On nights like this one, when I find myself enveloped in alien darkness in an alien hotel room in a faraway land, I hear crying that the silence carries. The faces of all the people I know who are suffering in this country float before me in the stuffy air. As I try to make sense of the day, I flip through graphic pictures of kidnapped and tortured monks from a desert monastery I visited this morning.
As a human-rights advocate and researcher, I travel to people who are persecuted for their religion or ethnicity. I love traveling to distant lands, but I also dread the visits—there is a significant difference between going as a tourist and going as a researcher. I feel drained, as I do every time I come here.
I have often found myself believing we are each alone. That's why I knock on all the doors of politicians, diplomats, and international bodies when I find out others are in danger because of their beliefs.
I still vividly remember the look on a church leader's face in Tehran as he told me, "I know that I am completely alone. Anyone can attack or arrest me. Anything can happen, and nobody will run to help me."
I know that feeling all too well.
When I received news in August 2008 that two Muslim-background Christians in Iran faced the death penalty for apostasy, I closed my eyes and thought of all the great people I knew in that land. Alongside another Christian in prison, I looked at the pictures of the men awaiting their verdict, to make sure I didn't lose sight of what I was doing and what was at stake.
As I set out to raise their cases, I also spoke for Baha'is in Iran, who have suffered much more than Christians have since the 1979 revolution. All seven leaders of the Baha'i ...