They Cry in Silence Nov/Dec 2001
Until the Al-Aqsa Intifada erupted in Israel a year ago, the Arab-Christian village of Beit Jalla, just outside Bethlehem, was a quiet place overlooking Jerusalem’s Jewish suburb of Gilo. With the intrusion of a new wave of radical Islamic terrorism, however, all of this was to change. Gunners from Islamic terrorist organizations decided they could penetrate the Arab village and harass and kill Gilo’s residents from Beit Jalla’s strategic position above the Jewish town. Before many days passed, at least 30 percent of Beit Jalla’s Christians opted to leave their homes and flee for their lives.
When you consider the dire situation of Christians in the world of militant Islam, these individuals are among the most fortunate. To be displaced from ancestral homes is one thing; to be indiscriminately slaughtered because of your faith is quite another.
In Havana, Cuba, two agencies have reported that Cuban soldiers are burning Bibles. The Voice of the Martyrs has received information that military troops have burned thousands of copies of God’s Word. The Bibles, captioned “Cuba Para Cristo,” (Cuba for Christ) were destroyed as “subversive” material. Even though Fidel Castro, now a mellowing senior citizen 75 years old, is being heralded as the lone survivor of doctrinaire Communism, his hatred for the Word of God and Christian believers remains as militant as ever.
In Jaffna, Sri Lanka, following a death threat sent to the Canaan Fellowship Church, three young Hindus lay in wait for the minister and murdered Pastor Vasu Sritharan. The motive for the killing was the pastor’s work among the Hindu people of Sri Lanka. Before another month had passed, another man from the same congregation was found dead, his throat slashed.
In Indonesia, the slaughter of Christians continues unabated. When Bible school student Dominggus Kenjam was nearly decapitated by Muslim attackers, he was given up for dead. Miraculously, he survived. Other believers in the island nation, however, were not so fortunate. Like Dominggus, many who escaped death at the hands of Muslim warriors will bear the scars of their torment for the rest of their lives.
With these barbaric acts of murder and brutality, can we conclude that “civilized” people of the 21st century are moving toward a more enlightened, humane, and tolerant attitude toward their Christian counterparts? The answer is a most emphatic no. It is a matter of record that hate crimes, persecution, and murder of Christians is on the rise, not on the wane. And for believers, there is no respite in sight.
In the West, believers continue to be beguiled by a false sense of security. Insulated by affluence, most pay scant attention to the suffering of brothers and sisters in the faith who are making the ultimate sacrifice. We continue to pose the question, Why is this true? The answer is complex and certainly not easily answered. The facts, however, are there for all to see—for all, that is, who are willing to open their eyes to reality.
Can it happen here in America? We may insist that it cannot. But, as was the tragic commentary against ancient Israel, we are not unlike those who were at ease in Zion while catastrophe lurked at the door. We cannot say we have not been warned. Even secular journalists and politicians have sounded the alarm that Christian leaders, for the most part, have failed or refused to ring. It is ironic (but biblically accurate) to say there are times when, as Jesus said, “The sons of this age are in their generation wiser than the sons of light” (Lk. 16:8).
It cannot be repeated often enough. In an age of international secular assimilation, evangelical Christians are an increasingly marginalized and despised minority. To be sure, we are living in an era where bizarre minorities are lauded, embraced, and pushed to the forefront of social and political life. For example, who can understand why the homosexual community wears HIV infection as a badge of honor while millions die of AIDS? Who can understand why this segment of the community has become a dominant force in Western society? However, because the evangelical community does not share the world’s feelings of adulation and respect for the movers and shakers in the new Global Village, we are tagged as misfits, bigots, and insufferable religious Neanderthals.
We well understand that many of our contemporary shape-up, fit-in, and seize-the-moment brethren will scorn these comments as just another example of pessimistic doomsday blather. But so did generations before us—and they lived to endure the consequences. God forbid that we do the same.