Persecuted Christians in Sudan have an unlikely champion to thank for forcing their plight onto the Western world’s agenda – a feisty former New York cop whose passion for justice has even seen her end up behind bars.
Running an influential one-woman lobbying group from her New Jersey home, Maria Sliwa says: “Morning, noon and night I see the persecuted church. Their cries are always with me.”
Through her website Freedom Now World News, she updates journalists, government officials, pastors and advocacy groups on human-rights abuses around the world.
To help raise awareness of persecution in Sudan – where thousands of Christians have been killed, enslaved and displaced by Islamic government forces – she even got herself arrested at a demonstration in front of the Sudanese Mission to the United Nations.
“Even though my flesh was fighting the arrest, I knew that the word had to get out. You had to do something desperate for people to take notice,” she said. “I felt a tremendous burden for people suffering. I felt heartbroken that their voice wasn’t being heard.”
Sliwa’s fervor is admired by the likes of Charles Jacobs, president of the American Anti-Slavery Group, who was also arrested at the demonstration.
“Maria is absolutely driven,” he said. “She suffers the pain of people in the worst circumstances. She’s a saint, and she’s a warrior.”
Fighting injustice is a family value – her brother, Curtis, is founder of the community watchdog group Guardian Angels. She was shunned by other officers when she blew the whistle on sexual and racial abuses at the New York City Police Academy.
Later, she worked for internal affairs and then investigated drug rings for New York’s Tactical Narcotics Task Force. But she found her life’s mission after becoming a Christian in 1991, following a failed marriage and boredom at work. “I started feeling empty inside,” she recalled.
Sliwa went on mission trips to Croatia, Cuba, Russia, Colombia and Peru. Then she met with Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, which supports the persecuted church. Terminally ill, he told her of the horror stories emerging from Sudan and begged her to do something.
“I didn’t know how to help,” she said. “It was too big for me.” But she prayed and soon found doors opening. She joined a hunger strike to pressure the city of New York to end pension-fund investments with a Canadian oil firm with financial ties to Sudan and eventually saw the city sell its shares.
Giving up her job with a private-detective agency, she plunged full-time into advocating on behalf of persecuted Christians. Now 46, she speaks to churches, colleges and community groups, and appears at public hearings, as well as providing information to those in government and media.
She campaigns for more Christian involvement in fighting persecution, noting that non-Christian groups who see a “heavy-duty human-rights issue” are becoming more vocal about atrocities against Christians. “Christians should be yelling and screaming about the 31 countries where brothers and sisters are being brutalized because of their faith,” she said.
The full profile of Maria Sliwa can be read in the April issue of “Charisma” magazine, out next week.
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Whistleblower magazine’s March issue reports on the epidemic of Christian persecution worldwide
Charisma News Service is a division of Strang Communications.