"We feel forgotten and isolated … we sometimes wonder, if they kill us all, what would be the reaction of Christians in the West? Would they do something then?"
– Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako, Chaldean Catholic Church, December 14, 2013
As I’ve read and reread Patriarch Sako's pain-filled words, I’ve found myself reflecting how an entire people can feel forgotten and isolated. In today’s globally connected age, this should never be, especially in the household of Christian faith.
In an effort to make sure victims of persecution are heard and remembered, The St. Charles Institute is announcing the launch of “The Voices Project.” Through a series of interviews, articles, and country profiles, “The Voices Project” will provide a platform through which we can listen to the voices of the persecuted, and gain insight into the challenges they face. Through this project, rather than seeking to BE the voice of the voiceless, we will seek out ways for you to hear THEIR voices.
Our desire to provide a platform through which to hear the voice of the persecuted stems from the biblical view of mankind. Every person is made in the image of God. In addition to being image-bearers, we are also people of conscience. The conscience is a gift from the Divine enabling people to “seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:27).
Therefore, religious freedom is more than just a human right—it is what makes us rightly human.
Yet, perhaps more than at any other time in human history, the search for God and the right to worship Him freely according to the leading of one’s conscience is being denied to millions. There are some causes and reasons for this denial:
- Governing authorities abuse their power and squash those with dissenting beliefs;
- Secularist ideas have been applied to society in extreme ways, leading to restrictions and isolation of people of faith, and exclusion from the broader social discourse;
- Religious extremists persecute people of different faiths, often violently and without repercussion.
“The Voices Project” is rooted in one of life’s greatest standards— it is usually better to listen first, then speak. Through this project, the persecuted, the suffering, and those serving them will extend an invitation to us to listen and learn. Some of what you will discover will challenge you. It is our hope, as we listen and learn, we will find ourselves better equipped to answer their cries for help and join in the sufferings of our Christian family as well as other religious minorities.
Midway through the Book of Acts, Paul the Apostle had a life-changing, course-altering vision which would forever change the way he and, subsequently, the historic Church would come to fully understand and pursue the work of the Gospel. Acts 16:9 retells the moment:
"A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."
Paul heard the urgent plea for help from this man from Macedonia. He was so moved that he answered this call with the message of the Gospel.
Today, throughout persecuted regions of the globe, the voices of Christians and other religious minorities call out, “Come over and help us!”
Will we hear their plea? Will we answer their call?
Or, will we leave them forgotten?
October 12, 2016