Many marches and demonstrations that take place in Washington, D.C. are known for being angry and partisan. Over the weekend, March for the Martyrs broke that trend with a mission to stand in solidarity with a group often neglected -- persecuted Christians.
For Christians living comfortable lives in the West, it is easy to forget about the persecuted church around the world. Yet, it is important to many persecuted Christians around the world that they are remembered, and that people are praying for them.
This is what motivates the founder of March for the Martyrs, Gia Chacon. "We're marching for the over 340 million Christians around the world who suffer for the name of Jesus," she said. "We're marching for the people who lay down their lives every single day to go to church, to own a Bible. To even say that they believe in Jesus, in some countries, is illegal."
Almost a thousand people gathered on the National Mall on Saturday, September 25, 2021 for a rally before marching to the White House. Family Research Council joined other groups at the march to send a powerful message to the persecuted: You are not alone.
Former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback noted in a video message at Night for the Martyrs following the march that "We need people like you marching and we need these voices raised so that those that are not heard, that are suffering in silence around the world, can be known."
Scripture encourages Christians to "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them" (Heb. 13:3). Christians are called to a high standard with regard to the way we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ, including those who are imprisoned for their faith. One doesn't need to do a lot of searching to find Christian prisoners of conscience worth remembering and keeping in our prayers -- including Pastor John Cao, Leah Sharibu, or Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.
The word "martyr" may bring to mind the early church, who suffered greatly for following Christ. Yet, the issue of Christian persecution -- at times even resulting in death -- is not relegated to history. Far from it. Open Doors estimates that 13 Christians are killed for their faith every single day.
Unfortunately, the issue of Christian persecution is more relevant than ever, yet it remains a little-known topic. At a time when so many believers are suffering, this shouldn't be the case.
Critical shows of solidarity like March for the Martyrs should also be followed by additional action. The American church is blessed to live in a democracy, and that means we can influence our leaders. We must encourage our leaders to use the leverage that the United States has around the world to make a difference for the persecuted and oppressed. Most politicians won't care about international religious freedom until they know their constituents do. It's up to the voters to show them they care.
Religious freedom for all people, everywhere is worth fighting for. Yet, many Christians around the world are not in a position to stand up for themselves. This makes public shows of support from American Christians all the more important.