BLOG POST: Prayers for the Persecuted Church

IDOP

Photo Credit: Screen Shot of International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church website

By Erin Rodewald // November 5, 2017

Christian persecution is not a first century phenomenon. For hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide who daily experience verbal harassment, discrimination, imprisonment, displacement, torture, rape and even death, the struggle is real.

According to a newly released report from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history. Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

It is a timely and fitting occasion then to focus attention on persecuted Christians today, November 5, which marks the 22nd International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).

Persecuted Christians “often suffer in silence and isolation,” says Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the World Evangelical Alliance, Religious Liberty Commission, which sponsors IDOP each year. In a statement, he adds: “The IDOP has been a source of solidarity and encouragement to persecuted Christians by reminding them that they are part of a larger, global family of believers.”

Christians are by no means the only religious or minority group subject to harsh treatment and religious persecution, and the IDOP does not seek to diminish the real and urgent needs of those groups. It does seek to draw attention, however, to those persecuted for their belief in Christianity, which remains the world’s most oppressed faith community, according to the ACN report. Titled Persecuted and Forgotten?, the report cautions that in some regions, the church is on the verge of extinction as a result of genocide and other crimes against humanity.

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ARTICLE: Slow Fade or Renewal of Spirit?

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George W. Bush delivering speech at Spirit of Liberty Forum. Source: George W. Bush Institute.

 

By Erin Rodewald // October 25, 2017

(This article originally appeared in Providence magazine)

America in the 21st century is experiencing an identity crisis of sorts. The nation seems caught in a cultural maelstrom that is producing a crisis of confidence here at home. Free speech is disputed on college campuses, religious freedom is challenged in the courts, and the press is criticized for fabricating news to drive a particular political agenda. Our civic decency and national discourse have been compromised.

Meanwhile, economic, political, and national security concerns have sparked a renewed appetite among many Americans—private citizens and elected officials alike—to turn a collective gaze inward. An apparent downturn in what was once an enthusiastic embrace of the basic tenets of democracy and open markets may be jeopardizing what has been a robust and longstanding foreign policy engagement.

Is the liberal democratic order that has provided stability, prosperity, and freedom across the globe for the better part of 70 years in peril? Is America witnessing a slow fade of its core values, or is the country at a tipping point that will lead to a renewal of the spirit of liberty? Continue reading

ARTICLE: Can Sam Brownback Elevate Religious Freedom within U.S. Foreign Policy?

ARTICLE: Can Sam Brownback Elevate Religious Freedom within U.S. Foreign Policy?

By Erin Rodewald // October 10, 2017

(This article originally appeared at The Philos Project)

Across the globe, assaults on religious freedom abound. Rohingya Muslims are fleeing brutal ethnic cleansing by the Burmese government. Years of war and genocide at the hands of ISIS have decimated the ancient Christian population in Iraq—from 1.5 million in 2003 to fewer than 250,000 today. Pakistani blasphemy laws threaten the lives and freedom of innocent religious minorities. In China, the government routinely shuts down underground churches. Saudi Arabian textbooks teach school children hate and intolerance toward the “unbeliever,” specifically Christians, Jews, Shiites, Sufis, Sunnis, Hindus, atheists and others.

In the United States of course, freedom of religion is the first freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution and foundational to the very origin and existence of the nation. It follows that religious freedom also would animate U.S. foreign policy—except oftentimes it does not.

“No administration has seen IRF policy as a national security imperative.”

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ARTICLE: On Women’s Equality Day, a Nod to the Dual Importance of Equality and Freedom

ARTICLE: On Women’s Equality Day, a Nod to the Dual Importance of Equality and Freedom

By Erin Rodewald // August 25, 2017

(This article originally appeared in Philos Project)

Tomorrow, August 26, will mark the 44th observance of Women’s Equality Day in the United States. The day commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution – which granted women the right to vote – but also calls attention to ongoing disparities and continuing efforts toward full gender equality.

To be sure, the gender gap in this country is real. For example, women earn 80 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. And in 21st century corporate America, only a quarter of CEOs are women.

Still, American women have made important advances in the past 4 1/2 decades, excelling in all aspects of society, including business, academia, politics, athletics, medicine, law, journalism, the arts and the home. Some highlights include:

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INFOGRAPHIC: Who Are the Kurds?

INFOGRAPHIC: Who Are the Kurds?

By Erin Rodewald // July 12, 2017

(This article originally appeared at Philos Project)

It was three years ago – July 4, 2014 – that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi stood in the pulpit of the Al Nuri Grand Mosque in Mosul to declare the creation of an Islamic State caliphate. What followed has been a brutal campaign of blood and destruction across Iraq and Syria.

Today, the caliphate is crumbling – at least geographically. Iraqi and coalition forces have recaptured Mosul and what is left of the Grand Mosque. In Syria, the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have all but liberated the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.

To be sure, the victories against ISIS belong to many, but at the heart of some of the fiercest fighting has been one steadfast group: the Kurds, a diverse and dispersed people with no sovereign state but a pervasive presence in the Middle East. In Iraq, the Kurds have functioned as a semi-autonomous state since the end of the first Gulf War. In Turkey, a large Kurdish faction has been branded as terrorists. In Syria, Kurdish militias have been key players in the fight against the Islamic State.

The Kurds have introduced both stability and tension to a geopolitically delicate Middle East.

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BOOK REVIEW: In Defense of Democracy: Condoleezza Rice Explores the Long (and Worthy) Road to Freedom

BOOK REVIEW: In Defense of Democracy: Condoleezza Rice Explores the Long (and Worthy) Road to Freedom

By Erin Rodewald // July 3, 2017

(This article originally appeared at Philos Project)

Tomorrow, America will celebrate its 241st birthday. As in years past, July 4 festivities across the nation will stir our collective sense of patriotism. There will be parades and marching bands. Spectacular fireworks will light up the night sky from New York to Los Angeles. In towns and cities across the land, Old Glory will wave and remind us that because we are steeped in a tradition of democracy, we remain a country where all men are created equal – that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But the contentious political climate in America circa 2017, combined with an apparent upsurge in popularity of autocrats abroad – Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt, to name a few – has many observers wondering if the American experiment has timed out. Could this generation be witness to the worldwide decline of democracy?

In her new book Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom, former U.S. Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice abjures the skeptics and dispels the myth that democracy is in retreat. On the contrary, she argued that democracy – while inherently flawed and always imperfect – remains the best means to promote peace and ensure human freedom, dignity and progress around the world.

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ARTICLE: A Precarious Liberty: Religious Freedom in Erdoğan’s Turkey

ARTICLE: A Precarious Liberty: Religious Freedom in Erdoğan’s Turkey

by Erin Rodewald// April 28, 2017

(This article originally appeared in The Philos Project)

On April 16, Pastor Andrew Brunson did not celebrate Easter with his flock. Instead, he marked six months and eight days of confinement in a Turkish prison, where he is being held on charges of “membership in an armed terrorist organization.”

Since 1993, American citizens Brunson and his wife Norine have faithfully shepherded a small but vibrant Christian congregation at the Resurrection Church in their adopted home of Izmir, a buzzing, ancient city on Turkey’s Aegean coast. Originally from North Carolina, Brunson was ordained in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church and followed the call to church plant in the Muslim-majority nation, where less than 0.2 percent of the population identifies as Christian.

The Brunsons served the people of Turkey without incident for nearly 25 years, even as religious tensions mounted and an increasingly authoritarian regime squeezed religious freedoms. But everything changed on the morning of October 7, 2016, when the Brunsons were summoned to their local police station. Assuming they were about to receive their long-awaited permanent resident designations, they were surprised to find themselves detained on the grounds that they were a “threat to national security.”

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