A Sudanese court sentenced a pregnant, Christian physician to 100 lashes and death for being married to a Christian man. Her only reprieve is to renounce her Christianity and return to Islam.
Born to a father who was Muslim and mother who was Ethiopian Orthodox, Yehya Ibrahim was raised as a Christian after her father abandoned his family. She professes to be Christian.
Nonetheless, the court considered her as Muslim–and as such, to marry a Christian is apostasy.
The court ruling has drawn a global outcry from Christian groups and human rights advocates. Yet she remains in prison and her sentence unaltered.
Sudan’s persecution of Christians is not new. Nor is the global persecution of Christians new. What may be new is the swelling media attention to Christian persecution–and the proliferating public statements of concern.
Boko Haram’s abduction of some 300 Nigerian schoolgirls and their alleged forced conversion to Islam has captivated worldwide attention and underscored the endangerment of Christians.
Narendra Modi’s landslide electoral victory in India has heightened concern among Christians and Muslims, given his pro-Hindu and anti-immigration rhetoric.
For several years, attention has increased on the plight of Christians in the Middle East–whether in Syria or Israel.
We are now perhaps approaching a tipping point.
“I hope we can do more to raise the profile of the persecution of Christians around the world,” said British Prime Minister David Cameron before Easter. “It is the case today that our religion is now the most persecuted religion around the world.”
Cameron added, “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can and should be unashamed in doing so.”
An ecumenical gathering of Christian leaders–Catholic, Evangelical and Orthodox representatives–said silence must end about the persecution of Christians, naming Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
The president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leath Anderson, labeled this part of the world as “the unsafest place in the world for Christians.” He said, “What we are seeing here is ecumenical cleansing.”
Washington Catholic Cardinal Donald Wuerl said, “If history has any lesson to teach us about silence, it’s not a good one.”
These Christian leaders–along with some 200 others–have issued a “Pledge of Solidarity & Call to Action on behalf of Christians and Other Small Religious Communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.”
Thankfully, the document does acknowledge the good statements of Islamic religious leaders condemning violence and extremism.
The document spells out some reasonable action steps for both Christians and U.S. foreign policy. And it is well worth the read and consideration of Christian pastors.
As the document notes, President Obama said in February “promoting religious freedom is a key objective of U.S. foreign policy.”
Yet one is pressed to know the measurable effect of his lofty rhetoric. Perhaps religious freedom will be a “key objective” if the decibel level in congregations increases enough.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.