My regular readers will remember that I have written on these pages about the persecution of Christians in other countries.  I have written about the plight of Pastors Saeed Abedini and Youcef Nadarkhani, and the persecuted Anglicans of Iran, and of Asia Bibi in Pakistan, the recent martyrdom of Father Murad in Egypt, and that of Father Fadi Jamil Haddad, an Orthodox priest, tortured and murdered by terrorists in Damascus, Syria, last October.  Regular readers of Touchstone and Mere Comments have learned about the terrible tragedies facing our Christian brothers and sisters around the world.  Today, the Christian Church suffers physical violence in many nations, including Egypt, Syria, Ethiopia, Iran, Nigeria, Algeria, Pakistan, Sudan and many other Islamic nations, as well as China and North Korea, where Christians experience great persecution and tribulation.  Far too often, the Church has been mostly silent in the face of these atrocities.  Several years ago, I was discussing the persecution of Christians with the staff of a highly experienced and respected pastor.  His staff informed me that the pastor “doesn’t want to get in politics.”  I think that the “important” political issues within the church often subsume the truly important.  “Important” issues such as which florist should supply the church’s flowers, or whether the color of the carpeting in the main sanctuary should be gray or light blue, become paramount issues.  Years ago, while living in Europe, a dear Swiss friend asked me to accompany the widow of a German soldier killed in World War II to visit her husband’s grave at a cemetery near Naples, Italy.  We met in Rome, and our drive gave us several hours of conversation.  After we developed some rapport, I asked the widow, who was a devout Christian believer, if she had any thought as to why the churches in Germany were silent during the Nazi horrors.  I will never forget her response, for she explained, “The churches in Germany at the time were focused on the evils of dancing.”  Too often, in our modern American and European churches, I fear that our propensity for self-interested introspection continues unabated.

However, for those who are interested in learning more about the persecution of Christians in other countries (which seems to be moving closer to our shores daily), this coming Saturday, July 20, 2013, The Voice of the Martyrs is hosting a regional conference at the Abundant Faith Christian Center, located at 2525 Taylor Avenue in Springfield, Illinois.  The program will be from 9:00 A.M. through 5:00 P.M., and the doors open at 8:00 A.M.  Among the guest speakers are Ms. Gracia Burnham, missionary to the Philippines, who was held hostage by Islamic terrorists along with her husband.  You may recall that Mr. Burnham was killed in a rescue attempt.  In addition, Rev. Steven Khoury from Israel, Pastor Eric Foley, who will talk about North Korea, and others will speak as well.  I have had the privilege to hear each of these saints before, and their testimonies of courage and deep faith will have a powerful encouragement for each of us.  If you would like more information or to register to attend, please telephone (877) 337-0302.  There is no charge to attend this event, but there is no child care available for those in attendance.  I am certainly looking forward to participating and learning about what is going on elsewhere and what we as Christians can do to assist our brothers and sisters throughout the world.  I hope to see many of you there, and if you cannot attend, please let your friends know about this meeting.

St. Paul, writing in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, states, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.”  Today around the world, Christians are “unashamed” of the holy gospel and the Lord Jesus Christ while under restriction, severe persecution, and imprisonment.  May God find us to be so faithful and full of authentic courage.