Remember the Persecuted

During this new year, FRC's Center for Religious Liberty will be covering top international religious freedom news each month -- exploring challenges that believers face abroad.

Here are the top news stories in international religious freedom this month.

Prominent Christian Pro-Democracy Advocate Jailed in Hong Kong: 72-year-old entrepreneur Jimmy Lai is in jail in Hong Kong awaiting trial. Due to Lai's outspoken advocacy for democracy in Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has accused him of endangering national security. His bail has been suspended, and he could receive a minimum of 10 years in jail under the new national security law the Chinese government enacted to crackdown on dissenters in Hong Kong.

As China's authoritarian grasp began to tighten around the city of Hong Kong, Lai knew that speaking out in support of freedom was becoming more dangerous. He alluded to the dangers of pro-democracy activism in a May 2020 New York Times op-ed. Lai could have used his dual British citizenship to escape the impending crackdown in Hong Kong. Yet, his conviction required him to stay.

After his initial arrest in August, Lai took hope in his Christian faith, saying, "The way I look at it, if I suffer for the right cause, it only defines the person I am becoming. It can only be good for me to become a better person. If you believe in the Lord, if you believe that all suffering has a reason, and the Lord is suffering with me... I'm at peace with it."

As the United States endures its own political challenges this month, please do not forget to pray also for believers in Hong Kong who are watching their religious and political freedoms erode completely. And pray for Jimmy Lai as he awaits trial in prison for following his convictions.

North Korea: Recent reports indicate that North Korea's unfathomable human rights conditions continue. As the Biden administration takes the reigns in the United States, experts are wondering what the new president's approach to North Korea will be. One thing is for certain -- considerations for religious freedom and other human rights must not be relegated to the sidelines. For more on the unique challenges North Korean believers face and how the U.S. can promote religious freedom in North Korea, read Arielle's publication, North Korea: The World's Foremost Violator of Religious Freedom.

Nigeria: This Christmas was a difficult time for Nigerian Christians. On December 24, Boko Haram killed six and kidnapped three in Chibok, Borno. And on December 25, Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) executed 11 captives. For more about what Christians in Nigeria are facing in the new year, read Lela's piece on the FRC Blog.

Global: Before the end of the year, the Senate and House of Representatives passed complementary resolutions calling for the global repeal of blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy laws. These resolutions send an important message that the U.S. Congress condemns these types of laws, which threaten believers in many countries around the world. For more information on how blasphemy laws violate religious freedom, read Arielle's op-ed in CBN News.

Remember the Persecuted

Religious liberty is the freedom to hold beliefs of one’s choice and to live according to those beliefs. While it was foundational to the formation of the United States of America, religious freedom is not merely an American right, but an inherent human right.

Yet the human race currently faces unprecedented religious persecution from governmental and social forces worldwide. In 2016, one or more religious groups were harassed in 187 countries around the world.

Over the last decade, Christians have been harassed in more countries, including the United States, than any other religious group. We do indeed face a worldwide crisis of religious liberty.

We must increase awareness of the expanding threat to religious freedom around the world and the persecution that many Christians are facing. As we grow awareness of this problem we must also increase engagement that will bring tangible hope and help to the persecuted.