President Obama’s Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast
Last week, I was honored to attend the National Prayer Breakfast where President Obama spoke out about Christian persecution. Affirming freedom of religion as a primary value in free societies, he encouraged other countries to protect and nurture religious minorities in their midst. He affirmed that Pastor Saeed Abidini, an American pastor held prisoner in Iran, must be let go and that his administration was working hard for his release. In addition, he affirmed that blasphemy laws, like those that are imprisoning people like Asia Bibi in Pakistan, are outdated and medieval. Asia has been imprisoned for many years, sentenced to death, on the accusation of Islamic extremists who claim she blasphemed Muhammad by claiming Christian faith. She denies blasphemy, but refuses to recant her faith. She may very well die this year if the supreme court of Pakistan does not overturn her case.
Of course, many of these good points were lost in the political discussion, as some jumped on his statement chiding Christians about “not getting on their high-horses” about persecution due to the Crusades. This is a shame because much of what was said about persecution needed to be heard, and was immediately drowned out in the aftermath. Open Doors USA is a non-partisan group, and our focus is strictly the persecuted church around the world. As such, we have often been critical of this administration and their slow response to the threat against Christians around the world. We were one of the first and loudest to push for his appointment of a point person at the State Department to address religious persecution around the world. The recent appointment of Rabbi David Saperstein as United States Ambassador of International Religious Freedom is the end result of that work, but it has been a painfully slow process.
Even more telling in my mind is the lack of a ground swell of support on Capitol Hill. Senators and Congressmen, with a few notable exceptions, are not rallying to support the issue of religious freedom. Why is this? Because the constituents are not calling to tell them that it’s important. If Christians are not concerned enough about persecution to call their representatives, why should we expect them to act? Indeed, with our silence, we have informed them that this is not yet a priority. My fear is that it won’t become a priority until it hits home.
I am thankful to the President for his words last week; my encouragement to him is to back them up with quick action. And a prod to those who criticize from the sidelines… we must get in the game if we want to see change. Write or call your representative and encourage them to be active in protecting religious freedom for Christians around the world. And then pray, for Pastor Saeed, Asia Bibi, and the countless others who are waiting for the church to stand behind them.
Dr. David Curry- President/ CEO of Open Doors USA