Question: If, as I stated in my last post, my mission in life is to proclaim the kingdom of God; and if my allegiance to God’s kingdom supersedes my allegiance to any political ideology; does that mean I have the responsibility to think about how my country’s decisions affect believers of other countries that could be harmed because of the actions of my country?
I think the answer is yes, and that affects how I view the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Palestine, and now Syria.
I have several friends who grew up as Christians in Baghdad. Their families had to flee because of religious persecution. Persecution that got worse once the United States got involved.
Everyone agrees, even my Iraqi friends, that Saddam was a bad guy. But under his regime there was a degree of religious freedom that evaporated when he was toppled. Here is my understanding from Christians who lived there during that time: Saddam used Islam to his favor. But he was such a bad guy that he controlled most of the fractions within Islam with an iron fist. In other words, if he told the Taliban to leave Christians alone, they were left alone. Saddam used Christians in his country, especially in Baghdad, because they were highly educated, good citizens, and excellent businessmen. Saddam even had Christians in his cabinet.
Once Saddam was done away with, after our country broke it but did not fix it, the radical elements that Saddam was able to control took over and persecution of Christians intensified. Christian churches were burned, businesses destroyed and believers cast into prison and killed. As a result, the vast, vast majority of Christians in Iraq fled the country. For example, the United Nations estimate that 40% of the 1.6 million refugees who fled Iraq in 2010 were Christians. To put that in context, The Christian population in Iraq at the time did not exceed 5%. Thus, a large percentage of refugees comes from a very small percentage of the overall population. Today, only a fraction of believers remain in Iraq.
Our countries decision to “liberate” Iraq caused unimaginable harm to our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Similar stories could be told of Christians in Afghanistan.
In Egypt, the primary victims of persecution, and the ones suffering the most, are Coptic Christians.
And our unconditional support of the Israeli government has caused great harm and hardship to our brothers and sisters in Palestine.
Now there is Syria.
It is my understanding that the situation for believers in Syria is similar to those in Baghdad during the days of Saddam. The estimates of believers in Syria range anywhere from 7-16% of the population; the majority of whom “support” the government of Bashar al-Assad. Their support is mild at best and is based on the reasoning that the alternative would be worse. Like Saddam, Assad allows a degree of religious freedom and keeps the radical elements of Islam under some control. If Assad is removed the persecution of Christians will intensify in Syria, just like what happened in Iraq.
Does all this mean we should never intervene because of what it may do to Christians? Not at all. I’m just saying that I need to be aware of the hardships and sufferings of my brothers and sisters and I need to speak up for them and pray for them.
Consider these Bible verses:
- Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
- Romans 12:15 – Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
- 1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ…
- 2 Timothy 2:3 – Endure hardship with us, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
- Matthew 5:9 – Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Does all this mean that we should only be concerned with Christians? If the people who are being harmed are not Christians we should not care? Again, not at all. All humane life is sacred and any innocent loss is an injustice. I just believe that I really need to be aware and concerned about my fellow believers in other parts of the world.
It breaks my heart that the good intentions of my government has caused untold suffering among my brothers and sisters. I am sure it breaks the heart of God as well.
As you read the newspaper and watch the news and listen to Pres. Obama’s speech tonight, ask yourself the same question I asked at the beginning of this post.