Home Christians Christian persecution at all-time high, say experts at Alexandria conference – Arlington Catholic Herald

Christian persecution at all-time high, say experts at Alexandria conference – Arlington Catholic Herald

12 min read

Shakeel Raphael projected an image of
his brother Nadeem Samson on the screen, prison bars superimposed over the
man’s sorrowful face. Three years ago, Samson, a Christian, was arrested and,
Raphael believes, falsely charged with blasphemy — the crime of speaking out
against Islam, the Prophet Muhammad or the Quran. He was beaten to near death
and has been locked in a prison in Lahore, Pakistan ever since.

At the “Christian Persecution is Real” conference, Shakeel
Raphael speaks about his brother Nadeem Samson, who is charged with blasphemy
and imprisoned in Lahore, Pakistan. ZOEY MARAIST  |  CATHOLIC HERALD

Samson’s life, his family’s lives and
the lives of the 24 other prisoners charged with blasphemy in Pakistan have
been shattered, said Raphael. “But with your help and prayer, (God) can do
miracles for my brother,” he said.

Raphael was one of the many speakers at the
Saints Peter and Paul Conference, titled “Christian Persecution Is Real,” at
the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria Sept. 11-12. The speakers hailed from
around the world, including India, China and Nigeria, but they all had one thing
in common — they spoke for the persecuted Christians suffering within their
homelands and around the globe. 

Oluwasayo Ajiboye, a Nigerian and the
president of Mission Africa International, spoke about what he believes is an
ongoing genocide against Christians perpetrated by violent Muslim extremists,
such as the terrorist organization Boko Haram. “This genocide is a jihadist
ideation. It’s an attempt to rub out every group that says, ‘We are not going
to be Muslim,’ ” he said. “These (Christian) people are voiceless. They need
your help to be their voice.”

Xiqiu “Bob” Fu, the founder of ChinaAid
and a Christian who fled China due to persecution, spoke about the human rights
abuses being carried out by the authoritarian communist Chinese government. Persecution
used to be limited to those worshipping in house churches, or religious
communities not recognized by the government, but now even members of
state-sponsored churches are being targeted, he said. Those who disobey the
government are arrested and tortured, even for crimes such as illegal
charitable activity. 

“This year in the first six months alone
in one province, over 900 crosses have been demolished,” said Fu. “This is the
effort to extinguish and destroy the Christian faith.”

John Prabhudos, executive director of
the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America,
spoke about Hindu extremism. “India has become the largest violator of
religious freedom in terms of the sheer number of attacks on Christians and other
religious faiths,” said Prabhudos. “The attacks may not end in loss of life
because if a person is killed, it’s flashed all over the world. So the strategy
is, don’t kill them, just make their life miserable. Make no mistake — the
humiliation, the suffering is real for the hundreds of victims every single

Prabhudos is worried the global
importance of India will make the United States hesitant to criticize the
Indian government, just as he believes it has failed to reprimand China. “Even
after Tiananmen Square, the leading hope of the world — America — chose to
remain largely muted. 

“Today, people are arguing in the
committee rooms and in the national security meetings that India is an
important trading partner, we need India to neutralize China, we need India to
deal with Pakistan and Afghanistan. They claim the burning of churches and the
killing of nuns is nothing but a few sporadic, isolated crimes and not the
policy of the ruling party. We are shamelessly buying their talking points,” he
said. “India is sliding down a black hole right in front of our eyes, but today
we have the same failed arguments to justify our policy. And we all know how it
will end.”

Conference attendees also viewed the
documentary “Christians in the Mirror: Stories of Courage and Faith in the Face
of Persecution from Syria, Iraq, Sudan, India and Egypt.” Throughout the two
days, attendees were able to view the Save the Persecuted Christians display about
“Warfare on Women,” highlighting how women are often targeted or most harmed by
religious persecution. 

Many speakers noted that not only can
ordinary Americans help persecuted Christians, persecuted Christians can help
and inspire Americans through their incredible witness. “There’s a big
temptation just to tune everything out, to go back to Netflix, to go into our
happy little bubbles,” said Father David A. Dufresne, parochial vicar. “This
should motivate us to pray, to do penance, to do acts of reparation for these
sins against our brothers and sisters in Christ and it should give us a greater
spirit of solidarity, to recognize that we are one body of Christ.”

Former Virginia U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf
spoke passionately about the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide, many of
whom he has met through his advocacy work in and out of Congress. “Right now,
there is more persecution taking place worldwide than any other time in modern
history,” he said. He noted the struggles of Christians in the Middle East, in
China, Hong Kong and Nigeria, particularly the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by
Boko Haram, whose plight spawned the viral hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. 

“The girls were kidnapped and almost
half of them have not come back. All the world leaders did #BringBackOurGirls
and in the last three or four years, not one of those world leaders has ever
mentioned those girls again. The girls have been forgotten,” he said. “Boko Haram
has killed more Christians in Nigeria than all of the people that ISIS killed
in Iraq and Syria combined.”

Wolf said he was reminded of the words
of Martin Luther King Jr. in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” In it, the
civil rights leader speaks of the deep disappointment he felt when his efforts
were derided or ignored by fellow religious leaders. “I believe that these
powerful words of Rev. King can apply today to the issue of religious freedom.
I’m disappointed in my own church for failure to speak out,” said Wolf. 

“With all the persecution going on all
over the world, what remains to be seen is whether the people of God will rise
to the occasion for such a time like this. In the pulpits and pews of many Western
churches, I would say we have heard the sound of silence,” he said. “Let us
commit not just to each other but to God that we will pray, we will speak and
then we will act regardless of where it leads us.”

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