Is It Persecution If No Violence Occurs?


English: Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Another incident has erupted in Lahore, Pakistan, as Muslims have raided a Christian school complex and threatened Christians there with violence.  The incident occurred after a local Muslim leader announced over the loudspeaker that Christians at the school were guilty of tearing pages from the Quran.  Within minutes, a mob had attacked the school and gained entrance to the Christian compound.

 

Fortunately, police also responded quickly, and no further violence ensued. No Christian was beaten or arrested. So, is this an incidence of Christian persecution?  Can there be persecution if no one is arrested, beaten, tortured, or imprisoned?  Yes, I think persecution can and does happen at times even when there is no violence.  Jesus is the reason I think this is true.

 

In Matthew 5:11, ‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.”

 

There are two main points in Matthew 5:11 which make it possible to have persecution even when there is no violence. This case in Lahore, Pakistan, provides a perfect example of Christian persecution without violence.  Here are the two reasons briefly explained.

 

First, notice that the blessing of Matthew 5:11 occurs for those who have had things said against them falsely. Insults and slanders are lumped into the broader blessing for the persecuted.  Jesus Himself faced these slanders, as some referred to him as a drunkard, while others said he did his work by the power of the Devil.  Jesus was not immune to falsehoods being levied against him, and neither will any of His followers be.  In Pakistan, Christians at this school were falsely accused of crimes they did not commit. Those false accusations were responsible for mob rioting.  The rioting was clearly anti-Christian persecution.

 

Second, and more important, the attacks were happening because of Christ. Ultimately, all persecution is against Christ Himself. So, in this case, the school was targeted because Christ is present there with His people.  The school is part of an outreach ministry. More than 100 Muslim students are getting a great education free of charge because the Christians are reaching out to them, attempting to help the poorest neighborhoods of the city by providing schooling free of charge. This is Christian love in action because it is empowered by Christ Himself.  The presence of Christ is on display, thus fueling the fires of persecution. Even as unbelievers hoped to silence Christ when He walked on earth, so, now, the same pattern is repeated against Christ’s body, the church.

 

We can be very thankful that this latest attack did not include violence.  We can be thankful that no one was killed or injured. But we can be certain that the harassment will continue because where Christ is present there will be opposition to Him. The darkness still hates the light.

 

 

Films Don’t Kill, Islamic Militants Kill


I will have a fuller article posted later (and maybe a podcast or video), but I felt the need to get this thought out: Films do not kill people.  Why must this be said? Because article after article makes it sound as though the Muhammad Film is responsible for protests, violence, and murder.

Whatever one thinks of the film (and it looks deplorable to me), the film has killed no one. The film will not and cannot kill anyone.  The violence Muslim Violence over Muhammad filmdoes not stem from the film.  The violence stems from Muslims who do not like the film.  They are offended by the film. They do not have the right to destroy property and commit murder based on that fact. Would anyone have considered it acceptable for Christians to riot and kill embassy officials in response to The Last Temptation of Christ? Instead, that movie got rave reviews and was nominated for an Oscar.  No Christian stormed an embassy. And no one would have approved if he had.

Why, then, is it quickly becoming an accepted meme that this Muhammad film has led to protests, violence, and murder? The film did not do that. Muslims did that. To put the blame on the film–and even on Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who threatened to burn a Koran–is to appease violent people out of fear of them. In other words, it is cowardice.

UPDATE (September 19, 2012)

According to this story, even the White House is now having to admit that the attacks in Libya had nothing to do with the movie trailer for Innocence of Muslims. It was  pre-planned attack using heavy artillery.  The U.S. policy apparently was to “minimize” our presence there so as not to incite violence.  Thus, our Ambassador is dead.  Clearly, the movie is not to blame. It’s incredible how error spreads like a prairie fire.

Update Two: According to the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, the film had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks in Libya.

Islam and Abortion: Are Muslims Pro-life?


Although in Islam there are debates about the nature of Jihad and legitimacy of carrying out attacks in the name of Allah, there is not that much of a debate about whether Muslims ought to practice abortion.  The general consensus is that abortion is haram, forbidden.

The reason offered for the prohibition against abortions is that the child is already “ensouled” in the womb and has not yet done wrong.  There is disagreement about when “ensoulment” happens in the womb.  Some schoolsof Islamic thought place the date at 7 weeks into the pregnancy, while others would say that ensoulment occurs at the moment the child begins to move inside the womb (around 12 weeks or so).  Probably the majority of Muslims accept the 120-day mark because it is established in the Hadith literature (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 549).

In that Hadith, there is a revelation concerning what we might call predestination.  According to this Hadith, an angel of Allah will enter the womb and write down up

English: A map showing laws about abortion arr...

Abortion Laws Around the World (Wikipedia)

on the child all of his destiny—including how long he will live and whether he will end up in Paradise or in Hell.  Thus, Muslims conclude that after this point, the life is fixed and must not be ended.

Prior to the 120 day mark, Muslims argue that there are a couple of extreme cases which may require an abortion.  On the one hand, if the mother’s life is in serious danger, then the child must be aborted because the mother is already functioning and fulfilling duties for the family.  Thus, if one or the other must die, then the child must die, not the mother.  Note that this provision is not the same as that which has prevailed in the U.S. since Doe v. Bolton enshrined a very broad definition of abortion with regard to the health of the mother.  Under Doe, a mother can procure an abortion based on the stress that pregnancy causes.  This is not the case with the Islamic exception for the safety of the mother.

The other extreme case in which abortion may be allowed is the case of severe fetal deformity.  Muslims are not unanimous in considering fetal deformity a justifiable cause of abortion.  However, many Muslim scholars argue for the legitimacy of abortion if the child in the womb is severely deformed.  In this case, again, the 120 day rule remains in effect.  And, the fetal defect must be diagnosed by two Muslim doctors before proceeding with the abortion.

Again, few will quote the Quran in favor of abortion because abortion deals with human beings who have not yet committed any injustice against Allah.  Surah 5:32—though it does not directly speak to abortion—does guide Muslim thinking in the matter.  In that Surah of the Quran, Muslims are taught “that anyone who murders any person who had not committed murder or horrendous crimes, it shall be as if he murdered all the people.”  In other words, killing an innocent in the womb would be to the Muslim mind the equivalent of killing off a part of humankind.

Though Surah 5:25-35 is about justifiable killing for those guilty of murder or “horrendous crimes,” it speaks to the nature of the entity in the womb—namely, that it is human.  Indeed, it is considered a form of innocent human life and, thus, deserves to be protected.  Some Muslims will quote Surah 17:31 as a further—and stronger—argument against abortion:

Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.

Granted, this verse appears to speak of children already born, but it is often recited in defense of forbidding abortions. Clearly, the text is teaching the mother (or parents) not to be anxious about providing for their children. Whatever temptation they might feel toward getting rid of their children as a result of poverty, they must put that temptation out of mind.  Killing children is a great sin because children have not yet resisted Allah or committed murder or any other horrendous crime.

This verse, then, along with the Hadith quoted above and Surah 5:25-35, make it plain that the general disposition of Islam is to oppose abortion.  As Muslim scholar Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim concludes regarding Surah 5:32,[1]

“From this verse it is evident that every human being has the right to be born, the right to be, and the right to live as long as Allah… permits. No one may be deprived of life except for a legitimate crime…. The fetus is regarded by all schools of Islamic law has having the right to life, as indicated by the fact that the death sentence on a pregnant woman can be carried out only after she has given birth.”

[1] Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim. Abortion, Birth Control and Surrogate Parenting: An Islamic Perspective. n.p.: American Trust Publications, 1989.

Pakistani Muslims Redefining Neighborhood Watch


Do you live in a subdivision that has a neighborhood watch? In America, we take this watch to mean that neighbors Persecution Pakistan Neighborhoodare looking out for one another, protecting each other from harm.  In a Pakistan neighborhood in Lahore, the neighborhood watch has taken the opposite turn.

According to this report, Ahmed Bhatti has organized Muslims in the Walton Road neighborhood to force Christians there either to convert, to leave their homes, or to die.  From the story,

Ahmed Bhatti on his microphone was shouting, ” I am giving Christians this invitation to convert to Islam otherwise they will face consequences” while announcement was made gathering of Muslims were raising Islamic Slogans.

Muslim persecution christians pakistan neighborhoodThere’s an invitation you just can’t refuse!  One Christian pastor–Rev. Dr. Jamil Nasir–recounts the horror his family faced while he was away at a meeting.  His wife was left to calm the screaming, panic-stricken children who were frightened by a group of Muslims gathered outside the house chanting threats.

I have a hard time imagining what this must be like for the residents of the neighborhood. Certainly, they need our prayers. What do you think you would do if your neighborhood were overrun by Muslims demanding that you convert or die?

2 Important Persecution Stories from the News


 

Pakistan

Persecution Pakistan christian GirlQuite a bit of coverage has been given to the sad case of Rimsha Misrak, a Christian girl in Pakistan who is accused of blaspheming Muhammad.  She remains in jail, and her family is in protective custody.  I have read some reports which say Rimsha is 11, but this story reports that she is 12.  (Does it matter?)

Her crime is blasphemy. Supposedly, she defamed pages of the Quran, possibly by burning them.  The BBC reports,

The crowd wanted to burn her alive, this is a condemnable act and a clear violation of human rights.  She is an innocent child – she doesn’t even know what she did. She is in a state of shock.

Many will say that no one is ever actually killed under the law, but the truth is that 46 people who have been charged were killed by mob violence either before or after their trials (see here).  If Muslims are peace-loving and value human life, then surely they will decry not only this incident but also Pakistan’s horrendous law 295 which encourages such behavior.

Egypt 

In Egypt, Christians and others protesting the new Muslim Brotherhood government are in fact being crucified (See Here). Crucifixions are not unheard of, but they are almost certainly a religious statement as much as a punishment. If one wished only to kill dissidents, a bullet would work just fine. The extra labor involved in setting up a crucifixion must be to make a point.

I think the point being made is this: If you wish to follow Christ, then follow him—all the way to the cross.  In an ironic way, the executor ends up making the same point Christ made in Luke 9:27,

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

 

More Burning Anger


Today, the President admonished Pastor Jones, encouraging him to “listen to those better angels” who recommend not burning the Quran.  There is a united consensus among leaders in America that Pastor Jones should not burn the Muslim books.  Political leaders, religious leaders, media elites have uniformly condemned the act.  I heard this morning that some–including Franklin Graham–have called to plead with the pastor to stop the burning plan.  With these leaders, I agree.  The burning is an unnecessary offense.

But we must not lose perspective.  If he burns a thousand copies of the Quran, he will not have conducted an offense as egregious as a single murder.  Murder is what Muslims are proposing in response.  I hope our outrage will produce strong condemnation for those who murder in the name of Islam.  If murders do unfold–which President Obama seems to think they will–they should be condemned by the same religious, political, and media leaders who have so roundly condemned Pastor Jones.  Indeed, let us hope there will be outrage by Muslim leaders, too, since the murders will be committed in the name of their religion.

The truth of the matter is that no one is outraged when Bibles are burned.  It is settled policy in Saudi Arabia that Bibles are confiscated and burned (or shredded).  Bibles were burned earlier this year in Iran.  I don’t remember the religious tolerance outrage in those instances, and I cannot believe any leader would have considered Christian violence an acceptable response to the Bible burnings.  So, why give Islam a pass?

When cartoons of Mohamed ended with Muslim rioting and people killed, we were expected to apologize and not do that any more.  When Pope Benedict gave a speech in Germany concerning the reasonableness of not murdering in the name of religion, Muslims shot a nurse in Africa in protest.  Another news story today reports that Muslims are threatening to kill a woman in Tennessee because she is opposed to the building of a mosque there.  At what point do we say to Islam, you may not like our liberty, but you better not kill our people?

I am not bothered by those who condemn Pastor Jones.  He is being given way too much attention for his publicity stunt.  I pray that Christians in other countries will not suffer because of his foolishness (though they likely will).  What I am bothered by (besides the threats of murder) is an acquiescence to violence if it is done in the name of Islam.  Those who murder in the name of Islam ought to be condemned much more severely than Pastor Jones is being condemned for burning the Quran.

Isn’t the murder of 6 Christian doctors in Afghanistan more horrendous than burning the Quran?  Why so little outrage about that?

Burning Fears (Again)


I am posting below an e-mail I received from Barnabas Fund, a Christian organization based in the UK which supports and encourages persecuted Christians.  I post it because it makes a great follow-up point from my post yesterday.  I really only made the first part of an important point in yesterday’s post because I wanted to force people to think about what is happening.

As this post from Barnabas Fund indicates, there will likely be violence as a result of the burning of the Quran.  I agree with the conclusion of this post, that the action of Quran burning is “an unnecessary, offensive gesture” which will endanger the lives of brothers and sisters around the world.  I do believe that the Gainesville pastor has the right to do what he is doing, but having the right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.  He surely must recognize that he may be culpable for causing unnecessary conflict and, possibly, contributing to suffering.

Yet, to reiterate the point from yesterday’s post, I urge us also to reserve some ire for the Muslims who feel justified in killing as a response to free speech actions they don’t like.  I don’t mind if folks condemn Pastor Jones, but his actions are not the same as murder.  Murderers should be held to account, regardless of whether they were offended first by a book burning.  Burning the Quran does not justify Muslim murders.  I hope we will be clear enough to say that to Muslims.  I do believe that the pastor is unnecessarily provoking and offending Muslims, but I do not agree that they ought to kill innocent by-standers as a result of being offended.  There is something about this dynamic that is making the pastor’s point.  There is an irony in the Islamic ire.

Here’s the e-mail from Barnabas Fund:

Qur’an burning: “an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture”

Barnabas Aid statement on the proposed burning of Qur’ans in Florida

A church in Gainsville, Florida, USA, the Dove World Outreach Centre, has announced that it will burn copies of the Qur’an on Saturday September 11 to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The stated purpose of this action is to raise awareness of the ideology and teaching of Islam and to warn against its dangers.

Barnabas Aid condemns the proposed action, for the following reasons:

  1. Barnabas Aid is fully committed to making known the aspects of Islam that result in injustice and oppression of non-Muslims, not least the persecution of Christians. But we believe that the biblical and Christ-like way to do this is by speaking the truth in the power of God’s love, and by extending that love to Muslim people even when they are hostile to us. In that context it can never be justified to destroy a book that Muslims regard as sacred, however firmly and profoundly we may disagree with its contents.
  2. The effect of the proposed action on Christians in Muslim-majority contexts is likely to be extremely serious. Already Muslim militants in Indonesia have promised to kill Indonesian Christians if Qur’ans are burned in Florida, and the history of anti-Christian violence in the country suggests that this is not an idle threat. Barnabas partners in Iraq have expressed concern at the probable Muslim backlash against an already beleaguered Iraqi Church. And Christians in numerous other places who live in daily fear of potentially deadly attacks will at once be placed in much greater danger. It cannot be right to exercise our freedom to protest in a way that puts at risk the lives of our brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died.
  3. There is a further risk that Christian minorities may be divided among themselves as churches with links to the West come to be unfairly associated with the action taken in Florida and its destructive consequences. It is important for Christians under pressure to be united, as their division serves only to weaken the Church and increase its vulnerability to Muslim attacks. It is therefore wholly inappropriate to undermine that unity for the sake of an unnecessary, offensive and dangerous gesture.

For these reasons Barnabas Aid urges the Dove World Outreach Centre and its supporters to refrain from burning Qur’ans on the anniversary of 9/11. It invites all Christians instead to join with us in prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters throughout the world, and that the hatred and violence that endanger them may be overcome by the grace and love of Christ.

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director
Barnabas Aid
September 7, 2010

Contact us at info@barnabasfund.org or call 01672 564938 (from outside the UK phone +44 1672 564938).

Burning Fears


According to this article, Pastor Jones is still planning to burn the bible of Islam at a service commemorating the 9th Anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. 

I have a couple of simple observations.

Pastor Jones has a right to burn the Quran.  He lives in a nation which prides itself on freedom of speech.  Clearly, he has the right under free speech laws to do what he is doing.

We should be glad that we are free to express ourselves in this way.  To the extent that we are outraged at Pastor Jones, we are probably displaying either a fear of retaliation or an ingrained liberal bias.  Free speech is not about allowing only the speech we like. It is about allowing precisely the speech we don’t like.  Telling Mr. Jones he cannot do this would violate his freedom to express his religious and political views.  Even repugnant views are expressible under our free speech laws.

Many who are outraged that he would burn the Quran are not likewise bothered by the many folks who burn Bibles and desecrate Jesus, Bibles, flags, effigies, etc.  So, why the intense concern over the burning of a Quran?  My guess is that the concern is a tacit acknowledgement that we are afraid that Muslims will become angry.  Therefore, we think it best not to outrage them.  Is this not itself an admission that Pastor Jones is on to something?

He claims that we have for too long placated the violent Islamists.  Instead, he says we should assert our freedom and warn the Islamists not to become violent in retaliation.  I can just imagine someone reading this and thinking Pastor Jones is just plain crazy.  I might be easily convinced of that conclusion myself.  Nevertheless, Jones is pointing to a double standard we have grown comfortable with embracing—the double standard of excusing violence in the name of Islam.

Think of it this way.  If a group in San Francisco held a Bible-burning bonfire of the vanities to voice their displeasure with Christian opposition to gay marriage, few people would notice or care enough to protest the profligate pyro-technicians.  Certainly, there would not be riots in Jakarta or Paris or London or New York.  And if there were rioting in New York which ended with innocent bystanders being killed, we would go to the rioters and hold them accountable.  We would not go to the Bible-burners in San Francisco and act as though they were responsible for causing the deaths.

We do have a double standard.  I think the double standard is evidence that we secretly believe what Pastor Jones is saying, even though we dare not say it ourselves.  We believe that a vocal majority of Muslims are violent against anyone who disagrees with their religion.  If violence in Jakarta ensues, we will be even further persuaded, albeit also appalled by Pastor Jones.  We may wish to condemn his actions, but we will still take notice of the violence in the name of Islam.  At the end of the day, this is Islam’s problem: Violent backlashes tend to characterize Islam in the world today (whether the offense is cartoons, Papal speeches in Germany, or Qurans burning in Florida).

I don’t want to give the wrong impression here.  I don’t think Pastor Jones is doing the right thing.  As a pastor, I believe that we are to speak always with grace, seasoned as it were with salt.  The salt of our seasoning is the gospel of grace through Christ.  We are not called to salt the earth with incendiary rhetoric.  Rather than extending a flaming torch, we should offer a rugged cross. But I do think a message is being revealed through the reactions of others.