Thanks largely to the efforts of Michael Horowitz, a Jew (see CT, March 1, 1999, p. 50), the 1990s will likely be remembered as the era when evangelicals became aware of the persecution of our Christian brothers and sisters in Sudan, China, and elsewhere.
This new sensitivity led to the establishment in 1998 of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The commission is charged with advising the President and Congress on how to promote religious freedom and to combat religious persecution around the world. Evangelical Robert Seiple, former head of World Vision, now serves as the U.S.'s first Ambassador for International Freedom and is an ex-officio member of this interfaith commission chaired by Rabbi David Saperstein. About 300,000 churches internationally (100,000 in the U.S.) now observe the annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (observed this year on November 14).
In the formative stage of this movement, some questioned whether Christians should be concerned only about the persecution of other Christians. Or should we also take up the cause of peoples of all faiths (Tibetan Buddhists were the prominently discussed example) who suffer because their convictions and practices are at odds with their "host" culture? During the recent Kosovo crisis, the question surfaced again, as the "Christian" West came to the defense of people who are at least nominally Muslim. Why didn't Christians look after their own kind, namely the Serbian (Orthodox) Christians, some asked. Wouldn't Jews look after other Jews, or Muslims defend fellow Muslims?
We think that it is a distinctive mark of Christian faith to come to the aid of people who are markedly different from ourselves—including suffering and ...1