By / Jan 22

In this episode, Josh, Brent, Julie, and Meagan discuss the inauguration, QAnon in light of Trump leaving the White House, the new COVID-19 variant, Uyghurs “genocide,” the four nominees for SBC president, the March for Life going virtual this year, and the states Americans are choosing to work from home in. Julie also gives a rundown of some of the ERLC’s most popular content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About Julie

Julie Masson serves as Director of External Engagement for the ERLC. She is responsible for strategic planning, development and implementation of the ERLC brand strategy across all ERLC departments and provides leadership and oversight for the ERLC marketing team as well as coordinating external affairs and partnership deliverables. Julie and her husband Jesse spent two years in Spain with the International Mission Board before moving to Kansas City where they live with their three children. She is a graduate of Iowa State University. You can connect with her on Twitter: @juliermasson

Culture

  1. Joe Biden sworn in as 46th president of the United States
  2. Trump departs on final Air Force One flight
  3. QAnon reels following inauguration
  4. STATEMENT ON 2021 MARCH FOR LIFE
  5. New California Variant May Be Driving Virus Surge There, Study Suggests
  6. Field of Flags’ put on display at the National Mall ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration
  7. U.S. declares China’s actions against Uyghurs “genocide”
  8. Randy Adams announced as nominee for SBC president
  9. Pastor @EdLitton to be third candidate for SBC president
  10. The states Americans headed to the most in 2020, according to U-Haul

Lunchroom

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Sponsors

  • A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Your Children About Gender: by Jared Kennedy. This short book walks through six conversation topics designed to help you apply the truth and hope of the gospel to the complex issue of gender. 
  • Stand for Life: At the ERLC, we stand for life. Our work to save preborn babies and care for the vulnerable is vital to our work. Believing that abortion can end in our lifetime, will you join us as we STAND FOR LIFE?
By / Jan 19

Today, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an official determination that the People’s Republic of China is “committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang, China, for targeting Uyghur Muslims and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups.” This announcement comes on Secretary Pompeo’s last day in office and a day before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. According to Axios, the U.S. has become the first country to adopt these terms to describe the Chinese Communist Party’s unconscionable human rights abuses in its far northwest.

Some of the reasons cited for the determination include “the arbitrary imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty of more than one million civilians, forced sterilization, torture of a large number of those arbitrarily detained, forced labor, and the imposition of draconian restrictions on freedom of religion or belief, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement.” 

Secretary Pompeo stated that one of the key facts in his determination was the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to severely oppress Uyghur women with draconian birth control measures. Uyghur women are subjected to forced pregnancy checks, medication that stops their menstrual period, forced abortions, and surgical sterilizations. One of the major reasons that Uyghur women are sent to the internment camps is for having too many children. China’s goal, it seems, is to eradicate future generations of Uyghurs by manipulating who can and can’t bear children, and how many children a family can legally conceive. 

Why does this declaration of genocide against Uyghurs matter?

Since 2017, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has waged a systemic campaign of oppression and persecution against Uyghur Muslims, a predominantly Turkic-speaking ethnic group. The geographic scope of the CCP’s campaign against Uyghurs is global, but primarily restricted to Xinjiang, China’s western-most territory, where Uyghurs have lived for centuries. Under the guise of national security, the CCP is seeking to “pacify” the region with totalitarian tactics like pervasive surveillance, thought control, ideological reeducation, forced birth control, and compulsory labor. Once Chinese police detain a Uyghur for questioning, they are often sent away for “political reeducation.” China has constructed upward of 1,000 internment camps for this purpose. Estimates vary, but experts posit that China has detained between 1 million and 3 million Muslims in these facilities. Aside from political indoctrination, physical and psychological abuse is commonplace throughout these camps, ranging from rape and torture to malnourishment and forced organ harvesting

The CCP also uses these camps to break apart Uyghur families. In cases where Uyghur husbands are sent off to camps, China has sent ethnically Han men to rape, and forcibly procreate with, the wives who are left behind. In some cases, where both the mother and father are detained, the CCP has sent Uyghur children to government-run boarding schools where all communication with the outside world is strictly regulated.

Members of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China sent a bipartisan letter asking that the Administration make an official determination as to whether the Chinese government is responsible for perpetrating atrocity crimes, including genocide, against Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Additionally, Senators Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and John Cornyn (R-Texas) introduced a bipartisan resolution to designate human rights abuses perpetrated by the People’s Republic of China against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) as genocide. 

What is genocide?

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crimes of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” The acts enumerated include:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or
  • Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

A genocide determination sends a powerful signal to the international community that the United States will not remain silent in the face of the CCP’s atrocities towards the Uyghur people.

What’s next after this declaration of genocide?

Secretary Pompeo called upon the People’s Republic of China “immediately to release all arbitrarily detained persons and abolish its system of internment, detention camps, house arrest and forced labor; cease coercive population control measures, including forced sterilizations, forced abortion, forced birth control, and the removal of children from their families; end all torture and abuse in places of detention; end the persecution of Uyghurs and other members of religious and ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang and elsewhere in China, and afford Uyghurs and other persecuted minorities the freedom to travel and emigrate.”

Additionally, he called on “all appropriate multilateral and relevant juridical bodies, to join the United States in our effort to promote accountability for those responsible for these atrocities.”

“The Chinese government’s atrocities against the Uyghur people in Xingjiang is clearly genocide. I welcome the State Department’s recognition of it as such. The world must not turn our eyes away from this genocide against human beings made in the image of God. I pray that President-elect Biden and Secretary-designate Blinken will have great success in rallying our nation and our allies to stand against this injustice. We can never again allow genocide to go unnoticed and unanswered. In addition, I urge the business community to take seriously what is happening to this imperiled religious minority.  Few issues these days seem to transcend our country’s partisan divisions, but this should be one of them,” Russell Moore stated.

How has the ERLC advocated for persecuted people?

In December, Dr. Moore sent Secretary Pompeo a letter urging him to issue a genocide determination. Additionally, the ERLC has been advocating for the Uyghur Forced Labor Act, which prohibits goods made with forced labor in the Xinjiang region or by entities using Uyghur labor forcibly transferred from Xinjiang from entering the U.S. market. The ERLC hosted a high-level discussion on the Uyghur situation in China and shared ways pastors and Christians can get involved and help. The ERLC will continue working to counter China morally, and will continue to stand up for persecuted people.

By / Oct 20

During the current 45th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, the ERLC advocated for the religious freedom of children in China. The ERLC joined the Jubilee Campaign and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in issuing a written statement to the UNHRC. The joint statement condemns the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for its continued religious persecution of children in China.

How is China persecuting children?

Over the last decade, China has increased its persecution of religious minorities. In its efforts to “sinicize” religious belief, that is, subjugate religious belief to the demands of the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government is attempting to erode independent practice of religion altogether. Sadly, children in China are not immune to such persecution.

Since releasing its Regulation on Religious Affairs in 2017, China has escalated its suppression of the religious liberty of Chinese children. Following the CCP’s Regulations on Religious Affairs, Chinese government officials have prohibited minors from attending any “religious-based activities.” They have enforced this by forcing children away from religious activities and interrogating them for holding religious beliefs. Government authorities are also confiscating Bibles and religious literature.

Two years ago, the CCP closed kindergartens because they were founded and operated by churches. In 2019, Chinese authorities stormed a Catholic mass in Zhengzhou and forced out all of the children. Police monitored the church for weeks to ensure no children, including infants, attended mass. Chinese police also entered a Guangdong province house church camp last summer and arrested the preacher. The police interrogated the church members and registered the names of all children in attendance.

Last August, the Xiaodian District Civil Affairs Bureau raided the Bethany Home for Children with Disabilities and sent the children away to state-run orphanages. The Home, founded by a Catholic nun, was the only home the children have known.  

In addition to these heinous actions, the CCP continues to persecute the Uyghur people, separating Uyghur children from their families and placing them in state institutions.

What does the U.N. Human Rights Council say about religious liberty?

The CCP’s religious persecution directly violates Article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which provides the international framework for freedom of religion or belief for children. Article 14 declares that, “States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” Additionally, China is violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 18 of the ICCPR states, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

What actions should the United Nations take?

The ERLC, the Jubilee Campaign, and ADF strongly condemn China’s persecution of children. We urge them to end all government actions that deny children the freedom to practice their religious beliefs. Specifically, China must immediately repeal the 2017 Regulations on Religious Affairs as it unjustly restricts the religious freedoms of religious minorities in China.

The U.N. Human Rights Council must speak clearly about these abuses and condemn China’s failure to comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Council has a number of tools at its disposal to address these issues and must take action. Such action will be more difficult because of China’s recent election to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but this makes Council action even more crucial, to preserve the legitimacy of the Council itself. 

ERLC intern Justin McDowell contributed to this article. 

By / Oct 14

In recent years, the Chinese government has escalated its persecution of religious minorities. The communist regime is using totalitarian tactics of forced labor, mass sterilization, and pervasive surveillance targeting Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Since 2017, China has detained more than one million Uyghurs in concentration camps. Countering China morally for these atrocities is a key part of the ERLC’s international engagement. To continue that work, Jeff Pickering and Chelsea Patterson Sobolik welcomed Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios to share her reporting on China.

“China is committing a cultural genocide against an ethnic minority and the world is basically, hardly even blinking. And that matters because this shows the kind of government, and the kind of ideology, that is driving what will be the most powerful country later in the 21st century.”– Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, Axios China

Guest Biography

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is the China reporter at Axios, where she covers China’s influence in the United States and abroad. Before joining Axios, she served as the lead reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ China Cables project, a major leak of classified Chinese government documents revealing the inner workings of mass internment camps in Xinjiang. She also previously worked as a national security reporter for The Daily Beast and as an editor and reporter for Foreign Policy magazine. Allen-Ebrahimian holds a Masters in East Asian studies from Yale University. She is the author of the weekly Axios China newsletter. 

Resources from the Conversation

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 18

Around the world, Christians increasingly face harassment, arbitrary imprisonment, and even death because of their faith. An independent review in the U.K. found this summer that Christians were on the receiving end of 80% of religiously motivated discrimination around the world. Open Doors USA estimates that 245 million Christians currently face persecution for their faith. Despite the severity of this problem, the American church has not always given this issue the attention it deserves. 

From the church’s earliest days, followers of Jesus have been persecuted. Unfortunately, persecution still widely persists today, and the threats to religious freedom have grown more diverse than ever, making them harder to address. Nevertheless, around the world, Christians courageously stand in the face of serious threats from authoritarian governments, extremist groups, and social hostility.  

Sadly, examples of persecution are everywhere. In China, unregistered house churches are shut down and destroyed, while state-sanctioned churches are required to comply with Communist party doctrine. In Nigeria, the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen attacked Christian farming villages and targeted Christians to kidnap and kill. Iran sentences Christian converts (even a 65-year-old woman) to prison for “acting against national security.” Across the world, and particularly in the Middle East, apostasy, blasphemy, and anti-conversion laws threaten individuals’ ability to choose or change their faith—as demonstrated in the case of Asia Bibi, a mother targeted by her neighbors because of her Christian identity.

How Christians in America should respond 

Christians around the world who are simply trying to live out their faith face countless situations like these. But just because Christians are persecuted overseas, do we Christians in America have a duty to respond? Scripture says we do. 

In a well-known passage, the writer of Hebrews encourages his readers to “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). Jesus himself said that “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). The “least” includes those the sick and imprisoned. 

Persecution is a trial that the early church knew well. Even before the New Testament canon was written, Christians were beginning to experience persecution for their beliefs. In response, the Apostle Paul—a one-time persecutor himself—pointed readers to an important truth: unity ought to characterize Christ’s church, in times of persecution as in times of reprieve. He rebuked the Corinthians, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Cor. 12:26).

In the same way that it hurts to watch a family member get mistreated, when a member of the body of Christ is bullied or harassed, it is the responsibility of the rest of the body to speak out and provide relief.

In many ways, the church in Corinth is like Christian churches in Western countries; we are beset by division and controversy. But Paul reminded the Corinthians that Christians all belong to the same body. The same principle applies to how Christians in Western countries ought to respond to the persecuted church: because we are part of the same body, their suffering is our suffering. We must not be silent.

Another frequent metaphor Scripture uses to describe the unity of believers is that of a family. After his resurrection, Jesus refers to his disciples (who he formerly described as servants and friends) as “brothers” (John 20:17). Paul refers to Christians as “children of God” and “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17). In the same way that it hurts to watch a family member get mistreated, when a member of the body of Christ is bullied or harassed, it is the responsibility of the rest of the body to speak out and provide relief. This is what the writer of Hebrews meant when he called on believers to remember those in prison as one way to “let brotherly love continue” (Heb. 13:1).

The message of the gospel reconciles sinful humans to a righteous God. In the process, the gospel reconciles Christians to each other. It reconciles people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and life experiences (Rev 7:9) into one body where they share a common faith, hope, and love. The gospel must inform the way Christians think about the scourge of persecution ravaging parts of the church around the world.

There are many ways to pray for persecuted Christians. The following are a few points worth raising in prayer: 

  1. Pray that God would strengthen persecuted Christians with faith to withstand the often violent persecution. 
  2. Pray that God would meet the physical needs of persecuted Christians, especially those who are ostracized from the community or forced to leave their homeland.  
  3. Pray that government and non-government actors persecuting believers would stop, and that religious freedom would become the universal standard across the globe. 

Let us remember our persecuted brothers and sisters who are in need. Caring for, praying for, and advocating on behalf of Christians facing persecution is the only appropriate response to the evil of religious oppression.

By / Jun 26

“I was traumatized. A nearby pastor paid for me to get out of town when he discovered that Boko Haram said they made a mistake by not also killing me. Boko Haram decided later that they should have killed me because I am the daughter of an apostate Muslim mother who converted to Christianity. So the pastor paid for me to get out of that region. I fled and Jubilee Campaign helped me come to a 9/11 child survivors of terrorism camp in America. On May 15, 2013, that pastor, Rev. Faye Pama, was killed by Boko Haram in front of his kids.”

As stories like this and reports of increased Christian persecution become more prevalent in the news and on social media, we as Christians in the West should be giving serious thought to how we understand and act upon the suffering of our brothers and sisters. How are we to think about these things? What can we possibly do to help those who are being murdered and imprisoned for their faith?

If your life is like mine, it’s rather conventional for a Christian in America. I work, I’m a wife and mother, and I serve the local church. With the exception of an occasional illness or three-day weekend, life goes on in an ordinary way. My life is quite removed from things like Boko Haram and North Korean prison camps. I live in the suburbs. So what can I do? What can we do to help those for whom these things are present realities?

There are several ways that we, as ‘ordinary’ Christians, can go about standing with our brethren, including donating to organizations like International Christian Concern that seek to help the persecuted and raise awareness of their plight. We can also write to officials in our own government who have the power to influence governments that house those who persecute Christians. Dr. Russell Moore recently took such action in writing to Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to denounce the treatment of Mariam Ibrahim by the government of South Sudan (who has since been released).

However, the strongest exhortation I can present to you is to devote yourself to prayer for the persecuted.

We so easily fall into the trap of praying as my children are wont to do, “Thank you Lord for our family and our house and the food on our table. Amen.” We are creatures given to navel-gazing, and we must must deliberately fight against this habit. It is important that we educate ourselves on the state of the global church and “remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body” (Heb. 13:3). I cannot say strongly enough that we ought to dedicate ourselves to purposeful, daily prayer for our brothers and sisters–that they would be bold for the gospel and courageous under threat of violence, that they would not revile those who revile them, and that through their love for their enemies and each other, the light of the world would shine and those who hate Christ would be drawn to him.    

One of the worst things we can do as followers of Jesus Christ is bury our heads in the sand and pretend that these things aren’t happening or believe that they are so distanced from us that we can have no impact upon the situation. It is our duty as Christians living in the West, fully armed with resources and information, to know what is going on beyond our own borders and act upon it.

It’s not my intention to say this as a guilt trip. Instead, what I want for Christ’s Bride is something that we will only fully grasp in eternity. It is my joy to think of one day gathering around the Throne of God to hear the stories of those who were martyred and imprisoned and to know, finally, how the Lord heard my prayers for their endurance and courage and made it so. I hope to look upon the face of Christ and hear, “I was in prison, and you came to me. Well done, good and faithful servant.”