Saturday, June 19, 2010

Advocacy Increases Persecution

From World Mag, “Kill the Christians”:

It has never been easy to work as a Christian—local or foreign—in Afghanistan. But since a video was broadcast on Afghan television showing the baptism of converts in Kabul, the danger has escalated—and the tiny minority suddenly finds itself a potentially sizeable pawn in a game of political chess.

Privately owned Noorin TV first broadcast in late May videotape coverage of a baptism, along with Afghans taking part in Christian prayer meetings in alleged “missionary safe houses” in western Kabul. Although at least two years old, the footage was replayed on several television stations and triggered a frenzied anti-Christian response: Hundreds of students joined street protests at Kabul University, shouting death threats and demanding the expulsion of foreigners. Demonstrations also spread from the capital to other cities, including Herat, Baghlan, and Mazar-e-Sharif.

Two of the Afghan Christians who appeared in the broadcast were arrested and shown again on national television. The next day (May 31), the deputy secretary of the lower house of parliament, Abdul Sattar Khawasi, called from the parliament floor for the public execution of the Afghan converts. Other members of parliament condemned the activities of foreign non-government organizations (NGOs), and that same day two were suspended from working in the country: U.S.-based World Church Service and Norwegian Church Aid.

This is a nice lesson about the danger of photographing or videotaping local believers.

The public advocacy certain Christian organizations are calling for only puts governments like Afghanistan in a very awkward situation.  Now because this case is internationally known, they will lose the support of the people if they don’t act against the “converts.”  The end result of high profile advocacy will probably be the deportation of “missionaries” and “converts.”  Remember, these believing Afghans are in trouble because of the media, not because of their faith.

Here are some reflections on advocacy and persecution from Nik Ripken in "Servants in the Crucible”:

Is the issue only suffering, persecution and martyrdom? Persecution and martyrdom are evidence that believers and churches exist. The global Christian community has yet to devise terminology for the Saudi Arabias, the Afghanistans and the Kuwaits that are so repressive that believers are unable to emerge. Actually these countries have little persecution as they allow few believers in their midst. Governments seldom make a member state an international pariah solely due to the manner in which Christians are treated inside their borders. There are always other agendas and realities. Rome can make for a deadly enemy. Rome can be even more dangerous as a partner.

The persecuted deserve any sensitive and secure advocacy that can be generated. Persecution is sinister and pervasive. It is endemic in much of the believing world. It is difficult to legislate against, as its most evil forms reside in the family unit. When the persecuted speak of any debt owed to the Western Christian world they highlight the debt of prayer that has been given on their behalf. Advocates for the persecuted may need reminding that partnerships with secular governments are no substitute for the power of
prayer.

It is not uncommon for organizations that monitor and report on persecution to have the twin goals of eliminating persecution, coupled with a desire to punish the persecutors. Neither goal is biblically centered…

The believing community needs to forego publishing in the secular realm what belongs in their prayer closets.

We should stand for religious freedom, but we need to do so in a way that allows local believers to remain faithful in their witness (despite persecution) and to ensure that persecution only happens because of their relationship to Jesus, and not to foreigners.