Let's Not Forget the Persecuted

By Angela Wittman

As we wage the war on terrorism and hear the reports of bombings, anthrax scares and the latest terrorist threats, let's not forget those who are being persecuted for their faith and personal beliefs.

I have heard reports of Christians who are being martyred and arrested for their faith in other countries such as Sudan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Viet Nam, Tibet, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. There are reports of followers of Christ being imprisoned, ostracized by family and friends, tortured, beaten, murdered and their homes and churches burned by their governments.

As a Christian I am saddened and outraged. As a nation founded upon Christian principles, I pray we will petition our government to take action against these crimes and not support the nations committing them.

My next point is going to hit close to home, please think about this and search your hearts to see if you have been a party to this more subtle form of religious persecution. Perhaps you have a co-worker who doesn't celebrate popular holidays and you have often heard snide remarks made about them and did nothing to defend them. Perhaps you even joined in the ridicule or laughed at the jokes.

Maybe you have a neighbor that displays the Ten Commandments on their lawn and you secretly wish they would take down the "tacky ornament".

You may even have a family member that continually talks about "Jesus and the need for repentance of sin" that you try to avoid at family gatherings.

If we are honest with ourselves, we know way down deep inside we are all guilty and this is also a form of religious persecution.

I pray we will be more tolerant and supportive of those with differing beliefs right here in our own neighborhoods, workplaces and families.

Let's look even closer at the issue of personal beliefs and the abuses that some have suffered.

Perhaps you have heard of a family, the Christine's, that were arrested in Oregon last year for alleged Criminal Mistreatment of their three daughters? The daughters were shuttled from one foster home to the next by the Oregon department of Services to Children and Families as the parents fought to reunite the family.

The parents believed the state's actions were unlawful and did not cooperate with making admissions or undergoing counseling. They believed they had every right to raise their children as they saw fit.

It also happens that the parents are from a Christian background. They met through an organization called Christian Union in Europe. As young adults each was involved in doing volunteer work in ministry and enjoyed traveling.

After marrying they moved to the United States and began raising their family. They still enjoyed travel and bought a bus they converted into a home. They continued to travel with their three daughters whom they homeschooled. Last year their lives were horribly disrupted in Oregon by an anonymous phone call claiming the children were dehydrated and malnourished, (the family are vegetarians).

The police surrounded their RV and proceeded to search it without a warrant. The father was then taken into custody. Today, the children are in foster care and the parents, Brian and Ruth, are being held in Oregon, (please note that the allegations of abuse have not been proven against the parents according to their attorney, Edgar Steele).

After hearing of this family and their plight, I have begun to wonder just how tolerant is our government of parental rights and our personal beliefs? I seem to recall reading in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights..."

I pray that we as a nation will remember the sanctity of the family and the right to personal beliefs that our forefathers gave their very lives to protect.

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This article was originally published in the fall of 2001.

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