisory body separate from the State Department that monitors religious freedom worldwide and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and the Congress.”

Individual country reports are available in English and in the national languages of each country. Thames comments that the Annual Report, released today, “documents religious freedom abuses and violations in 33 countries and makes county-specific policy recommendations for U.S. policy. This report covers the period of January 2014 through January 2015.” He continues that the report:

  • Recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate nine countries as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, for egregious religious freedom violations: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan;
  • Recommends that eight additional countries be designated as CPCs: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, and Vietnam;
  • Urges increased U.S. government attention to 10 countries placed on USCIRF’s Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, and Turkey; and
  • Highlights concerns in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Cyprus, Kyrgyzstan, and Sri Lanka.

In the Annual Report, USCIRF urges that the United States “support a referral by the UN Security Council to the International Criminal Court to investigate ISIL (sic) violations in Iraq and Syria against religious and ethnic minorities” and “that the State Department designate Central African Republic as a CPC. In addition to country chapters, the report provides overarching recommendations for U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the promotion of religious freedom internationally.”

As the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees notes, “With nearly 900,000 people from the Central African Republic (CAR) forcibly displaced since the outbreak of violence in December 2013, the CAR crisis is quickly becoming the largest forgotten humanitarian crisis of our time. There are more than 460,000 CAR refugees in neighbouring (sic) countries and some 436,000 people are internally displaced. In the Central African Republic, a total of 2.7 million people are in need of humanitarian aid.”

FRC has been a strong advocate for the persecuted church worldwide. Under the leadership of FRC President Tony Perkins, we played a leading role in the release last year of imprisoned Christian Mariam Ibrahim, and have held several webcasts on international religious liberty.

To find out about Christian ministries working to protect persecuted Christians and also meet the profound needs of people in places like the CAR, go to the ServantMatch site of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (of which FRC is a member) or the Catholic Charities website.

Muslim chooses to die alongside Christians

by Travis Weber

April 23, 2015

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” - John 15:13 (NASB)

The above-titled recent headline comes to us from the Vatican Insider, which brings us the startling and encouraging report of a Muslim who “offered himself as a hostage because he would not leave his Christian friend to die alone.” Who is the man? Jamal Rahman.

According to the story, Jamal “was among the 28 Ethiopians killed (by decapitation) by ISIS in Libya and shown in the latest terror video by Al Furqan, the caliphate’s propaganda machine.”

Jamal “was not spared, despite belonging to a Muslim family.”

Why was he not spared?

Because “[h]e offered himself as a hostage because he would not leave his Christian friend to die alone.”

It is a “great love” which causes us to give our lives for another.

Ultimately, Jamal was killed with all the Christians in the group.

While there is some haziness over why this was the case, it appears to be a sacrificial act of love.

According to reports given to the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) — by a member of Al-Shabab, of all people — a certain “online newspaper of Somaliland” reports that Jamal “converted to Christianity on the road” and was killed for this reason.

Yet PIME regards as “much more plausible” the alternate explanation, which is “that amidst the jihadists, the Muslim Jamal ‘foolishly’ and willingly offered himself as a hostage to the jihadists, out of solidarity for a Christian friend he was travelling with.” For “[p]erhaps he believed the presence of a Muslim in the group might even have saved the lives of the others.”

Ultimately, “[t]his was not the case: Jamal was murdered alongside the Christians ‘as an apostate’.”

Jamal’s loyalty to his friend, loyalty to the point of death, is humbling, rare and beautiful. His act will undoubtedly serve as an example to others.

Most importantly, it is a model of our Lord Jesus himself, who laid down his life for us — his friends. If we are to be imitators of Christ, we must do likewise. Let us take this moment to reflect on this act of grace on the part of a Muslim to remember that Jesus himself told us:

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” Matthew 16:24-25 (NASB).

Only by His grace can we do that. But let us ask God for that grace. It will be needed, for God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), even members of ISIS.

Until his truth comes to them, and He comes again, let us be thankful for reminders of his grace in men like Jamal.

VIOLENT OR NON-VIOLENT, AT HOME OR ABROAD, IT’S STILL PERSECUTION

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 2, 2015

As I write, militants from the Islamist Al-Shabab terrorist organization are holding Christian students hostage at a university in Kenya.  They are reported to have killed about 20 people so far.  Here’s a link to this breaking story: Al Shabab militants target Christians in Kenya university attack.

The violent persecution of Christians around the world is one of the crises of our time.  Doubt it?  Consider the following headlines from the past 10 days or so:

Suicide bombers kill 15 people outside Pakistani churches, mob attacks suspects in aftermathU.S. News and World Report

New Evidence of War Crimes, Genocide against Iraqi Christians, Yazidis – Christianity Today

China jails Christian pastor for protesting cross removal – Fox News

Strangers In Their Own Land’: Dilemma Of The Christian Populace In India – CounterCurrents

Christians in the Middle East May Disappear Within Two Years: Lebanese Leader – Assyrian International News Agency

Red Cross: ISIS Cutting Off Water Supply to Christians, Kurds as War Tactic – Breitbart

Here at home?  Consider this story, published this morning, about a restaurant in Indiana:

A small-town pizza shop in Indiana has closed its doors after the owners’ support of the state’s “religious freedom” law and pronouncement they would not cater a gay wedding brought fierce backlash. Kevin O’Connor, 61, who owns Memories Pizza with his two children in Walkerton, Ind., has closed the shop’s doors in hopes the furor will die down, but the family fears it will never reopen … O’Connor’s daughter, Crystal, says the family is considering leaving the state. On Tuesday, WBND Channel 57 interviewed members of the O’Connor family, who said they agreed with Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The family said the pizzeria is a “Christian establishment.” “If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal O’Connor said. “We’re not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.” The family said it would serve gays or a non-Christian couple in the restaurant.

Brutal physical attack, imprisonment, and cutting-off water are persecution of a different type than that experienced by the Hoosiers described above.  But the O’Connors are being non-violently persecuted for their commitment to living-out their faith.

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