Christianity is the most widely persecuted faith in the world, and four-fifths of this persecution is at the hands of Muslim jihadists, Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream and director of academic affairs at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies, says in the latest issue of Evangelicals Now.
He asks some pertinent questions:
Should persecuted Christians move from the Middle East? Should they suffer in silence, resist or retaliate? What is the difference between being prepared for martyrdom or for genocide? How chould the church respond to the violence that intends to uproot whole Christian communities from their homelands?
He adds some interesting facts:
The plight of persecuted Christians is often misrepresented by western media. Archbishop Kwashi of Jos, Nigeria, writes: "It is wrong to claim that insurgency in the north of Nigeria is fuelled more by poverty than by Islamic extremism. Poverty does not explain the killing of 40 schoolchildren - Muslim children - in Potiksum. Boko Haram and its kind delight in massacres, slaughters, rape and murders. This is not the face of poverty, but of radical Islamist jihad."
The Minister of State for International Development. Desmond Swayne, said in the House of Commons that Christians who argue that the jihadist's violence stems directly from Islam were talking manifest nonsense. He refused to recognise any claim of vulnerable religious minorities for help beyond generalised humanitarian help. This notion collapses under its own contradictions.
Bishop Nick Baines of West Yorkshire and the Dales said we must continue to pray, continue to give, to lobby politicians and to engage with the media. Were we content to live in a country that refuses to address the question of asylum for people who have lost everything and have nowhere to go back to?
We must make clear to churches, says Canon Sugden, which organisations are definitely supporting persecuted Christians. Government-supported agencies refuse to discriminate, and Christians get left out. Christian organisations that attempt to fill the gap left by political intrigue include Barnabas Fund, Open Doors, Aid to the Church in Need, World Vision and Andrew White's FRRME. Organisations such as Christian Aid and Tear Fund are constrained bv the Department for International Development's strings, often resulting in non-Christians getting help from all over and Christians getting little or nothing.
Finally, says Canon Sugden, an important expression of our compassion would be to welcome those who needed asylum into our homes and churches - and press the Government to give them entrance visas. One family per church would meet a major need. When he suggested it in a sermon in his church, he had three offers at the end of the service.
So - what are we going to do to help?