Which is the most persecuted minority in the world today? Chinese or Tibetan dissidents? Minority tribes in African dictatorships? Women in backward Islamic states?
Think again. American Christians, who tend to take their freedom of religion for granted, may be surprised to learn that their fellow Christians are. Says Nina Shay of Freedom House, an internationally renowned human rights group, "Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world and that persecution is intensifying."
That fact should give pause to those celebrating peace and goodwill on the occasion of the birth of Christ. Atheistic communism is gone as an aggressive force to change the world, but where it still exists - China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam - it is as relentlessly anti-Christian as ever.
Marxist ideology has also been joined by militant, politicized Islam. Most Western Christians are aware that state-sponsored terrorism, often focused on Christians, comes from Iran, Afghanistan and Iraq. But what many don't realize is that "pro-Western" Moslem nations like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Nigeria and Uzbekistan also systematically oppress Christians.
A Wall Street Journal editorial ticks off some of the worst examples around the globe culled from Freedom House and other reliable sources:
- In China each year thousands of Christians are sentenced to religious gulags. Zhejiang province police destroyed at least 15,000 religious sites in just the first half of 1996. Catholic and Protestant leaders say the persecution is the worst it has been since Mao's "Cultural Revolution" in the 1960s.
- Sudan has abducted or killed more than a million of its people, including countless Christians, in its holy war against non-Muslims.
- America's staunch Mideast ally Saudi Arabia, the U.S. State Department finally admitted this year, does not allow the free practice of religion. Saudi religious police raid houses, confiscate Bibles and arrest worshipers.
Congress, alarmed that the Clinton administration, which sometimes stands up for political dissidents but ignores religious dissidents, unanimously passed a resolution this year urging the president to take stronger stands in favor of religious freedom.
In response, the State Department formed a new advisory committee, but it's a "paper tiger" with no real clout to affect policy. Says one advisory member, "It is ironic that the cause of Soviet Jewry was taken up as a cause celebre by the U.S. government, but now it and much of the Christian community is silent about the more pervasive persecution of Christians abroad."
This newspaper joins The Wall Street Journal in calling on Christian churches and groups everywhere to make a New Year's resolution vowing a much bigger effort in 1997 than they made in 1996 to speak out, condemn and actively oppose religious persecution around the globe.