Showing posts with label persecution. Show all posts
Showing posts with label persecution. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

WHY WE MUST be 'Reaching Muslims' with the Gospel

by Elizabeth Kendal

On Tuesday 13 Jan 2015, I was privileged to be able to address the “Reaching Muslims” stream at the Church Missionary Society’s annual “Summer Under the Son” conference in Melbourne, Australia. The title given to my session was: “Reaching Muslims: Love Your Enemies”.

As an introduction, I was interviewed for about 15 minutes, which gave me the opportunity to explain my ministry as a religious liberty analyst and prayer advocate, my particular interest in Islam, while noting that while the HOW TO of Reaching Muslims is not my area of expertise, I am certainly very passionate about WHY WE MUST!

Having studied Islam seriously over many years in order to understand the phenomenon of Islamic persecution of Christians, it has become very clear to me that it is just as Jesus said in John 16:2 – “behold the day is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering service to God.” Significantly, Jesus immediately followed up his warning with an explanation: “They do this because they do not know the Father or Me” (John 16:3). So while mission might produce persecution / backlash in the short term, it is also the only solution to the problem of persecution in the long term.

I noted that only 1-2% of missionaries are focused on reaching Muslims – a sad statistic which led missionary Samuel Zwemer (1862 – 1952) (also known as the Apostle to Islam) to lament: “One might suppose the Church thought the Great Commission didn’t apply to Muslims.”

As a people saved by grace through faith, we should know that even though the battle is at the gate (see Isaiah 28:5-6) the promises of God assure us that the situation is never hopeless – actually, it is the opposite of hopeless. For as my book “Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today”  makes clear, “by grace through faith” is not merely God’s paradigm for personal salvation, it is God’s paradigm for everything. And today, in the midst of escalating conflict and persecution, God the great Savior and Redeemer is on the move.

After the interview I presented two 25-30 minute talks – the first covering the problem of persecution, and the second looking at threats to mission –with 10 minutes of Q&A after each.


The following article is a compilation of those two talks minus all the stories and testimonies.


       be Reaching Muslims with the Gospel

Elizabeth Kendal 22 January 2015
words: 4,053

People who have not experienced domestic violence or abuse, generally can’t understand why women who suffer it cling desperately to the idea that everything and everyone BUT their husband is to blame; or why children who are abused cling desperately to the idea that it simply has to be all their own fault.

The reason the victim refuses to blame the perpetrator is, because as soon as soon as they do – they lose control of the situation. If they accept that the other person has a problem, then they have to accept that they are trapped in a diabolical situation. That is terrifying.

This mindset of denial can be found among persecuted Christians who are struggling to survive in a tinderbox of anti-Christian hostility. A similar mindset of denial can also be found in the West among those who are very afraid, or those who hold utopian ideals, or those who simply don’t want confrontation.

These people will insist that the Islamic violence we are witnessing today is but an aberration caused by everything other than Islam (Britain’s fault, Israel’s fault, America’s fault, Assad’s fault -- blame it on the economy, blame it on a misinterpretation of Islam -- its our fault/due to our Islamophobia).

Others, meanwhile, will say that Islam is a problem precisely because it can so easily be read as mandating that non-Muslims be subjugated, persecuted and even killed -- and of course it has been read that way throughout its history. These people would say that the short era of relative peace we had through the middle of the 20th C was an aberration brought about by the fact that Islam was at its weakest point. This is my position.

I maintain that the escalation of Islamic persecution we are witnessing in the world corresponds directly to the escalation of Islamic strength – something facilitated by the decline of Western civilization – a decline facilitated by the West’s rejection of its own Christian foundations/roots.

I also maintain that a refutation of Islam does not imply hatred of Muslims. Muslims find this impossible to understand – in fact they generally reject it – but that is only because they have little concept of grace. Muhammad never said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”.  But Jesus did.  As disciples of Jesus who have been saved by grace Christians can and must extend grace to Muslims while hating the ideology that leads to death and brings immense suffering to the Body of Christ.


A lot of people today are lamenting the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and Asia as “unprecedented” – but the fact is – while this Islamic persecution might be unprecedented in our lifetime – it is not unprecedented; none of it is new – and that’s because the Islam texts are rich with anti-Christian polemical material.

This persecution existed before America invaded the Middle East, before the recent Islamic revival, before the creation of the State of Israel, before WWI. There is a problem with Islam – and we need to talk about it – no matter how unsettling – because this problem with Islam manifests as serious persecution of the Church.

'Chibok girls'
The sex-slavery and trafficking of Christian children practiced by Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, by Arab slavers in Sudan (with the sanction of the regime in Khartoum), by IS in its Caliphate in Upper Mesopotamia – is nothing new.

Historian Bat Ye’or writes concerning the Arab conquest of Ephesus in A.D. 781, “7000 Greeks were deported into captivity”; and concerning the Arab conquest of Thessaloniki in A.D. 903, “22,000 Christians were shared between the Arab chiefs or sold into slavery”.

The Turks were no better – Historian Orlando Figes writes that in 1822, when the Turks put down a Greek uprising on the Island of Chios, some 20,000 Greeks were hanged while the remaining population, some 70,000 Greeks, were deported into slavery. Even in the decades before WWI, as Britain was pressing for reforms, the Turks were still kidnapping European children – Russians, Serbs, Romanians, Bulgarians, Greeks – for sale in the slave markets of Constantinople/Istanbul.

In issue 4 of DABIQ (the magazine of IS), there is a lengthy theological treatise on slavery. The article, entitled “The return of slavery before the hour”, sights Quranic texts and hadiths, the example of Muhammad (who himself took Christian girls as war booty and had sex with them), and the teachings of leading Islamic scholars to come to the conclusion that the historic Islamic practice of slavery (specifically sex slavery) is not only good for reducing sexual impropriety, but it is totally legitimate in Islam to the extent that any Muslim who objects could be deemed an apostate.

It is simply the case that Islamic slavery was forced out of existence at a time when Islam was weak, now it is being resurrected in situations where Islam is strong.

The subjugation of Christians as dhimmis (second-class citizens) – a status that sees them denied virtually all their basic human rights – is nothing new.

This practice, that is becoming systematic, even official policy in places where Islam is strong has been linked to Islamic imperialist expansion throughout the history of Islam. Muslims invaded, lands were conquered, and Sharia Law (Islamic law) was established – not just for Muslims, but for the administration of the conquered peoples.

As dhimmis (subjugated, second-class citizens under Sharia), Christians have no legal rights: they can’t testify against a Muslim in court, which makes them easy pickings for criminals. As dhimmis, Christians have no religious rights: they can’t repair churches as the churches, like the Christians themselves, must appear unattractive, uninviting and in decline. Neither can Christians ring church bells or display any public expression of Christianity.

Al-Raqqa, Syria, March 2013
As dhimmis, Christians can also be forced to pay jizya (protection money/tribute, as mandated by the Quran, Sura 9:29: “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.” All this is to prevent fitna (temptation or trial). For nothing tempts a Muslim to doubt their faith as much as the sight of a thriving/successful Christian.

It is simply the case that dhimmitude and jizya were forced out of existence at a time when Islam was weak, now they are being resurrected in situations where Islam is strong.

The persecution of Christians by local Muslims – their neighbours and work colleagues – persecution in the form of violent pogroms in which local radicalised Muslims turn on their Christian neighbours and colleagues – people with whom they had once lived and had worked with side by side – are on the increase. Everywhere Islam is strong, Islamic norms are being mandated and Sharia is being enforced: the blasphemer must die. This is why young Christian couple Shahbaz Maseeh (32) and his pregnant wife Shama Bibi (28) were beaten and burned alive in Pakistan on 4 November [2014]. This why the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were assassinated in Paris just last week [7 Jan 2015].

This too is nothing new! Islamic history is replete with brutal killings that have shattered families, and massacres that have totally decimated Christian communities – killings and massacres triggered often by nothing more than a petition for equality or justice (rights denied to dhimmis), or even just a rumour of blasphemy.

Unprecedented in our lifetime – yes! – BUT not unprecedented!  

People tend to forget that for a long time – a thousand years actually – Islam was the strongest force on the planet both militarily and culturally.

Over the course of a millennium, Muslim Empires – first the Arabs and then the Turks – conquered and devoured three quarters of the Christian world.

spread of Islam

We (Protestants) have paid little attention to this, presumably because Protestants were not greatly affected by the advance of Islam; rather it was those “other” Christians, particularly those of the Eastern Church.

Our indifference is pretty sad and shameful when you consider that the Eastern Church was the beating heart of the early church. The first denomination ever established was the Assyrian Church of the East, founded in the first century AD in Edessa (now Sanliurfa in Sth Turkey – just 140km due north of Raqqa – the current capital of IS) with the first Metropolitan See being established in Baghdad. It was from the East that the Gospel travelled west into Europe, south in Africa and east through Persia into China and India. And yet Protestants have had little awareness – dare I say even, little care – for the massive trauma suffered by those “other” Christians – fellow believers who have been persecuted almost out of existence.

Crusade historian Thomas F. Madden writes:
“When we think about the Middle Ages, it is easy to view Europe in light of what it became rather than what it was. The colossus of the medieval world was Islam, not Christendom. The Crusades are interesting largely because they were an attempt to counter that trend. But in five centuries of crusading, it was only the First Crusade that significantly rolled back the military progress of Islam. It was downhill from there.
Sultan Mehmed II
enters Constantinople,
29 May 1453

“. . . By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive. Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world.

“. . . Of course, that is not what happened,” writes Madden. “But it very nearly did. In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II captured Otranto [in south-east Italy] as a beachhead for his invasion of Italy. Rome was evacuated. Yet the sultan died shortly thereafter, and his plan died with him. In 1529 [12 yrs after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle], Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. If not for a run of freak rainstorms that delayed his progress and forced him to leave behind much of his artillery, it is virtually certain that the Turks would have taken the city. Germany (which was in chaos) would have been at their mercy.”    

This sounds like divine intervention to me – from a God who was starting something incredible in Germany.

The defeat of the Ottoman Turks at the Gates of Vienna in 1683 is generally regarded as the pivotal moment when, after a millennium of advance, Islam was finally stopped in its tracks. Islamic military and imperialist power subsequently began to fade and crumble beneath the expanse of the empire, the corruption of the caliphate and the rising industrial, military, scientific, technological and economic ascendancy of post-Reformation Europe.

Thomas F Madden remarks:
link to lecture
“For a thousand years after the death of the prophet, Muslim armies had managed to conquer fully three-quarters of the old Christian world, despite the efforts of generations of Crusaders to halt or turn back this advance. An impartial observer at the time might well have concluded that Christendom was a doomed remnant of the ancient Roman Empire, destined to be supplanted by the more youthful, energetic religion and culture of Islam. Yet that observer would have been wrong. Within Europe, new ideas were brewing that would have dramatic and unprecedented repercussions not just in the Mediterranean, but across the entire world. 

“. . . By the 17th Century, European wealth and power was growing exponentially. Europeans were entering a new and utterly unprecedented age. It is one of the most remarkable events in history, I think, that the Christian West – an eternally divided region, seemingly on the brink of conquest by a powerful empire – suddenly burst forth with amazing new energy, neutralising its enemies and expanding across the globe. 

“The spectre of advancing Muslim armies, which for centuries had posed such a danger to the Christian West, no longer constituted a serious threat. Indeed as the gaze of Europeans now spanned new global horizons, they soon forgot that such a threat had existed at all. . .”

The reversal of fortunes culminated in the defeat of the German-allied Ottoman Turks in WWI, the subsequent break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the denial/betrayal of Arab aspirations, and the end of the Caliphate in 1924. Islam had been humiliated. It was a shattering blow to devout Muslims.

Thinking Islam was essentially in its death-throws and would expire as soon modernity caught up with it, the West – and the Church just ignored it.

BUT Islam promises its adherents success – something Muslims are reminded of five times a day as the call to prayer rings out: “Hasten to success; Hasten to success”.  So how were Muslims to interpret their defeat, failure and humiliation?

In the 18th C, as Europe’s and Islam’s fortunes were reversing, Arab Islamic reformers were agitating for Islamic Reformation – a return to “pure Islam” as found in the Quran and the life of Muhammad (as distinct from the corrupted, worldly Islam of the Ottoman Turks). The most famous of these Arab Islamic Reformers was Mohammed Ibn Abdel Wahhab who maintained that only a return to pure Islam could guarantee Islamic success.

Eventually, the work and teachings of al-Wahhab and numerous other subsequent Islamic reformers converged with the short-comings and failures of socialism, nationalism and despotism to produce the Islamic Revolutions of 1979.

Most people are aware of the successful Islamic revolution in Iran (February 1979) – but not so familiar with the attempted Sunni revolution in Saudi Arabia (November 1979) – which, though it failed to oust the Saudi monarchy, actually worked to empower the Wahhabi clerical establishment which went on to Wahhabise Muslims and disseminate intolerant, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, pro-jihad, pro-Sharia fundamentalist Islam worldwide.

The escalating conflict and persecution we are seeing today is the result of Islamic reformation and revival – in particular 35 yrs of intensive global radicalisation of Muslims. Thirty-five years! That’s a whole generation that has risen up profoundly influenced by reformed, Wahhabi/Salafi – pure early Islam – the Islam that had success.

Surf life-savers, Sydney

We all recognise that we must be Reaching Muslims with the Gospel because Muslims are precious; they are human beings created by God in the image of God for relationship with God. Muslim individuals and families can be greatly blessed by God’s wisdom, and saved by his grace.

But that is not the only reason we must be Reaching Muslims with the Gospel.
Pleading for help!
Bishop Elnail of Kadugli,
Nuba Mountains, Sudan

The victims of Islamic intolerance and persecution are precious too; for not only are they human beings created by God in the image of God for relationship with God – they are beloved children of God, our brothers and sisters, the Body of Christ.

Sadly, many persecuted Christian believe that we (Western evangelicals) don’t care about them. And that’s because during the latter part of the 20th C, evangelicals have increasingly come to put their trust/faith in politics. This has led to the resurrection of the failed policy of “quiet diplomacy” – a policy that brought nothing but shame to the World Council of Churches (WCC). In the 1960s-1970s the WCC betrayed thousands of Russian priests – faithful believers who were abandoned to the gallows and the gulag under a shroud of silence for the sake of “quiet diplomacy” with the Soviets, and Marxist-Christian dialogue. Today, it is the victims of Islamic persecution who are being abandoned, betrayed – they and their advocates are being told to “shut up!” – usually by evangelicals.

This denial of reality, this lack of empathy, has done great damage to the evangelical cause with the persecuted church – which increasingly views Western evangelicals as naive, unsympathetic, appeasers. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can love Muslims AND the Christian victims of Islamic persecution. It does not have to be one or the other. Loving Muslims does not necessitate we sweep persecuted Christians under the carpet as if they are a problem, an inconvenience or an embarrassment. "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me [Jesus]" (Matthew 25:40).

We MUST be reaching Muslims with the Gospel – not only for their own sake, but for the sake of the persecuted Body of Christ – and for the sake of our children and grandchildren, so that they will not have to live with Islamic persecution.


April 2013, secret baptism
in the Middle East:
228 Persians, 17 Afghans, 1 Pakistani
[This second talk opened with 15 mins of stories and testimonies from mission organisations, ministries and individuals, demonstrating how God is most certainly on the move among Muslims today.]

However . . . 

We are in a Spiritual battle and moves are afoot to reign in Christian witness – to have it recognised as an abuse of free speech, an abuse of human rights, an abuse of religious freedom – even to have it criminalised.

In August 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène – presented his report on “the manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia . . .”

According to Diène  (a Senegalese Muslim), "defamation" of Islam arises out of "baseless Islamophobia" which expresses itself as "hatred of Muslims" which in turn gives rise to "extremism".
His conclusion: those who "defame" Islam [say bad things about Islam] must be held accountable for Islamic extremism [violence].

Special Rapporteur Diene also concluded that anti-Semitism is essentially political and is Israel's fault; and Christianophobia is caused by aggressive and "unethical" missionary activity – mostly by evangelical groups that "exploit freedom of expression" to defame religions.

[See: UNHCR: Watershed Days, By Elizabeth Kendal, 18 Sept 2007]

Do you see what he is saying? He is saying that when it comes to persecution, Muslims alone are innocent victims – for unlike Islamophobia (which is apparently baseless), anti-Semitism and Christianophobia are not baseless, but are valid responses from exploited and threatened peoples.

The UN Special Rapporteur concluded by recommending that our International Human Rights covenants be re-interpreted and amended – and that complementary standards be adopted to clarify the relationship between freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

The UN subsequently went on to pass Resolution 16/18 which fully supports freedom of speech and freedom of religion with the complimentary proviso that “defamation” [criticism] of religion be recognised as incitement – which according to the ICCPR article 20 must be prohibited by law. Anti-free speech campaigners will no doubt seek to exploit the Paris killings in exactly the same way that they exploited the Cartoon Intifada.

[See: UNHCR Res 16/18 - History of a Resolution’, by Elizabeth Kendal, 21 Aug 2011]

ALSO taking up that call for “complementary standards” was the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance.  

Motivated by the UN Special Rapporteur’s report, representatives from these bodies got together and, guided over the next five years by regular  inter-religious dialogue, produced a document entitled:
"Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World; Recommendations for Conduct." After its release on 28 June 2011, it quickly came to be known as the "Rules for Christian witness".

My response, entitled ‘Christian mission and persecution,
Why the new rules for Christian witness will not solve the problem of persecution,’ can be found on Religious Liberty Monitoring, 6 July 2011

The "Rules for Christian Witness" affirm Christian humanitarian service, but with the complementary proviso that exploitation of situations of poverty and of vulnerable people has no place in Christian outreach.

Sounds good! Yet in reality the only way to avoid the charge of exploitation is to refrain from all Christian witness while serving the poor, hungry, sick, harassed and helpless.

And while it is fine to denounce the offering of allurements and rewards, one needs to understand that in un-free environments basic delivery of aid, health care, sanitation or education is considered allurement, and the offer of heaven is considered a fraudulent reward.

According to the rules, Christians must "reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness".

But India's Hindutva protagonists regard conversion as violence. The Iranian regime has deemed evangelical Christianity, cultural terrorism. Even Doudou Diene, the UN's Special Rapporteur, warned in his Aug 07 report that the "legitimate expression of ideas" could in reality be "ideological violence". 

Is it psychological violence to call someone a sinner? To say that they are “lost”; to warn them of judgment?

What is abuse of power in witness? Can a coach witness to an athlete? Can a teacher witness to a student? Can an employer witness to an employee?

I think it is very significant that “abuse of power” and “fraudulent conversion” (i.e. language straight out of the Rules for Christian Witness) were the charges leveled against 51-yr-old Lebanese Christian Henna Sarkees in May 2013 after he, a supervisor in an accounting firm in Saudi Arabia, witnessed to a Muslim employee who then became a Christian.

The convert – a 26-yr-old female Saudi accountant – subsequently fled the country; and on the 11th May 2013, a Saudi court sentenced Sarkees to 300 lashes and six years in prison for abuse of power and fraudulent conversion through deception/brainwashing. The woman's parents appealing – they want Sarkees to remain in jail until their daughter returns to Saudi Arabia. [Saudi Arabia actually issued an Interpol Red Notice for this woman.]

Unless these rules manage to stop all Christian witness, then they will not prevent persecution.  For the fact remains – to some, the evangelist is the fragrance of life – to others, the stench of death (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).

All these rules will do is enable certain Christian elites to say: "Well that murdered missionary, that imprisoned evangelist, must have said something they shouldn't to someone they shouldn't to have brought this upon themselves. But hey – it's not our fault – we told them not to!" Then they can wash their hands of it and the dialogue can continue.

Now dialogue is imperative – but not at the expense of truth – not if it demands that the persecuted be betrayed and abandoned.

Though it be divisive and offensive and increasingly risky, the Gospel must not be silenced.

Tertullian once famously remarked: “Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” 

While there was persecution in Carthage, Tunisia, at Tertullian’s time (AD 200), it was nothing compared to what would come from the 7th C with the armies of Muhammad and the arrival of Islam. Had Tertullian been right, then with all that martyrs blood poured out in Carthage churches should have been springing up like mushrooms.

The Bible is clear – particularly if you consider the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 – the seed of the Church is the Gospel; and we are called to scatter that seed.

As a keen gardener – with half an acre of terraced cottage garden in the hills – I can tell you that no amount of blood and bone will make poppies grow if you fail to scatter the seed.

I believe the blood of the martyrs works very much like blood and bone – and the sweat of the labourers and the tears of the intercessors work very much like irrigation; they prepare the soil – but without the seed it is all pretty pointless.

If blood, sweat and tears prepare the soil – then might not our great redeeming God use an abundance of blood, sweat and tears to make hearts receptive to the Gospel? I believe that is exactly what he is doing.

In many countries, witness to Muslims comes with severe risk; in some countries the window has all but totally closed. In Somalia today, the remnant of a very young church is now deep underground thanks to al-Shabaab. Many Christians have fled, many have been martyred – the first among them, 25yr-old Mansur Mohammad  – a believer for 5 yrs – who, in 2008 was dragged before a kangaroo court, charged as a murtad (traitor to Islam) and then, because he refused to renounce Christ, beheaded.

Most witness to Somalis now takes place in Kenya and in the West among the Diaspora. Most Somalis in the Diaspora have relatives and friends in Somalia with whom they maintain contact. Lead a Somali Muslim to Christ in Australia, and you will touch Somali Muslims in Somalia. The same is true of Pakistani Muslims, Iranian Muslims, Saudi Muslims, Malay and Indonesian Muslims etc. Reaching Muslims locally will have global impact.

As I said earlier, we can love and evangelise Muslims AND care for the persecuted Church – they are NOT mutually exclusive. Indeed we must to both – and we can do both, precisely because we are people of grace.

We have an opportunity to be Reaching Muslims now as God moves among them preparing their hearts by applying the sweat of the labourers and the tears of the intercessors (of which we need much much more) and the blood of the martyrs.

May we be faithful with the seed that their sacrifice be not in vain.


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
‘Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today’
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)
This book provides a Biblical response to suffering, persecution and existential threat.

Elizabeth is currently writing a book on the Christian Crisis in the Middle East, due for release later this year.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Church's R2P

-- churches have a responsibility to prepare believers to respond to and endure persecution
By Elizabeth Kendal

R2P -- Responsibility to Protect -- is a United Nations (UN) initiative that encourages independent states to see sovereignty not as a right that allows them to act however they please within their own borders, but as a responsibility.  It comes in response to increasing levels of violence within, as distinct from between, states.

Much of this violence is either sectarian (as in Syria, Iraq, Pakistan) or is greed based but fueled by ethnic-religious hatred (as in Kachin State, Burma; the Nuba Mountains, Sudan; Papua, Indonesia). In each of the above case, Christians are facing extreme persecution, even genocide.

It is no accident that religious violence has escalated markedly over recent decades. Trends such as the emergence of religious nationalism, the revival of fundamentalist Islam, the advance of cultural Marxism and the loss of Western influence have converged with the trends of massive population growth, rapid urbanisation and mass migration to create what analyst Gregory Copley describes as "a perfect strategic storm". 

The US International Religious Freedom Act of Nov 1998 was a direct response to escalating religious persecution. But the economic crisis of late 2008 ripped the teeth out of the Act and now persecution with impunity is the order of the day.   To use Isaiah's imagery, the Church is facing a mighty "flood" of persecution.

Christians across the Western world are largely oblivious to all this; partly because their churches (in general) are addicted to entertainment and/or they are living in denial and/or they are cruising along with an erroneous view of persecution which they regard as something one might learn about in a Church History course. 

I am absolutely convinced that most Western Christians, including many church leaders, view the subject of persecution as irrelevant to Western Christians.

This is not inconsequential!

Firstly: the believer who regards another Christian's suffering as "not my concern" or "not something I want to be burdened with" has rejected (albeit subconsciously) the theology of our union with Christ along with the teaching that the Church is the family and body of Christ. Such an attitude not only grieves the Lord, it can lead to judgment (Ezekiel 34, Matt 25:41-45).

Secondly: persecution is stirring in the West on account of Culture Change which is driven by cultural Marxism's promotion of moral and cultural relativism. A godless, essentially Marxist state ideology is being imposed at the cost of religious freedom. Is the church prepared?

Jesus warned us that persecution would come (John 15:18 to16:4) so that in being prepared, we would endure. Yet I would suggest that the church, in general, is not prepared and that many believers and churches will struggle to endure. There will be "shipwrecks", with many believers battered and many passengers lost at sea at a time when the world needs Christians to be firm in faith, exalting the Lord.

We need to stop watching believers and churches sailing into the future unprepared. Our cruising days are over! Much needs to be done to awaken the church and prepare her to face the storms ahead. Christian pastors, teachers and leaders must see this as part of their R2P!


This article was first published in Ambassador magazine, the magazine of Melbourne School of Theology and the Centre fore the Study of Islam and Other Faiths (Melbourne, Australia).


Elizabeth Kendal is the author of
Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
(Deror Books, Dec 2012)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Announcing: Turn Back the Battle

Elizabeth Kendal's book, Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah speaks to Christians today, is now available on Amazon.

Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today
By Elizabeth Kendal (Deror Books, Dec 2012)

A website by the same name, Turn Back the Battle, will be up and running shortly.

A Kindle version of the book should be available by the end of the month.

There will be an Australian launch early next year, from which point the book will also be available through Australian Christian booksellers such as Koorong Books, United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) and others.

This book is an offering to the Lord. Please pray that God will take it and use it for the benefit of his Church and the glory of his name.


The product of nearly four years' labour, Turn Back the Battle arises out of Elizabeth Kendal's passionate interest in and growing concern for how persecuted Christians and their advocates respond to suffering, persecution and existential threat. The book is informed by Elizabeth's nearly15 years of service in the cause of international religious liberty and the persecuted Church.

In Turn Back the Battle, Kendal brings Isaiah 1 - 39 to life and applies it to the 21st Century Church. She juxtaposes Judah's situation in the latter part of the 8th Century BC with our own. For like our own times, the times in which Isaiah lived were times of immense regional volatility, soaring geo-political tensions and gross insecurity. Twice, Judah was invaded by hostile forces threatening occupation and regime change, death and captivity. Indeed it is the politically and militarily-charged context that makes Isaiah's call to trust the Lord so profoundly radical, incredibly challenging and hard to swallow.

But in Isaiah 7 - 39, God gives us not only theory, but precedent. For not only does he commission a prophet to instruct God's people on how they should respond to insecurity and existential threat, he provides a typological drama that illustrates the word and proves the point that God is alive and active in history. Through the historic narrative, which commences in 735 BC with the faithless King Ahaz and the Syro-Ephraimite war and concludes with King Hezekiah and the Assyrian invasion of 701 BC, God illustrates, consolidates and demonstrates everything Isaiah says through his advocacy and his oracles.  

Each chapter concludes with a page of questions for personal contemplation or group discussion, as well as a carefully crafted prayer that applies the key lessons of the chapter.

A few selected quotes from the book:

In these darkening days of escalating persecution and insecurity, the church would do well to remember that real prayer is not only a critical and strategic element of the spiritual battle, real prayer is the highest form of advocacy and God’s ordained means of unleashing the forces of heaven. (From chapter 5)

When Isaiah approached the political powers in Jerusalem, he always did so as Yahweh’s ambassador, as Yahweh’s prophet, and never in the manner of a union representative. Isaiah presented Jerusalem’s political powerbrokers with the clear and simple word of God. He invested no faith in kings or political players per se. Neither did he invest faith in the power of weapons or funds or influence or projects that these political powerbrokers had at their disposal. His faith was in the Lord alone. (From chapter 8)

Christians have a freedom the world can only dream of. Because our God is the living, loving, sovereign, saving and eternally faithful God, the Christian is never condemned to fate. Jerusalem was doomed before Hezekiah prayed. But Hezekiah’s prayer changed everything. Hezekiah’s prayer marks the moment the crown of the Lord of Hosts was put on and the battle was turned back at the gate (28:6). (From chapter 11)

Selected quotes from selected endorsements:

In 'Turn Back the Battle' Isaiah's message comes through loud and clear. . . The lesson to be drawn for Christian work is not to rely on compromised human institutions to bring justice and freedom to a beleaguered humanity but to rely on God alone.
– Michael Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester and Director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue

. . . Elizabeth Kendal puts the current awful outpouring of violence, aggression and terrorism against the Body of Christ in its biblical context. She shines the light of God's Word onto the pain, the anguish and the disdain that God's people suffer. This book will reinforce your confidence in God's commitment to liberate his people. It explains why we need to focus on him in our darkest hour . . .
– Timothy O. Olonade, Executive Secretary and CEO, Nigeria Evangelical Missions Association

'Turn Back the Battle' is a timely antidote against the belief that more activism . . . can substantially change the situation of persecuted Christians. Elizabeth Kendal's very readable book applies the message of Isaiah to believers today, to show that our faith must be in God alone, and our focus on obeying him before anything else. . .
– Jos M. Strengholt, Anglican priest in Cairo, Egypt

In this superbly written book, Elizabeth Kendal shows how the wisdom of the prophet Isaiah can equip today's Christians. It serves as a wake-up call for believers tempted by the attractions of an increasingly God-less world, and Christians living under oppression will draw great inspiration from it.
– Peter Riddell, Vice-Principal (Academic), and Dean of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths, Melbourne School of Theology

'Turn Back the Battle' is an outstandingly insightful book which exposes global threats to Christian faith, religious liberty and human rights. As the foundation of our civilisation is shaken, and the Church faces life-endangering challenges from within and without, it calls us to ask ourselves in what and in whom do we trust. It proclaims that our ultimate security rests in Christ alone. It invites readers to a radical faith in God. The message of this passionate and prophetically astute book should be heeded by all Christ's faithful witnesses in this the 21st Century.
– Albrecht Hauser, Mission Secretary and Canon of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg and a Trustee of the Barnabas Fund

Table of Contents:

     Introduction: You will have tribulation        
     John 16:33
1   Who will we trust?            
     Isaiah 2:1–4:6
2   Stand or stumble, the choice is yours         
     Isaiah 7:1–13
3   A paradigm for threatened Christians        
     Isaiah 8:5–17
4   Inquire of the Lord of Hosts                        
     Isaiah 9:13                
5   Forgetting God                                             
     Isaiah 17:1–11 & 28:1–6   
6  Yesterday’s faith is not sufficient for today 
     Isaiah 22:8–11 & 38-39
7   Christian security: not in ‘Man’                    
     Isaiah 22:15–25
8   Christian security: not in the ‘City of Man’    
     Isaiah 24—27
9   Christian security: not in a ‘covenant with death’  
     Isaiah 28:9–22
10 Christian security: not in practical atheism      
     Isaiah 30—31
11 ‘In whom do you now trust?’                    
     Isaiah 36—37
12 Choose this day …                               
     Isaiah 34—35
     Bibliography & Abbreviations

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Christian mission and persecution

Why the new rules for Christian witness will not solve the problem of persecution.

By Elizabeth Kendal,
Religious Liberty Monitoring, 6 July 2011

The Church is slowly waking up to the reality that we are living in days of escalating persecution. Global trends such as booming population growth, rapid urbanisation and mass migrations are converging, producing fierce competition for land, resources and power; creating societies that are increasingly difficult to govern, especially where institutions of governance were not already established. Add to this volatile mix the trend of escalating religious tension -- the result of converging religious trends -- and we have an incendiary environment.

This reality provides the context for the document:

Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World
Recommendations for Conduct

World Council of Churches
Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
World Evangelical Alliance
28 June 2011

The WEA press release states: "This historic document is in part a response to criticisms levelled at Christians by some religious communities in what they perceived to be a use of unethical methods. In some case these objections have led to anti-conversion laws and violence."

Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID), said the text "will help us reduce unnecessary tensions and present the truth of God in a credible way to the world around us".

However, it is highly unlikely that the "Recommendations for Conduct" -- a document which provides Christians with principles to follow "as they seek to fulfil Christ's commission in an appropriate manner, particularly within interreligious contexts" -- will have their desired effect. While the document might be a handy tool in the hands of those engaged in "quiet diplomacy", it will not change the reality on the ground because the Church and her accusers are speaking totally different languages. As such, interpretations will continue to differ, and accusations will continue to fly. In fact the very existence of this document might lead to the situation where the Church will be expected to hold Christian evangelists, missionaries and humanitarians accountable for violent persecution.

The reality is: the intense hostility the church is facing in the early 21st Century has been building for decades. A mighty flood is upon us for which there is no quick fix and only one real solution.


On 21 August 2007, the UN's Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diene, presented his report on Islamophobia and defamation of religion to the sixth session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). A profound anti-Western and anti-Christian bias was evident from the outset.

See UNHRC: Watershed Days
By Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC, 19 Sept 07

According to the report, "defamation" of Islam produces Islamophobia which expresses itself as hatred of Muslims which in turn generates "extremism". As such, those who "defame" Islam should be held accountable for Islamic extremism (violence and terror).

Likewise, Christian missionaries were accused of having exploited freedom of expression to defame Hinduism, thereby creating militant Hindutva. According the UN report, "Christianophobia" is a consequence not of escalating intolerance, but of the "aggressive proselytism of certain evangelical groups".

The UN Special Rapporteur's report recommended therefore that international human rights covenants be reinterpreted and amended, and that "complementary standards" be adopted on "the interrelations between freedom of expression, freedom of religion and non-discrimination".

After much inter-religious dialogue, the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the World Evangelical Alliance appear to have taken the lead in the adoption and promotion of such "complementary standards".

Recommendations for Conduct

The document affirms Christian humanitarian service, but with the complementary proviso that exploitation of situations of poverty and of vulnerable people has no place in Christian outreach.

In reality it is virtually impossible to provide charitable services in hostile environments without being so accused. Think about it. How can a self-giving Christian humanitarian who in love desperately wants to ease the sufferings of the poor, downtrodden, infirmed and marginalised, avoid an accusation of exploitation?

Actually, the only way to avoid the charge of exploitation is to refrain from all Christian witness while serving impoverished, infirm and "vulnerable" people. Christians would have to refrain from witnessing to youths (children and teenagers). Christian aid workers would have to totally refrain from witnessing to the poor and marginalised. Christian pastors, doctors and nurses would have to totally refrain from witnessing to the sick and dying.

This of course, is precisely what the apostaphobic religious dictators of this world of want. "Yes please," they say. "Feed our poor, treat our lepers, dig our wells and build our schools, only don't threaten our authority by presenting an alternative truth."

And while it is fine to denounce the offering of allurements and rewards, one needs to understand that in some hostile environments a meeting place with seating is considered an allurement, and the offer of heaven a fraudulent reward.

Christians are also called to "reject all forms of violence, even psychological or social, including the abuse of power in their witness". But this will not appease India's Hindutva protagonists who regard conversion as violence. It will not appease those who accuse evangelical Christianity of cultural terrorism. Even Doudou Diene, the UN's Special Rapporteur, warned in his Aug 07 report that the "legitimate expression of ideas" could in reality be "ideological violence" or "intellectual violence". Is it psychological violence to warn of judgment? What is abuse of power in witness?

Along with this, Christians are also called to "reject violence, unjust discrimination or repression by any religious or secular authority, including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts".

While this fine statement presumably leaves individuals with the liberty to dispose of their own property -- idols, juju, shrines, texts -- as they see fit, those who have no understanding of the separation of church and state, those who don't understand liberty and only understand dictatorship, will expect religious and secular authorities to control and be held accountable for the deeds of individuals.

The text recommends that "churches, national and regional confessional bodies and mission organizations, and especially those working in interreligious contexts . . . [deepen] their knowledge and understanding of different religions, and to do so also taking into account the perspectives of the adherents of those religions", adding, "Christians should avoid misrepresenting the beliefs and practices of people of different religions".

The reality is however, that anything that is said about a religion or belief will misrepresent someone's personal perspective of that religion or belief. This strategy which recommends inquiring of the "street" over an examination of the texts is promoted primarily by Muslims keen to hide intolerant pro-Sharia, pro-jihad, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian fundamentalist Islam under a cloak of liberal, nominal, folk or secularised Islam.

The only way to deepen knowledge and understanding of a religion is to study its texts and then examine history in that light. And while "taking into account the perspectives of adherents" might be of value in revealing immense diversity of belief, it must be acknowledged that many, if not most adherents of religion are quite nominal, ignorant as to the contents of, and the demands made by, their own sacred texts.

Finally, a quote from the May 2006 consultation found in the Appendix (point 3), confirms the degree to which this document is influenced by world trends, while demonstrating the ultimate adoption of "complementary standards".

"We affirm that, while everyone has a right to invite others to an understanding of their faith, it should not be exercised by violating others' rights and religious sensibilities. Freedom of religion enjoins upon all of us the equally non-negotiable responsibility to respect faiths other than our own, and never to denigrate, vilify or misrepresent them for the purpose of affirming superiority of our faith."

Note: Christians are called to refrain from any exercise of religious liberty that might violate another's "rights and religious sensibilities". Does "rights" include the right not to be offended -- a now routine feature of contemporary anti-discrimination and equal opportunity law? What are "religious sensibilities" and how are they violated?

Furthermore, Christians are called to "respect faiths other than our own". Really? Must we respect Islam? Must we respect Hinduism? Must we respect Buddhism? Must we also respect Shinto? Where can we draw the line? Must we respect Aum Supreme Truth? Must we respect Voodoo? This language mirrors that of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's "Combating Defamation of religions Human Rights Resolution 2005/3". Is the church really being called to follow in the OIC-led UN which now protects religions more fiercely than it protects humans, in particular the human's fundamental right to proclaim, pursue and receive truth?

This pulls the rug right out from under Principle 7, which affirms freedom of religion and belief while denouncing religious persecution and calling upon Christians to "engage in a prophetic witness denouncing such actions". For while this is a fine statement, to which all Christians should give a loud AMEN, how does one "engage in prophetic witness denouncing [religious persecution]" without being accused of arrogance, condescension and disparagement (principle 3); false witness (principle 10); disrespect, denigration, vilification and misrepresentation (Appendix 3); and of course "defamation" of religion (as per UN Resolution 2005/3, which expresses "deep concern that Islam is frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism Islam with human rights abuses, violence or terrorism" (emphasis mine)).

The reality is, it is not possible today to denounce persecution without being so accused.


There is little doubt that at the root of most persecution in the world today, is hostility towards Christian witness / evangelism / mission. However, Christian witness / evangelism / mission provides the only solution to the problem of persecution.

"And they will do these things [hate you, persecute you] because they have not known the Father, nor me" (John 16:3 ESV).

Christians must step out in faith with the word of God, at the direction and in the power of the Holy Spirit, to seek to make the triune God known. And while we are cautioned to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves", we are also encouraged to commit ourselves to the Lord's care, and trust HIM (Matthew 10).

No matter how much integrity we practise, hatred, false accusations and persecutions will continue. "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12 ESV). Indeed if we are to truly imitate Jesus Christ, as the document asserts (Principle 2), then we must be prepared to suffer as he suffered.

The Principles for Conduct will do little to reduce religious tensions and persecution. All we can do is prayerfully walk by faith, not fearing man, with eyes fixed on Jesus -- our means, our goal and our role model (Hebrews 12:1-3) -- remembering the paradigm of Isaiah 2:1-4: that spiritual transformation is the foundation, not the consequence, of peace.

"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV).

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

PERSECUTION, whatever that is.

This post is written in the context of the debate concerning whether or not Christians are facing persecution in the UK.


On Easter Sunday, the BBC screened a programme by Nicky Campbell that probed the question of whether or not British Christians are being persecuted. While Campbell acknowledged that "Labour's anti-discrimination legislation has led to clashes between religious conscience and equality for homosexuals", he concluded: "So, are Christians being persecuted? No they're not being tortured or killed like Christians in Pakistan and the Sudan. But a minority believes they are being sidelined and victimised. By the standards of a liberal society that can feel like persecution."

See: BBC’s Nicky Campbell: Christians feel persecuted by human rights law and councils
By Martin Beckford, Telegraph, Religious Affairs Correspondent, 31 Mar 2010

Similarly, in his ecumenical Easter Letter to fellow church leaders, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, maintained that, unlike many other Christians around the world, Christians in the UK are not persecuted, and he called on the church to keep its fears in perspective. In his sights were advocates such as Lord Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali, who have decried what they maintain is escalating marginalisation, discrimination and persecution of Christians in the UK. (See also UK versus "traditional Christian values".)

Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent with Timesonline, entered the debate on 13 April, with a column and video interview in which she echoed Nicky Campbell and Rowan Williams, contending that is shameful to suggest that Christians in the UK are suffering persecution "on a par with" Christians in Jos, Nigeria (not that anyone ever suggested they were). Gledhill maintains that it is ridiculous and embarrassing to suggest that Christians in the UK are being discriminated against or persecuted for their faith.

See: It can only harm Christians to bleat about persecution
Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent for The Times, 13 April 2010


The Collins Concise Dictionary Fifth Australian Edition (2001) defines "persecute" as: "(1) to oppress, harass, or maltreat, especially because of race, religion etc. (2) to bother persistently."

Jesus warned his disciples that persecution would come, indeed, that it would be inevitable (John 15:18 - 16:33). Jesus explained: "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:19-20a ESV) The Apostle Paul likewise reminded Timothy that "all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2 Timothy 3:12).

The line some want to draw in the sand to separate "us" (not persecuted) from "them" (persecuted) is both imaginary and unhelpful. We are one body, and Christians need to understand that persecution -- which is a complex and varied phenomenon -- is integral to their testimony. This is why Jesus advised his would-be-followers to first count the cost, because unless they were prepared to carry a cross, they may as well not bother even trying to follow him (Luke 14:25-35).

Generally, Christians in the West have had to endure only the mildest forms of persecution: marginalisation, mockery, rejection, maybe some bullying, maybe some discrimination etc. This is because Christians in the West have been protected from violent expressions of hatred not only by rule of law, but by a Judeo-Christian culture that extols religious liberty as a fundamental human right. However, as the culture evolves into "post-Christian" (read "non-Christian"), intolerance escalates, authoritarianism emerges, religious liberty fades, and persecution intensifies. (See Understanding Religious Liberty)

My biggest contention with Ruth Gledhill's statement is her assertion that persecuted Christians are "victims". The Collins Concise Dictionary Fifth Australian Edition (2001) defines "victim" as: "a person or thing that suffers harm". Obviously anyone who "suffers harm" on account of their faith is a victim of persecution. But this is not what Gledhill is talking about. By "victim" she clearly means "loser".

This of course is absolutely ridiculous. When hostility emerges, the loser is the one who compromises or abandons their faith in order to avoid hurt or humiliation. For example, Ruth Gledhill herself admits that she is reluctant to wear a cross because she does not want to be seen as a victim (i.e. one of those losers). According to the Bible, affliction and persecution are means by which God's people are "sifted" (Isaiah 30:28) or "winnowed" (Matthew 3:12). In which case, Ruth Gledhill herself appears to be amongst the "victims" (losers).

On the other hand, those who stand firm despite the cost can never be losers even if they do end up as victims of persecution. Rather, they are winners who did not yield and could not be bowed. Persecuted believers are those who, in the face of injustice, dictatorship and threats stand firm and say, "Over my dead body!"

To suffer persecution for righteousness sake is the ultimate form of cultural criticism. Persecuted believers are protesters who refuse to act against their conscience despite the risks. In suffering the consequences they embody the shame and disgrace of society.

That a supposedly civilised society would persecute peaceful, law-abiding, benevolent citizens simply on account of their faith is shocking and unacceptable -- so shocking and unacceptable in fact, that virtually every state that does it denies it. To cover up what is really happening these states enshrine religious freedom in their constitutions and then enact laws that devout believers simply cannot in good conscience abide, while denying them the right to conscientiously object. For example, no-one is imprisoned for their faith in China! The Christians in China's laogai (gulag/network of nearly 1000 state-owned slave-labour prison camps) are all law-breakers, incarcerated for exercising their faith in a manner deemed unacceptable by the State.

I believe that this is actually the crux of Campbell's, Williams' and Glendhill's complaint with the likes of Lord Carey, Bishop Nazir-Ali and others who are testifying against the escalating hostility in British society. I believe they are desperate to deny that Christians are being persecuted because they cannot tolerate the thought that the UK might be evolving (or regressing) into a place where persecution of the righteous is becoming systematic.

But sometimes it takes the cutting down of the righteous to shock a people out their nonchalance so that they cry out in horror: "What have we become? To what depths have we sunk?" All through the Muslim world, there are Muslims questioning and leaving Islam because they have been shocked out of their nonchalance by Islam's violent persecution of peaceful, righteous Christian believers. As persecution escalates in the UK it will be the same. God is doing something new in the UK.

And with that in mind I would like to close with the very commendable words of Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, in the same letter quoted above also said: "We who live in more comfortable environments need to bear two things in mind. One is that fellow-Christians under pressure, living daily with threats and murders, need our prayers and tangible support [. . .] But the second point to remember is that we need to keep our own fears in perspective. It is all too easy, even in comfortable and relatively peaceful societies, for us to become consumed with anxiety about the future of Church and society. We need to witness boldly and clearly but not with anger and fear; we need to show that we believe what we say about the Lordship of the Risen Christ and his faithfulness to the world he came to redeem."

I say AMEN to that! And I know Lord Carey and Bishop Nazir-Ali would too.

And when it comes to showing what we believe about the Lordship of the Risen Christ, I advocate that the Church stop wasting time appealing to "Pharaoh" (Exodus 5:15) and instead, look to the Lord, our crowing glory, for the "strength to turn back the battle at the gate" (Isaiah 28:5-6).

by Elizabeth Kendal

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Understanding Religious Liberty

Most Westerners simply don't appreciate the degree to which their freedoms are intrinsically linked to Judeo-Christian culture. Nor do they appreciate the degree to which that culture is dependent upon a Biblical foundation. Consider this as an illustration: Judeo-Christian culture is a tree that grows out of Biblical soil and religious freedom is a fruit of that tree.

Throughout history, whenever a Judeo-Christian community has stopped attending to its Biblical foundation, the culture has declined and its fruits have failed. The only way to restore the fruits is to revive the culture. And the only way to revive the culture is to attend to the foundations.

Religious freedom was integral to the Protestant Reformation (1517). The Reformation not only advanced Biblical truth but the right of individuals to read it in their own language (championed in London by John Wycliffe as early as 1377) and exercise it without persecution. Britain and America's historic human rights advocacy and missionary endeavours have been the fruits of a dynamic post-Reformation Protestant culture that promoted and drew on the Bible.

Rip the foundations away, however, and the tree and its fruit go with it. Even if the foundations are slowly and subversively eroded, the tree eventually withers and dies as its roots cannot provide sustenance or stability. And everyone knows that a transplanted tree will not successfully take root, grow and fruit unless the soil is good in the first place. Furthermore, the post-Reformation Protestant culture of Christian liberty is so dynamic that unless that soil is right and good it will not be able to sustain or support it. Even when the soil is right and good, if the roots are withered through neglect and drought, renewal of the plant through the restoration of its root system will only be possible through considerable struggle and long-term diligent care.

This is the situation facing the UK, northern Europe, and to a lesser extent the USA. Foundations long neglected are being both subversively eroded and openly demolished, for Western political elites determined some time ago (undemocratically) that evolution mandates a transition to a 'post-Christian' culture. Therefore renovations are in order.

However, it is coming as a shock to many to learn that 'fruits' long taken for granted -- such as religious liberty, benevolence, restraint and 'manners' -- are withering and disappearing before their very eyes. It is also coming as a shock to many in the demolition crew that they do not have control of the situation. For before they even get a chance to build their utopia, other builders with stakes in the game are moving in as soon as a space opens up. And these new builders (some very dangerous) are winning hearts and minds amongst Europe's identity-challenged youth.

'Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.' (Revelation 3:2a ESV)

Only through the LORD can the Church have the strength to "turn back the battle at the gate" (Isaiah 28:6b) .


This article is an edited excerpt from the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin 051 entitled UK: UNDERSTANDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY (14 April 2010)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Spiegel: "Christianity's Modern Day Martyrs" 26 Feb 2010

Germany's SPIEGEL online international has just published an excellent article on Christian persecution , specifically on Christians as the victims of radical Islam.

Christianity's Modern-Day Martyrs

"The rise of Islamic extremism is putting increasing pressure on Christians in Muslim countries, who are the victims of murder, violence and discrimination. Christians are now considered the most persecuted religious group around the world."

* Part 1: Christianity's Modern-Day Martyrs
* Part 2: 'Creeping Genocide' against Christians
* Part 3: 'We Don't Feel Safe Here'

includes a map, and a photo gallery entitled "Dying for Their Faith" (nine photos)