Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Swallowed Up By the Night

By Heidi Hiatt, M.A.

Have you ever screamed for help when you were being attacked and no one came to help you?

That’s exactly what is happening to men, women, and children all over the world right now. They are being harassed, persecuted, tortured, raped, beaten, arrested, and stolen from. Their houses and meeting places are being burned down. Some have to run to stay alive. Some can’t leave and face death where they’re at.

These are not usually people you will see on the news or read about in the paper. Celebrities do not wear a special ribbon in their honor or work to raise money on their behalf. When their daughters are raped and forcibly married to men of a restrictive belief system that downplays women’s beauty and importance, you will not hear their names mentioned in popular culture.

What crime could be so great that people like them all over the globe are ignored, criticized, and minimized? What makes them unpopular and so un-newsworthy? Their crime is believing in a God of love who gives them free will and forgiveness. They are Christians, adventurous souls who dare believe in freedom in this life and the next.

On Halloween I was reading a newsletter from Barnabas Aid, a group founded by a Muslim convert that helps persecuted Christians. As terrible as it is to say that much of the information in this newsletter was predictable– it mentioned some of the atrocities I listed above– there was a particular statement that caught my attention. It has haunted me since, perhaps because I have been in different types of situations in which I was being harmed and no one came to my rescue. It’s a cold, eerie, desolate feeling.

In regard to the violence against Christians in northern Iraq, Barnabas Aid noted what a source in Kirkuk said: “The attacks on Christians continue and the world remains totally silent. It’s as if we’ve been swallowed up by the night.”

That statement made me sick. When you are being falsely accused, physically hurt, sexually assaulted, or victimized in any way, you want people to notice. You want someone to come to your rescue. You know that there are people out there who have the skills and means to stop and punish your attackers, but they don’t show up. You know that God sees the pain and horror, but God’s hands (people) fail to speak up on your behalf or give you more than a fleeting glance.

As political changes continue to take hold in countries with Muslim majorities, conditions have gotten much worse for Christian minorities. Many Muslims in these places are intolerant of “apostasy” and converting to Christianity can be punishable by death. While much of the world celebrates the ousters of leaders like Gadhafi and Mubarak, their exits have opened the portals to intolerant hardliners who are not accepting of the idea that some countrymen worship Jehovah instead of Allah.

When it’s time to confront atrocious and unethical behavior, we need to know what is driving the behavior. It’s not enough to tell a bully to stop; we need to know what makes the bully tick and their history so that we can address their aggression in a meaningful way. When I was thinking about what makes people, not just some Muslims, so afraid of or scornful of Christians, I remembered this quote by Selwyn Hughes: "This is why the scribes and Pharisees hated our Lord so much. It wasn’t because He was good; it was because He was different." 

Narrow-minded people who have been conditioned to be intolerant find differences threatening. They may say they believe in freedom, but then their actions show that they only believe in “freedom” for the people who agree with them. They may say they believe in equality but then subjugate their women and force them to hide their God-given allure behind veils. I am concerned about how Christians are being treated worldwide, and I am especially concerned about what is happening to Christians at the hands of Muslims.

Mainstream media, however, turns a deaf ear and a blind eye. Somehow the suffering of these precious people is not important enough to mention. Violence against Christians is increasing and the apathy towards them is astounding. People are being hurt, killed, arrested, and raped in Nigeria, Kenya, China, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Azerbaijan, and elsewhere. A religious leader in India is calling for the beheading of Christians, which is exactly what the book of Revelation says the world leader will do to them. On the list goes. You can follow what is happening to Christians at

Thanks to the overwhelming apathy as well as stereotypes, ignorance, and some people’s hatred for Christian morality, these criminal acts against Christians are going to increase. That is all the more reason to support the brave souls who endure such bitter and vile intolerance. If you are concerned with human rights and women’s rights, this is a good area to get involved in. Our brothers and sisters are suffering, and in a world of seven billion people, their screams seem to echo across an empty planet.

Think about what that would feel like to be swallowed up by the night. What a powerful choice of words– it’s as if darkness has muffled their pleas for deliverance and justice. Whether we are Christians or pagans, Baptists or Buddhists, Taoists or Methodists, we should not look the other way when people are being punished for exercising free will.

The ideologies that drive zealots to harm other human beings in such sadistic ways are a threat to all of our freedoms and progress. A quote frequently attributed to Edmund Burke says that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That is exactly what most of us are doing about these human rights violations committed against Christians: nothing. So we should not be surprised that these horrors are escalating. We don’t even acknowledge that they’re happening.

What can you do? Pray. Write ambassadors and politicians. Draw attention to this issue by blogging about it or campaigning for the release of people who have been arrested for being different. There is always something you can do, right where you are, without even leaving the house. I see this persecution like a drop of food coloring in a pond. Without an effort to contain or remove that food coloring, it will spread, and it will eventually contaminate the whole pond.

To conclude, think of how it would feel to be swallowed up by the night. If you are a survivor of domestic violence or sexual assault, you may have great empathy for these victims of violence and injustice. You may not even remotely agree with their belief system or be familiar with it, but you know what it’s like to stand up to someone who wants power and control and be harmed for it. That’s what these people are going through; that’s what we need to speak out against. Rather than allowing them to be swallowed up by the night, let’s bring them back into the light.

There is nothing further away from the heart of God than a theology divorced from love and compassion. –Henry Cloud

Heidi Hiatt, MA recently graduated as a Forensic Psychologist.  You can read more of her posts at her personal blog, Truth, Justice, and All-American Allergen-Free Apple Pie Straight Talk in a Crooked World

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