By / Oct 21

Over ​​the past few weeks there have been a number of international incidents that are worthy of our attention and prayer. Here are three you should know about from Iran, Ethiopia, and China.

What’s going on in Iran?

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iran has had a law requiring all women—regardless of nationality or religious belief—to wear hijabs that cover the head and neck while concealing the hair. The Gashte Ershad (guidance patrols) are the “morality police” tasked with enforcing this and other dress codes, as well as modest behavior. The patrols are usually composed of men and stationed in vans in public areas. The patrols generally target women, who are taken to a ​​police station, correctional facility, or re-education center, where they are taught to dress “appropriately.” 

Earlier this month, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested by a patrol in the capital city of Tehran and allegedly beaten while inside a morality police van. She was taken to the hospital where she remained in a coma before dying three days later. 

Amini’s death sparked outrage and protest throughout the country. Women in the country have posted videos of themselves setting fire to their headscarves and cutting their hair in public to chants of “Woman, life, freedom” and “Death to the dictator”—a reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

School children are protesting their leaders on an unprecedented scale that may prove difficult to contain, notes CNN. In attempting to put down the protest, an estimated 201 people—including 23 children—have been killed by Iranian authorities. The United Nation’s children agency UNICEF has also called for the protection of children and adolescents amid Iran’s protests. 

How to pray for this situation: Pray that God will protect the children and women of Iran, that the people will obtain freedom and protection for basic human rights, and that the church in Iran will be free from persecution. 

What’s going on in Ethiopia 

For the past year, the Ethiopian government and a regional military group have been engaged in a struggle for power and control over Tigray, the northern region of Ethiopia. Global leaders have so far hesitated to call it a genocide, referring to it as a civil war, or the Tigray War. But the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian and Eritrian governments make it clear the conflict is turning into a genocide. 

United Nations-backed investigators say all sides, including the Tigray forces, have committed abuses, but that the Ethiopian government is using “starvation of civilians” as a weapon of war. Tigray has been under a blockade for 17 months, and an estimated one million people are at risk of starvation. Because they are cut off from medical care, women are also dying during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth at five times the rate before the war. Children under 5 are dying at twice the pre-war rate, often because of easily preventable reasons. 

Altogether, an estimated half a million people have already died in the conflict. Tigray is “one of the worst manmade humanitarian crises in the world,” says the European Union foreign policy chief.

How to pray for this situation: Pray that the upcoming peace talks will bring an end to the conflict, that the genocide will end, and that the people of Ethiopia will find healing and restoration.

What’s going on in China? 

The 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party began this week in Beijing. The 2,296 delegates will represent the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s 96.7 million members in reelecting the current leader, Xi Jinping.  

The 69-year-old Xi was due to step down in 2023, but in 2018 he further consolidated power by having his party change the constitution to remove the limitation that no Chinese president shall serve more than two consecutive terms.

Xi Jinping was elected as the president of the People’s Republic of China in 2013. In addition to this role as president, Xi also serves as the general secretary of the Communist Party of China (putting him in control of the country’s political party) and chairman of the Central Military Commission (which makes him the commander-in-chief of China’s military forces). He also is head of so many other smaller decision-making bodies that he’s been called the “Chairman of Everything.”

After his first four years in office, the Communist Party voted unanimously to incorporate “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for the New Era” into the Chinese constitution, an honor previously reserved for Mao Zedong and his successor, Deng Xiaoping. This change enshrined Xi’s political philosophy into the country’s supreme law and made any challenge to him a direct threat to Communist Party rule. As the BBC has noted, schoolchildren, college students, and staff at state factories are required to study this political ideology.

The reelection of Xi means the continuation of human rights abuse that have been the hallmark of his presidency. Under his rule, more than a million Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic group living in Central and East Asia, have been detained in a network of concentration camps. The atrocities against them include forced abortions, rape, sexual abuse, sterilization, internment in concentration camps, organ harvesting, human trafficking, scientific experimentation, the sale of human hair forcibly taken from those in concentration camps, family separation, forced reeducation of children, forced labor, and torture.

In 2021, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted the “Resolution 8: On The Uyghur Genocide,” becoming the first major denomination or convention of churches to speak up on behalf of Uyghurs and use the label “genocide” for Xi’s crimes against humanity. 

How to pray for this situation: ​​Pray for the Uyghurs, that they will find earthly protection and an end to the persecution, and that they will obtain ultimate salvation by putting their faith in Christ. 

By / Jan 13

The new year has already been a blur in many ways. From an international crisis to the continued focus on the presidential election this fall, 2020 has the potential to be a history-making year. But another set of stories that should capture our attention are those focused on the continued rise of technology and the influence it exerts on our daily lives. These tools have an outsized influence on how we communicate with one another, the type and quality of information we receive, and even how our economy and governments function.

At the beginning of what seems to be another consequential year, it is wise to be reminded of some of the most important technology stories and how they are shaping our public square. While we aren’t able to predict some of the most important technological developments that are to come, here are four major technology issues that each of us need to be aware of as we seek to honor God and love our neighbor in 2020.

Ongoing privacy debates and possible legislation

January 1 brought about the initial enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act, a first-of-its-kind piece of privacy legislation in the United States. Without a federal privacy law, and by nature of being the first major privacy legislation to be enacted in the states, this California law is the defacto law of the land. While the CCPA was signed into law in 2018, it took effect this year, and the state’s Attorney General Becerra is set to begin full enforcement on July 1. This law requires companies to meet certain transparency and openness standards about the data collected on each of us by their services every day.

Many privacy advocates are not satisfied with the current version of the law and hope to enact stronger protections and regulations in the near future, while others argue that the CCPA is an overly broad and burdensome regulation that will dampen innovation and investment in new technologies. Regardless of its merit or shortsightedness, CCPA will likely serve as a test case for other state’s privacy regulations and may force the hands of many in Congress to enact a federal law. Debate continues in Washington, D.C., on the possibility of a federal law and whether or not it should override the Golden State’s regulation.

Outside of privacy law, 2020 has the potential to be a big year in digital privacy rights with a renewed interest in the type of data companies collect on the public and how it is used. This year has already started off with an FTC settlement over protecting the privacy of children who use Youtube as well, so expect to see further legislation and issues arise from how our children use technology in their daily lives in light of the rise of online abuse and consumption. 

Ethics and artificial intelligence

Whether you realize it or not, you interact with and use artificial intelligence nearly every moment of the day. From your social media feeds and online activity to your banking and our national security, AI drives much of our society, especially most modern technological innovations. But as AI has taken off in our society and around the world, there are many pressing ethical and social issues surrounding how this technology is developed, maintained, and implemented in our daily lives. Questions abound around the impact of AI on our work, families, and even our standing in the world regarding international crises and human rights.

On Jan. 8, the United States unveiled a new set of regulations and guidelines for the development and use of artificial intelligence. The guidelines released by the Trump administration seek to provide a framework for American values that many hope to set the stage for international cooperation. Just last April, ERLC released a set of AI principles to help equip the Church to think wisely about the rise of AI in our society and how best to maintain an ethic of human dignity with these powerful technologies.

Throughout 2020, there will undoubtedly be thorny ethical issues surrounding AI in our daily lives, such as in medical diagnosis, drone and weapon technology, and even in bias and discrimination cases. In March 2020, my new book, The Age of AI, will release with Zondervan, and I hope it will help the Church to engage these tough ethical and moral issues with the clarity of God’s Word.

Deepfakes and fake news

A deepfake is a video of someone saying and maybe even doing things that they never did in reality. These fake videos are created on computers using AI technology that allows the creator to use existing footage of an individual. These videos can be created by anyone who has access to the right computers, software, and knowledge. They are incredibly realistic and pose a real threat to society.

As we began the year, Facebook announced that it would be banning these videos from its platform as a lead-up to the 2020 presidential election. While these videos haven’t been used in extremely malicious ways as of yet, there are bound to be fake videos developed soon in order to sway public opinion or even to disrupt our society. While lawmakers scramble to provide some sort of legislation to stop these fake videos, many technology companies are trying to develop deepfake detection software to stop them from being shared on social media and video-hosting platforms.

While major news events may seem bleak as the nations continue to rage, Chrisitans have hope knowing that nothing in this world is outside of God’s control and guiding hand.

Deepfakes are just another example of how fake news is on the rise in our society and how Christians need to think wisely about the information we receive, what we share online, and how we seek the good of our neighbors and society in the digital age.

International authoritarian abuses

Behind many of the international stories as of late has been the use and abuse of technology around the world by nations like China, Russia, and Iran. Late in 2019, the Iranian regime shut down internet connectivity to nearly every citizen of the country, essentially cutting the nation off from the rest of the world. This news was followed by the revelation that Russia is attempting a similar shutdown later this spring. All the while, the Chinese regime is constantly in the news regarding its oppression of religious minorities and the lack of basic freedoms its citizens have because of the widespread use of facial recognition and DNA facial mapping technologies.

2020 will likely bring about the exposure of many more travesties related to how technology is used to demean, demoralize, and debase other human beings created in the image of God. We should keep our attention focused on how nations like China continue to wield enormous power over their economic and technology sectors as they continue to restrict free expression and human rights.

It should be no surprise that technology plays such a large role in society and our daily lives. While major news events may seem bleak as the nations continue to rage, Chrisitans have hope knowing that nothing in this world is outside of God’s control and guiding hand. As we engage some of the most pressing issues of our day, especially in regards to the enormous power technology has on each of us, we must remember that we already know the end of the story. We need not fear the unknown because we know the Author and Creator of all (Isa. 43:1).

By / Jan 10

Over the past two weeks, tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated to the point of warfare between the two nations. President Trump accused the Iranian government of orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve. This led to the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3 by a U.S. airstrike, and a counter-response that included Iranian airstrikes against American bases in Iraq.

Here are five facts you should know about the United State’s foremost geopolitical nemesis in the Middle East region:

  1. Iran is the modern name for the nation that Westerners have historically referred to as Persia. (In 1935, the Iranian government requested those countries which it had diplomatic relations refer to the country as Iran.) As one of the world's oldest continuous major civilizations, the land, empire, and rulers of Persia are frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. The first mention appears in the book of Esther when a Jewish girl becomes the queen to Xerxes I, the “king of the Persians and the Medes.” Cyrus II of Persia (known as Cyrus the Great) is mentioned both in 2 Chronicles and Ezra, and another king, Artaxerxes I of Persia, plays a significant role in the book of Nehemiah. Persian people and rulers are also mentioned in the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekial, and Daniel.
  2. Because of its location, Iran has maintained a geopolitical significance within the Middle East for thousands of years. The country has one of the longest land borders of any country in western Asia, covering 3,662 miles in length—almost twice the perimeter of Texas. Seven countries share a land border with Iran: Iraq, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Additionally, Iran is directly across the Perisan Gulf from Kuwait, Saudia Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, and across the Gulf of Oman from the nation of Oman. At the narrowest point in the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz, Iran is only 35 miles from the United Arab Emirates. Because the Persian Gulf and its coastal areas are the world’s largest single source of crude oil, Iran has been a major focus of strategic consideration for almost every country on the planet.
  3. According to the Acts of the Apostles, the people from Iran (Persians, Parthians and Medes) were among the very first new Christian converts at Pentecost (Acts 2:9). However, despite the early presence in the region, Christianity has remained a minority religion relative to the majority state religions—Zoroastrianism before the Islamic conquest, Sunni Islam in the Middle Ages, and Shia Islam in modern times. Currently, currently around 90–95% of Iranians associate themselves with the Shia branch of Islam, and 5–10% with the Sunni and Sufi branches of Islam. But over the last 20 years, more Iranians have become Christians than in the previous 13 centuries combined since Islam came to Iran. As Mark Howard notes, in 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran, while today there are hundreds of thousands.
  4. From 1925 until 1979, Iran was ruled by the Pahlavi dynasty, a royal family consisting of the father, Reza Pahlavi, and his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Reza Pahlavi, a general in Iran's military force, successfully overthrew the government and declared himself king (shah). During his reign, Reza attempted to modernize the country and develop it into an industrial, urbanized nation. Mohammad Reza continued his father’s reforms, including implementing land reform, extending voting rights to women, and eliminating illiteracy. These actions, while lauded by the West, sparked civil unrest within Iran because of the brutal efforts at implementation. The Shah also drew the ire of Muslim religious leaders who opposed his attempts at secularization. His unpopularity within Iran lead to the collapse of his government in the Iranian Revolution of 1978 and 1979.
  5. In the last days of March 1979, a nationwide referendum resulted in the establishment of an Islamic Republic within Iran. A formerly exiled Muslic cleric who had led the Iranian Revolution, Ruhollah Khomeini, proclaimed April 1, 1979, as the "first day of God's government.” Khomeini adopted the title of "Imam" and soon after became Supreme Leader, making him both the highest-ranking political and religious authority in the nation. (The Supreme Leader ranks above the President of Iran and personally appoints the heads of the military, the government, and the judiciary.) In October 1979, the United States allowed the deposed Shah into the country for cancer treatment. The Carter administration snubbed Khomeini and leftist groups demands that the Shah be returned to Iran for trial and execution. A few days later, a group of Iranian college students—with Khomeini’s blessing—took control of the American Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 embassy staff hostage for 444 days. When Khomeini died in 1989, he was succeeded as Supreme Leader by Ali Khamenei.
By / Nov 21

While most of us were going about our day this past Saturday, the Iranian government shut down internet connectivity in their country. By the evening, government leaders had instituted a near total ban on access to the internet in hopes to quell the protests in the country over rising fuel costs implemented by Tehran over U.S. sanctions. The shutdown halted all communication in and outside the country, and this isn’t the first time this has happened in Iran. With the power of the internet at the fingertips of everyday people, authoritarian regimes across the world have sought to clamp down on public access to the internet, to what their people can access and share, all in hopes of retaining power and control.

What happened?

On Friday Nov. 15, Iranian officials began to institute the internet shutdown in certain major cities in Iran, such as Tehran, which began to experience service issues that soon spread to the entire country by Saturday night. All internet access, including mobile networks, were shut down. The cybersecurity NGO NetBlocks reported that connectivity in the country had dropped to 7% of its normal load on Saturday at 6:45 p.m. UTC. The NGO reported that it took nearly 24 hours for the block to affect the entire nation.

Fuel costs in Iran have skyrocketed as Tehran sought to overcome the sanctions instituted by the United States, which lead to fuel rationing throughout the country. Tehran raised the cost of fuel in Iran to make up for the loss of crude oil shipments lost over the sanctions. Amnesty International reported that at least 106 protestors have been killed so far. This has become the largest internet shutdown under the leadership of the current president, Hassan Rouhani. It is worth noting that supreme leader, Seyed Ali Khamenei, retained access to the internet based on his Twitter account usage throughout the shutdown along with other government officials. As of 4:17 a.m. on Nov. 19, NetBlocks reported that internet access had dropped to under 4%. Iran is essentially now disconnected from the world and completely isolated from the rest of civilization.

How does this happen?

The internet is essentially a massive network of various computers and servers swapping information. As the internet grew in prominence throughout the world, each country took different steps as they adopted this life-altering technology. Countries like China took a hands-on approach as they developed their internet system, building in complete control by the government. China has used this heavy-handed approach to technological development for atrocious means in recent years, culminating in the “Great Firewall,” which blocks the free and open internet, promoting the propaganda that flows from the Chinese Communist Party. Recently, news broke of the internment of millions of Uighur Muslims into concentration-like camps through the use of cyber surveillance and tracking.

Nations like Iran and Russia retrofitted their traditional private and decentralized systems, like those found in most western democractic countries, with various degrees of control over connectivity after the systems were designed in the hopes of retaining control over the information that flows from and to their people. As WIRED reports, these controls often take the forms of government coercion over internet service providers (ISPs), who are forced by government officials to follow these edicts. Other methods such as state-run ISPs like that in Iran also allow the government to exert control of the information that flows in their country. In the case of Iran, the past decade has seen the creation of an intranet run by the state-owned ISP that provides basic internet access to the Iranian people but with massive amounts of censorship and control by the government itself. This intranet is similar to those found in countries like China and their “Great Firewall.”

One of the seemingly unintended and unseen consequences of this type of communication ban in Iran is that information continues to flow even without the internet as people take to the streets and by other means.

Why does this matter?

You may be wondering how an internet shutdown across the world might affect you and your everyday life. We each use the internet almost constantly as we communicate with one another, perform work tasks, and listen to music. The internet is everywhere, including in our home appliances and our vehicles. We use it without thinking that many people do not have the free and open access that we enjoy each day. 

In the West, we’ve grown accustomed to these freedoms and forget that there are millions of people worldwide living under the repressive hand of authoritarian regimes. The internet is a powerful tool of communication that has allowed human flourishing and the democratization of information in ways that the world has never seen before, but it has also opened the door to atrocities that we could have never imagined.

Iranian leadership is reminding their people that their basic rights of speech, autonomy, and personhood are subservient to the needs of the government. The freedom of speech and conscience are basic to our democratic order. Our system of government in the U.S. recognizes the God-given rights of the individual and the basic liberties we enjoy. In 2016, the United Nations declared internet shutdowns and government censorship as violations of basic human rights. 

2019 marked the ninth year in a row that internet freedom around the world has dropped in connection with social media manipulation, as seen in a recent report of 65 countries by Freedom House. This troubling trend reveals the power of connectivity and its link to human rights. In a world where everything is tied to the internet in some capacity, a government should not have the power to institute a blackout at will in order to recentralize power and deny rights to its people.

One of the greatest benefits of technology, especially the internet, is the democratization of power and of information. Christians believe in the rights of the individual because we believe that every person is created in God’s image and has certain inalienable rights (Gen. 1:26-27). Thus, Christians must stand against such violations of human dignity wherever they are found, including those that suffer at the hands of authoritarian regimes like Iran and China. We must stand up for those that cannot speak for themselves, whether that is from physical oppression or a total block on communication with the outside world by authoritarian regimes bent on retaining power over the weak and exploiting them for their gain.

By / Jan 16

WASHINGTON, D.C, Jan. 16, 2016Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Conventions Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, responds to the release of Iranian prisoner Saeed Abedini who has been imprisoned for his Christian faith since 2012.

“We are grateful for the release of Pastor Saeed. The prayers of the Body of Christ all over the world have been answered. This day of celebration should remind us to pray and work all the more for the multitudes still persecuted for their faith all over the world, including in Iran. We hope and long for the day when Iran, and nations like it, are free from those who wish to enslave the conscience at the point of a sword.”

Abedini was awarded the 2014 Richard Land Distinguished Service Award for his exemplary service and faithfulness to the kingdom of God.

His wife, Naghmeh Abedini, received the award on his behalf at the 2014 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Southern Baptist Convention is Americas largest Protestant denomination with more than 15.8 million members in over 46,000 churches nationwide. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission is the SBCs ethics, religious liberty and public policy agency with offices in Nashville, Tenn., and Washington, D.C.

To request an interview with Russell Moore

contact Elizabeth Bristow at 202-547-0209

or by email at [email protected]

Visit our website at

Follow us on Twitter at @ERLC

By / Jan 4

Late Saturday, scores of Iranians stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, overrunning security and setting fire to the building. The protesters were pushed back by the Iranian police before any Saudi diplomats were injured.

The incident was provoked by the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia cleric and dissident, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, earlier on Saturday. Sheikh al-Nimr was executed along with 46 others in the largest mass execution in Saudi Arabia since 1980.

Sheikh al-Nimr was a religious leader who protested the Sunni-led Saudi government’s treatment of the the country’s Shia minority. He was convicted of a number of charges, including “disobeying the ruler,” being an “instigator of sedition,” and others. The U.S. State Department had urged the Saudi government to release Sheikh al-Nimr despite the fact that Sheikh al-Nimr had preached and spread anti-American messages. After the execution, John Kirby, State Department spokesman, shared U.S. concern about the execution, and said that the execution “risks exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

In response to the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran, the Saudi government has announced that Iranian diplomats have 48 hours to leave Saudi Arabia. Bahrain and Sudan, close Saudi allies, have also cut diplomatic ties with Iran. The UAE has “downgraded” its diplomatic presence in Iran.

Proxy conflicts between Iran and Saudi Arabia are raging in Syria and Yemen, but the Saudi and Iranian governments clash in subtler ways in nearly every country in the Middle East and North Africa. This recent episode could lead to a significant increase in sectarian violence across the region.

Christians in the Middle East will likely suffer more because of this. But let us also remember that Muslims themselves have suffered more than anyone else at the hands of radical Islamic terrorists.

This is a story we need to pay attention to. Let us pray for peace. And let us also pray for a future for the Middle East and North Africa where principled pluralism flourishes, protecting all religious minorities.

By / Jun 30

As time passes, the news cycle ebbs and flows with the tide of public interest. Often, a major injustice has only five minutes of fame while people rally around its cause. But, it soon fades out of the public eye, though it remains just as severe an injustice as the day it was discovered.

For my husband Saeed Abedini, nearly three years have passed since he faced the initial injustice of an arrest on account of his faith in Jesus Christ. Unlike an ordinary news story that fades into a distant memory, I know that Saeed’s suffering is never far from the hearts and minds of his brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. For that, I am grateful.

My husband and the father of our two children left for Iran in June of 2012. He travelled back to Iran to finalize work on an orphanage we were building. But days before he returned to our family, Iranian revolutionary guards detained him and said he must face criminal charges because of his Christian faith. In January 2013, an Iranian court sentenced him to eight years imprisonment.  

He has now served just over two and a half years of his eight-year sentence but still clings to the knowledge that God is with him and that the church prays for him continually. God still answers our constant prayers by giving Saeed physical, mental and emotional strength, as well as peace despite his circumstances.   

Saeed was initially arrested because of his Christian faith, but as Iran began negotiations with the world regarding its nuclear development, he has become entangled in a greater political battle. Because of this, it is important that we continue to pray. We must pray for our leaders sitting at the negotiating table with Iran. We must also pray for the hearts of the Iranian authorities who continue to detain him.

For the last two anniversaries of Saeed’s imprisonment, Christians have gathered across the nation and around the world to unite in prayer for him. This year, on September 26, 2015, we will once again gather in churches, parks and in front of government buildings to ask God to protect and provide for Saeed while he is in prison and to bring about his speedy release.

Whether you are a community leader or have never led a meeting of any kind before, you are invited to host a prayer vigil in your town on September 26 to help facilitate unified prayers on Saeed’s behalf. For more information on how to host a prayer vigil in your town or to register a vigil location, please go to

God has given Saeed and our family strength throughout his imprisonment, and he has made our prayers an important part of His work. As we pray, God comes to Saeed’s aid and also brings believers into a closer relationship with himself and each other. While it might be easy to let Saeed’s situation fade away like an old news story or disappear behind the pressing concerns of our day-to-day lives, don’t miss the opportunity to be part of what God is doing in Saeed and the church as a whole. Please continue persevere in prayer for Saeed, others who are persecuted for their faith, and religious freedom in countries around the world.