The U. S. government is absent when it comes to the issue of increasingly violent and deadly Christian persecution, according to a new book.
The charge is the topic of “Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians,” co-authored by Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert and Nina Shea. Introduced at a Hudson Institute forum, the book says Christian persecution is on the rise worldwide, especially in the Muslim world.
Marshall, a senior fellow at the institute, says that it’s hard to measure how bad the persecution is getting.
“The U.S. has tended to underplay religious persecution in general – and called it something else – and, in the case of Christians, often does not mention what is happening in places like Iraq and Egypt,” Marshall said.
“Or, the federal government mentions the fact of persecution of people, but, often with Christians, not their religion nor the fact that they are being persecuted because of their religion, as distinct from race, etc.,” Marshall said.
The panel also covered the ongoing case of American Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is being held in Iran’s infamously brutal Evin Prison. All three co-authors pointed out that it was only in the past week that Secretary of State John Kerry asked the Iranian government to release the American pastor.
WND reported last week Kerry’s statement as Abedini reportedly was to be moved to a hospital outside of Tehran for medical treatment. However, there is no word on whether Abedini has actually been moved.
Marshall also points to negligence by the previous White House.
“Note that this (absence of condemnation of persecution) was often true of the Bush administration also – especially regarding Iraq and Afghanistan,” Marshall said.
Shea, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, agrees, saying both major political parties share the blame equally.
“If there is a hiker abducted in Iran, the State Department has no hesitancy to come out and make a major issue of these cases, but it seems like when Christians are involved, they shy away. It is found in both Republican and Democratic administrations,” Shea said during the forum.
Marshall added that there is a price Christians worldwide are paying because of the U. S. government’s negligence.
“The lack of U.S. attention likely leads to more persecution – when countries believe that they can oppress, and that nobody in the world will protest, they are emboldened to go ahead,” Marshall said.
He added that there are limits on U.S. power.
“Of course the U.S. cannot stop all persecution everywhere, but if we consistently raise the issue and state that there will be costs to those who persecute, then we can reduce it,” Marshall said.
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Center for the Study of Global Christianity Director Todd Johnson says the book is accurate.
“Yes, I think the Hudson panel correctly represents the situation. I was just with Paul Marshall in Istanbul, Turkey, last week for a conference on religious freedom. I think he and his colleagues have an important point to make specifically as it relates to Christians,” Johnson said.
“But it is an issue that most governments in the Western world struggle with, so there are not many good examples to follow. I hope that things change as people like Marshall and Shea continue to point to inconsistencies and gaps,” Johnson said.
Religious Freedom Coalition President and Founder William Murray said the point of the program was to zero in on the West’s deficiencies in addressing religious persecution.
“The book and the forum centered on the ignorance of worldwide religious persecution of Christians,” Murray said.
Murray added that the American church also bears some of the blame.
“The fact is that the church in the USA is not dealing with the problem or even discussing it. Christians here in the U.S. think not being able to give Easter cards out at schools is persecution,” Murray said. “In Nigeria, it means more than 1,200 murdered last year and countless others wounded.”