By Jay Sekulow
Today I will testify before the U.S. Senate about the plight of persecuted Christians across the globe.
Christians face more persecution today than at any time in history, from jihadist regimes, to Muslim mobs, to genocidal terrorist armies. America can and must do more to protect these persecuted Christians around the globe.
You can read my full testimony submitted to the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Appropriations here.
Below are some of the key points I will address to Congress on behalf of the ACLJ, over 150,000 of our members who have already signed our Petition to Protect Persecuted Christians, and thousands of persecuted Christians across the globe.
Despite its international obligations and constitutional promises, Iran is one of the world’s worst violators of religious freedom.
Christians in Iran, especially those from a Muslim background, face harassment, loss of employment, denial of education, arrests, brutal interrogations, and the threat of death for exercising their faith. Iran has systematically closed all Farsi-speaking churches. They heavily monitor all remaining churches and forbid entrance or baptism of new members from a Muslim background. Also, Iran has banned Christian literature and Bibles in Farsi.
Iran is silently suffocating the Church. Even private worship comes at a risk. For example, Iran convicted American citizen, Saeed Abedini of intentionally threatening the national security of Iran solely because he had prayed with Christians in private homes. Pastor Saeed is presently serving an eight-year prison sentence and is suffering from untreated internal injuries that he obtained from beatings he endured since his arrest.
At the close of 2014, ninety-two Christians remained imprisoned. These are only theknown cases. Because of threats against victims and their families, the number is certainly much higher. Hundreds more have been released but face constant threats.
Turkey struggles to recognize the rights of its religious minorities. Turkey denies recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church. Since 1971, Turkey has seized thousands of Orthodox properties. Despite supposed reforms, only a handful of properties have been returned.
Turkey denies minority religious institutions the means to train its clergy. The Orthodox have fought for the reopening of Halki School of Theology since 1971. Despite a 2012 promise by then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, the school remains closed to this day.
Disturbingly, the Turkish government has increased its ties to Hamas, a recognized terrorist organization that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Reportedly, Hamas terrorists are undergoing military training in Turkey with the support of Turkish authorities. U.S. law strictly forbids foreign aid to nations that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Turkey’s ties to terrorist groups like Hamas raise significant concerns about continued U.S. aid and its commitment to NATO.
In Pakistan, blasphemy laws create opportunity for the majority Muslims to persecute religious minorities and settle personal vendettas. Blasphemy is punishable by death, and does not require proof of intent or evidence of guilt.
Religious minorities are frequently the target of vigilante attacks, bombings, arson, drive by shootings, and mob violence. In recent years, Muslims burned 45 Christian homes and killed 9 Christians, two large mobs attacked another Christian colony destroying over a 100 homes, and two suicide bombers killed 81 and wounded 120 Christians inside the All Saints Church of Pakistan. In November 2014, a Muslim mob burned to death a young Christian couple and their unborn baby.
Christian mother of five, Asia Bibi remains on death row after offering water to Muslim co-workers. After advocating for reform, the Governor of the Punjab and the only Christian minister in the Pakistani Cabinet were assassinated.
Our affiliate in Pakistan is representing a seven-year-old Christian girl who was raped and kidnapped by her Muslim neighbor, a Christian farmhand beaten for taking time off for Easter, a Church whose property was confiscated by Muslim leaders, and Christians whose family graves are being desecrated.
As the United States gives nearly 2 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan annually, the United States should demand that Pakistan comply with its commitments to religious freedom.
The Islamic State
ISIS—the Islamic State—has unleashed an unparalleled assault on religious minorities, especially Christians, in its quest to establish a worldwide Islamic Caliphate.
ISIS has beheaded, crucified, buried alive, raped, and sold into slavery Christian men, women, and children. ISIS has marked Christian homes with the sign of the Nazarene, branding them for extermination, destroyed churches, and desecrated ancient religious artifacts.
ISIS recently beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya and abducted over 200 Christians in Syria. Boko Haram—the terrorist group in Nigeria that has killed thousands of Christians—just pledged its allegiance to ISIS.
In a propaganda magazine, ISIS stated “[Our goal is to] conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women.” ISIS is not just persecuting Christians; it is waging an all out genocide against Christians—and its reign of terror is spreading quickly.
America must not sit idly by; we must lead by example—show the world that religious liberty and human rights are the foundation of peaceful and secure societies.
Please continue to stand with us and add your name to our Petition to Protect Persecuted Christians (below and) at BeHeardProject.com.