Global leaders and activists have been denouncing the persecution of Christians around the world for years, but have drawn only mild reaction. Their latest effort to shine a light on the fact that Christianity is the most persecuted faith in the world is a new book, "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians."
But, instead of just detailing the horrific accounts of torture and killing of Christians around the world, the authors and other writers are asking why no one has felt compelled to do something about it.
"The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, an expert on the region, told me he is shocked that American Christians aren't regularly protesting outside of embassies drawing attention to this issue," Kirsten Powers, a Fox News political analyst and columnist for The Daily Beast, wrote in USA Today. "Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is, he says, 'one of the most undercovered stories in international news.' Perhaps it's time for that to change."
Nina Shea, one of three authors of the book and director of the Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, wrote for CNN's Belief Blog Wednesday that conversion to Christianity is drawing severe reprisals and in some cases death sentences in countries where the faith is considered a threat — particularly in the Middle East, where Christianity was born.
"Persecution for conversion to Christianity — a faith with the 'Great Commission' to share the Gospel — is rising globally, along with persecution of some very long-established, even 2000-year-old, Christian communities," she wrote. "Persecution typically happens in places where Christians are a minority, where communist ideology still holds sway, in the Muslim world, or where conversion is seen as a threat to national identity."
The book is not a pleasant read, writes Eric Metaxas in the Christian Post, as it details cases of Christians being "harassed, arrested, jailed, tortured, raped, beaten, and killed. Their churches and homes are bombed or burned to the ground. And children are taken from their Christian parents lest they too become tainted with faith in Jesus."
But the authors and Metaxas hope the book will also be a call to action.
"We must raise our voices for those facing the executioner’s sword, detention camps or other atrocities for their beliefs just as we do for other human rights victims," Shea wrote. "As the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in opposing Nazi persecution, had once reminded his fellow Germans: 'Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.'"
Christian writer Jonathan Merritt surmised American Christians are too consumed in their own persecution complex over comparatively minor slights and insults to pay attention the "real war on religion."
"Some are too busy protesting Target employees who wish them 'Happy Holidays' and others have been mobilizing to boycott JCPenney over selecting Ellen DeGeneres, an outspoken lesbian, to be their spokesperson," Merritt wrote in his Faith and Culture column for Religion News Service. "Isn’t it time that American Christians reinvest their energies in addressing the actual persecution of their brothers and sisters happening outside their borders?"
For those who wonder what they could do about the growing persecution of Christians around the world, Deseret News Editor Paul Edwards offered this suggestion during the holiday season of 2010:
"And, as in all situations where we feel concerned but helpless, there is always the power of prayer. As we enter into this season when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, perhaps we might pray more fervently for the safety and deliverance of the millions of Christians who still live in the lands first evangelized by his apostles."