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1998 Religious Persecution

Presented by the Commission on Christian Action, adopted by the delegates to the 113th Covenant Annual Meeting.

Biblical Background

Scripture teaches that Christians have an intimate unity as the Body of Christ. As members of the Lord’s body, we experience both the joys and sorrows of other members. In particular, “if one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). Hence, when other Christians are being persecuted, it is the concern and burden of the whole Church. We are instructed to “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3).

So we have a biblical mandate to sympathize with persecuted sisters and brothers in the Lord. Esther is an example of a voice raised in a time of desperation, following an admonishment not to take her comfortable position for granted. Mordecai said to her, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14). Just as she had, we have a responsibility to act on behalf of persecuted fellow believers and to seek to rescue them from pain and death.

Our fellowship with the sufferings of other Christians is ultimately fellowship with Jesus Christ. His Cross is the power of God for those who have been raised to new life with him. Because of our love for Jesus we, like Paul, “want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). We must boldly tell the stories of brothers and sisters suffering for Jesus.

Declaration

We are all part of one body. Therefore, we identify with the suffering of Christians around the world. Their cry of pain cannot always be heard. We must raise our voice and let the world hear of the suffering of our brothers and sisters and be exposed to their witness. In those persecuted believers, the world may see also the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in compassion and hope, we must also work to end their suffering, bearing each other’s burdens.

In all of this we humbly acknowledge the mystery beyond our comprehension that the Lord especially consoles and blesses those who suffer for his name. Taking the Lord at his word (Matthew 5:10-12), Christians count it privilege and joy to share in the pain of their Lord. We honor those deemed worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake.

Our Lord’s command to “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12) entails that Christians should also cherish and defend the religious freedom of non-Christians and protest religious persecution wherever, however, and to whomever it occurs.

Response

We the delegates to this Annual Meeting call upon our churches and fellow believers to:

1) Learn about the persecution of Christians.

2) Pray for those that are suffering that they may be faithful to Christ and released from their persecution, especially observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (November 15, 1998).

3) Tell the stories of the persecuted and the martyrs to the church and to the world.

4) Influence media and government to speak out on behalf of the persecuted church through letter, e-mail, phone and face-to-face communication.

5) Seek to use the influence of our nations’ leaders and institutions to bring pressure against those who are persecuting the church.

6) Speak out against persecution of other religions, recognizing that we must pursue for others the freedom we seek for ourselves.

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