This is not my normal post and not something I want to watch, but if you do not know, please watch this video and pray for our brothers and sisters in Shanghai, all over China and in all parts of the world where power is abused.
Please pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for all men and women to know the love and laws of God and thus to know peace and joy.
This morning, I wrote a post about the danger in the Western World to the right to free-speech.
I wrote it acutely aware of the a very real and actual present danger of severe persecution, discrimination and threat to human-life for some 360 million Christians throughout the world. Add to that the number of severely persecuted Muslims in China and other places and, in other countries, countless minority religions deemed unacceptable to the state.
I also wrote it reflecting on the path that authoritarian governments tend to slide along. Firstly, restrictions are made on those issues about which a majority of people perhaps even agree and about which people are offended, or about which they have no opinion – perhaps the freedom to express certain opinions, or to live a certain way of life, perhaps being politically correct, or the removal of privacy laws? But little by little, power is taken and freedoms are eroded in a way which we no longer support, but about which we perhaps no longer have control.
This authoritarian power has caused great persecution and suffering to enormous amounts of minority religious and cultural groups throughout the world. This has been made much easier by the technology now available.
Last Thursday, 19th January 2022, in the UK Parliament, 96 MPs gathered for the launch of Open Doors’ World Watchlist 2022, where those places are highlighted, in which freedom of religion is most dangerously threatened and forbidden.
I had been awaiting this launch and had joined the campaign to encourage local MPs to attend the launch. Where there is awareness, there will be compassion and a possibility for positive action and sensitive intervention.
That evening after the launch, there was an online gathering – a prayer webinar – for anyone to attend to pray through all the issues involved. I include a link to the webinar and encourage you to check out the many great resources and information produced by Open Doors.
For a great many years, North Korea was at the top of that World Watchlist, but although the situation in North Korea has continued to worsen, the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has made Afghanistan now the most difficult place to be a Christian. Indeed it is reported that the Taliban have a list of names of all Christians in the country and are systematically seeking them out and executing or imprisoning them. Many who can, have fled, but some brave souls have decided to stay and encourage the church, in face of their persecutors. I cannot imagine how terrifying this must be.
I also read a story of a lady in North Korea who was sent into exile – into a life-time of forced labour – for owning a Bible. This lady successfully attempted the dangerous crossing into China, where she was encouraged and built up by secret believers in China. She then chose to return to her exile in North Korea in order to strengthen her secret church. Such courage makes me weep with joy at such faith and with repentance for my own weak resolve facing my relatively petty concerns and injustices!
These are our fellow brothers and sisters, our family in the church.
As Christians, we follow our Lord, whose path took Him to the cross. We know that being willing to suffer for our faith is part of the job description! He did it ‘for the joy set before Him’ and we know that the Peace, Love, Joy and Hope He gives is more than enough. But we live in a ‘civilised’ age, an age of ‘human rights’ and protection laws, so I ask you to help wherever you can to stand up and be counted against the erosion of these rights and fight for freedom in the way you respect the rights of those who differ from you.
I ask you to pray for the whole church and to support in any way those who are suffering at this time. If one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.
As a Christian, my understanding is that God created us with the gift of Free-Will. Some of us may question the wisdom of this from time to time, as most of us have made choices that we regret, but freedom was so important to God, that in His great love, He required that our love was also freely given. This gift He gave at great personal cost to Himself and great sacrifice. He gave Himself for this Freedom.
The consensus of democracy and good government has always been the exercise of this freedom – especially held dear in the Western World. Freedom to agree or disagree; freedom to hold one’s own beliefs; freedom to express those beliefs; freedom to practice one’s own religion; freedom to protest and demonstrate.
Of course one must not break the law of the land in the exercise of these freedoms. Though this is where the ground can become a shifting foundation. There are necessary laws against violence, hatred, discrimination, inciting hatred and other crimes against a person or a group of people. The key to safeguarding the fundamental human right to free-speech is in the interpretation of the charge of ‘inciting hatred’, or ‘hate-speech’. As a Christian the over-riding rule is always the law of love and mercy.
Today, Finnish Member of Parliament Päivi Räsänen will face a criminal trial because she tweeted a Bible verse about marriage and sexuality in a 2019 tweet, on a radio-show and in a 17 year old church pamphlet. The Bishop who published her pamphlet also faces trial.
According to an article by ADF, Räsänen is officially being prosecuted for the crime of ‘ethnic agitation’, under the section of ‘war crimes and crimes against humanity’ in the Finnish criminal code. A total of three criminal charges of ‘hate speech’ were brought against Räsänen in April 2021 by Finland’s Prosecutor General.
This is the government threatening prison and punishment for beliefs held by a large group of people. She could now be sentenced to two years in prison.
Does this disregard the fundamental right to freedom of speech?
Of course some people might be offended by Räsänen’s views and some may disagree with her choice of words. But is it about whether you agree or disagree with Räsänen’s statements? There are a great many viewpoints, opinions and beliefs held and expressed in the media, in literature and in human discourse that I find quite repulsive, offensive or some other negative reaction. But I vehemently defend the right of people to have and express those views in a free-society!
Is it not important that we have each a right to have our own opinions and to express them. If minority view points are offensive and punished, where are the safeguards against complete censorship and totalitarian control by powerful leadership?
Could any of us be confident that every sentence we have ever written, or recorded, was inoffensive to somebody? Is this censorship, or cancel-culture, something to be concerned about? Should we be silent or ‘politically correct’ for fear our truth may offend somebody, somewhere? Am I allowed to disagree with the government, or with popular opinion?
I include a short – 6 minute – explanation of the main points of the right to Freedom of Speech, made clearly by ADF, who say it more succinctly than I can.
This morning I was reading some Open Doors updates about Libya focussing on freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I could have been reading about any of the similar countries in North, East and West Africa, in China, India, Middle East… Please allow me to ramble through some thoughts about freedom and control.
The violence and persecution, removing the freedom of others, towards this group or that, because of how they look, or what they believe, or how they speak, is to me very scary. But I felt compelled to look at it. I always do. I wonder what I would do if I was part of a persecuted minority and if I would stand strong, or hide? And now there is a subtler threat with technology enabling also such close surveillance of people… where can they hide?
One reads about a similar level of control in much dystopian literature as well, and this is a safer place to consider the consequences and possible outcomes to such levels of intolerance and control. I seem to be drawn to these too. I always ask myself how I would respond – in either camp? Of course 1984 springs to mind, so much so that I have recently read it again, due to what I consider to be a level of control here in the UK and all over the Western World, that shadows the horrors I see in China and amongst persecuted minorities all over the world. The Elabi Chronicles, more recently written by Maressa Mortimer, also echoes these themes in a superbly crafted way.
Maybe it is because my father was so strict and controlling as I grew up, but to the adult me, freedom of expression has always been crucial to fullness of life. I do not want you to tell me how to dress, how to think, what to say or what to believe! Nor do I want you tell me what I can no longer say, read, or believe. I noticed a change first in the 90s, when I went to work in a particular London Borough and was told I should not speak of ‘black’ or ‘white’ coffee, and that the ‘black-board’ now had to be a ‘chalk-board’! Being ‘politically correct’ took on some amusing contortions, turning a serious situation into a rule-book lacking all common-sense. This has ‘progressed’ among various themes and issues, and now we speak of ‘cancel culture’ as well.
Please don’t think I am condoning ‘hate-speech’ or belittling the cruel words and discriminatory practices, through ways of thinking that incorporate so many ‘isms. There is never a place for bullying, discrimination, intimidation or cruelty of any kind. Never. But I defend your right to speak.
But back to the more violent persecutions in other lands, many of the perpetrators of this appear to be ‘extremist’ groups with religious, or political ideologies. And I think the same is true here and everywhere, at all levels. We all have our ideologies and we think we are extremely right.
At one level I understand the expectation: You come to my country so you abide by my laws, you learn my language and you behave and dress in a way I can accept. You conform. You are polite. If you don’t want to, you can go elsewhere or stay in your own country. You come to my house, you behave appropriately, you show respect and you abide by my rules too. You may not smoke in my bedroom. But although I may expect you to behave with respect, I do not expect you to agree with me on every matter I speak of, or even to agree with my rules and conduct. I do not expect you to behave like this in your own space and I certainly do not expect you to believe what I do, or love what I do, or want what I want. Why should I? I guess that is my question. You may face the consequences for breaking my laws of behaviour, but why would I want you to think like I do?
I am the product of one particular environment, era, country, set of experiences, personality and education, as each of us are. I do struggle with authority. I accept the need for it and God is my ultimate authority, but I do struggle to accept many of the rules…
I realise today that I have already written at least one post on this subject, and no doubt it won’t be the last, as it is a huge, complex, muddy minefield and something I grapple with frequently. As I say, I struggle with it emotionally and intellectually as well as spiritually. With freedom comes responsibility and choice. If I’m employed to do a certain job, I do not have freedom to do something completely different. Freedom should not mean anarchy or rebellion under normal circumstances… but what does that mean? How much control should people tolerate from leaders and ‘authorities’, whether they be in church, government, society or family? Rules in society have consequences. This happens in our ‘socialisation’ from birth, through school and in our societies – if we conform, we are rewarded and praised, and if we choose to not conform, we are punished. If our child obeys and seems to be trusted to do as they are told and make good choices, then we reward them with greater freedom and increased responsibility. If she does not obey, we withhold our smiles, rewards and pleasure, we chastise and seek to ‘re-educate’ the child and we may exclude them from something, take away their freedom, until they learn to conform. This is the way it is. In the areas where we do have some freedom to choose, as I say, there is responsibility and the possibility of making ‘wrong’, or unconventional choices. I struggle with choices and decisions and so I welcome advice, guidance, encouragement and direction… usually. I am also contrary and stubborn, some might say rebellious, because if I strongly disagree, I refuse to conform. Rules change though. What was right yesterday is sometimes wrong tomorrow, and vise-versa… so the question is, Who is the authority? Says whom? And if you say Peter has the authority and I say it’s Jane, and they both have opposing laws, whom do I follow? I do understand Pontius Pilate who, when questioning Jesus, disdainfully asked, “What is truth?” It is complex. What is freedom? What is free-will? What is liberty? These are not black and white concepts and require complex discussion. In my simple view, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I believe it with all my heart and in my life it proves itself to be true. But I cannot prove it to you. You have to to taste and see; you have to make up your own mind. I defend your right to disagree with me and to tell me what you believe and to uphold completely different views and opinions; you have the freedom to choose… I also believe that if you seek the truth with your whole heart, you will find it, and if you follow that truth, you will know freedom. You may disagree.
I had to look closely at myself… Like all of us, I want to be right, do right and not to do ‘wrong’. What is independence and what is community and family loyalty? I have some guidelines in me as to what is right and wrong and I have often failed, even within the confines of my own rules and laws. I often do not do what I believe I ought to do.
But what of others, whom I know only by their behaviour and not by their intention? Do I expect them to speak and behave like me? Do I want my friends to think like me? Will I associate with you if your political views oppose mine? What about your cultural, economic or social views? What about your religious views? Do I feel comfortable around all types of people? Would I invite anybody at all into my home? Will I break the law of my own land? What if the law of the land contravenes God’s law? What if the law says I cannot read my Bible, or tells me to kill a person… Would I? What if the law tells you that you can no longer do what you believe to be right? Would you? Would I prefer you to share my faith and passions for things I think are important? Would I welcome you, love you, pray for you and with you, whoever you are?
I answered many of these questions, some rather uncomfortably. I want to be honest with myself.
I pray for greater love and increased tolerance in my heart towards everything that I do not understand and even more so for that which I understand only too well.
It won’t come as a surprise to anybody that there is a great deal of injustice in the world. But I am frequently surprised at the extent of it and its insidious, all-pervasive nature. For example, I learned today that, according to United Nations statistics, over the last year, 9 million adolescent girls experienced forced sexual abuse1. That is 9 million girls whose names we don’t know – but what of all those who were too scared or too ashamed to tell? Throughout history, in different shapes and colours, in every corner and under every canopy around the globe, we hear of atrocities perpetrated against other human beings in the name of some exclusive cause or another and we are outraged and shrug; but the abuse and atrocities that occur within our own communities, our work-places, even our churches and our own families, these are the ones we somehow are ignorant of, or choose to remain silent about. Often we don’t really know what is happening. We don’t really want to know, because we don’t like violence, fear, abuse and obscenity and we don’t want to think about it or upset anybody. Also we are scared of the obligation to act if we do acknowledge an injustice and we don’t know what we can do. “We don’t want to get involved.”
Over this past year or so, better late than never, society took note and showed outrage at examples of such injustices. The murders of George Floyd and Sarah Everard were two named representations of the wider, collective experience for millions of women and millions of black people. These two have names that we have taken notice of.
There is so much abuse, discrimination and injustice in our ‘civilised’ society, but in this short article I just want to focus briefly on just some aspect of the domestic abuse. More uncomfortable statistics tell us that EVERY DAY 137 women are KILLED by male family members – husbands, fathers, brothers; but again, these are only those who dared to tell. When it happens in my house, I don’t report it because I am ashamed of my weakness and afraid of repercussions if I should tell. And I don’t tell because you keep telling me its my own fault, I brought it on myself; I’m not good enough and got what I deserved and if I tell, I’ll get what I do deserve. I am wrong and if I tell, nobody will believe me and they will also know how bad I am. We don’t tell, can’t tell; we can’t bring shame on family, can’t bring shame on the company, shame on the church, shame on the government… Can we? 1 in 4 women will be subject to domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime. Are you shocked?
Man, I’m sure you are not one of these abusers, but that woman could be your daughter, your wife, your mother? If so, what can we do for her now? Can we make sure that our churches, our homes and our communities are safe places and a refuge for those abused, lonely and scared for their lives? Are we prepared to help?
Woman, if it happened to you, I’m so sorry! And I understand the pain. Tell your story – first tell yourself and then tell somebody you trust. When we find our authentic voice we can speak up and others can listen, comfort and support; and maybe we can educate others, engage in dialogue and pave the way for others to speak out and make the issues visible, because we are not alone.
There are no simple solutions, but we can listen to one another’s experiences (and those that shock us) and we can listen with love and offer support where possible. We hope that an abused person can escape their abuser, but this is often impossible. Domestic abuse and work-place abuse, bullying, racism, sexism, all other ‘isms’ – these are areas that our churches and schools and councils could speak out against. If you want to find out what the church can to to speak into and change culture and you want to join a conversation addressing violence against women, go to eauk.org/bekahlegg
Do what you can, not what you can’t. If we don’t like the litter we can pick it up and teach our children not to drop it. If we see a danger, or issue, or injustice we can do our homework and research solutions to a problem, we can report it, or solve it, or ask for help. We can engage the media, sign petitions, write a letter, join a campaign, we can pray for victims and bullies, even for our enemies, and we can tell our story, tell another’s story, shout about it from the pulpits. Whilst you have a voice, use it for good – to speak out, to comfort, to encourage, to pray, to raise awareness… We can create a culture, create a church and a community that is safe and inclusive and that does not tolerate injustice, but does give second chances, does forgive and does reflect our God of love and mercy. Speak up about injustice happening to you and around you, tell a friend and start a small support team, pray about it and use whatever is in your hand to be an advocate, a voice and a safe refuge and support for someone who needs you.
I’m reminded of an oft-quoted gut-puncher, by Martin Niemoeller2, speaking of the cowardice of silence and of personal responsibility:
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
There are only a few subjects in life that get me a little hot-under-the-collar and I’m grappling with one of these today.
A couple of issues have come to my attention nationally, as well as internationally, that reflect one of these subjects; and the argument I am grappling with has gone around several rabbit warrens this morning and each time it has comes out in a different shape. So I will put it to paper and see what happens.
The issue is of human rights, namely the right to freedom of thought/speech/religion.
I consider freedom of speech a basic fundamental freedom and human right.
Most people, Constitutions, jurisdictions and Courts of Human rights in the world would, in theory, agree.
Societies need laws to protect people from danger and harm and they need consequences to uphold or enforce those laws.
These laws need to equally protect all persons, regardless of gender, class, nationality, religious beliefs, age, education, wealth, status, or any other classification or potential difference.
Freedom of speech, thought and freedom of belief/religion has to apply to all persons in a society, in accordance with common-sense understanding of legal human rights.
But if what I believe, think, read and say is restricted and controlled, what is the nature of the society that results from that? And who is the authority that decides what is acceptable truth or wisdom that the rest of us must all adhere to? The logical progression of such control is a dictatorship and lack of liberty, lack of creativity, expression or growth, amongst many other unbearable consequences.
That said, we do not need to pull all meaning and common sense out of this basic tenet of freedom of speech.
Do I believe that any person should be allowed to say whatever they want, whenever, wherever and to whom they personally desire? Should I be allowed to speak hate, lies and incite hatred or violence?
– Of course not. And there are laws protecting all people from such violations.
Do I believe that all things are true and there is no absolute truth and any interpretation is equal?
– No, but I believe that all persons grapple with interpretation of the truth, and their opinion of it, and that human-beings, regardless of their own opinions, are called to prioritise tolerance, love, peace and a commitment to grow in understanding and integrity.
It is my belief that God made us in His image and gave us free-will; and that “the truth will set you free”.
The sun still shines even when you can’t it.
The truth remains true whether it is believed or not.
With most issues in life, truth is complex and based on a subjective interpretation of life.
What is true to me, may not be your truth and vise-versa.
The important thing is that we learn to listen to one another’s truth, without criticism and without condemnation; that we seek understanding, peace, dialogue and to desire good will and blessings upon every human being, no matter how their views differ from mine.
We do not have to agree with each other, but we need to listen and be honest and tolerate and accept one another as human beings, all beloved children of God.
If you would like to read the petitionary letter to the UK Prime Minister and the issues that ADF are advocating, please check out the link below and see the video highlighting Julia’s experience in Nottingham University.
I’m afraid I do need to lament again, and I say that deliberately. I am afraid. I am scared of some of the things that I see and hear and sense and feel. And I feel powerless and small and completely lacking in wisdom and knowledge of the truth. I believe that You are bigger than all of it and I pray to be close to Your heart, Lord, but then I ask You to be gentle with me, because my own heart is already overwhelmed with the weight of sorrow in the world. I deliberately don’t have a TV or newspapers, because there is enough suffering, need, and work to do around me, and I can only carry a limited amount. I sob enough as it is. You know this Lord, but as I sit with You I am overcome with grief – grief at the weight of suffering and despair all around the world. Grief at the sin, the greed, the hatred, the lies, the deceit, the abuse of power, the violence and the lack of knowledge of You. And I know I should not fear – Your word tells me every day of the year – 365 times You wrote “Do not fear”, and I know that You don’t give us a spirit of fear, or of timidity, or of confusion, and yet I do feel all of those things as I drop to my knees… and I repent of my fear and confusion, for fear is sin and lack of faith, but that is why I need to lament – because it is really there in me; You and I both know of it, so it needs to come out. And so I will do as You instruct and I will “pour out my heart like water in the presence of the Lord”. (Lamentations 2:19)
There is such a strong sense that Your people, who are called by Your name, need to humble themselves and pray… for then You will hear from heaven, You will forgive our sin and You will heal our land – this world. Amen. (2 Chronicles 7:14) Your word never returns to You void, but accomplishes all You intend. All through Scripture, since Adam and Eve, You have been calling Your people to return to You – for we are so stupid, so fickle, so stiff-necked and arrogant! Lord, have mercy on us. We are all calling upon You now.
There are two themes running through my lament, but those two themes have come together – first I was lamenting about this whole virus pandemic and the unprecedented way that Governments world-wide have sought to control their populations with the “excuse” or “strategy” of trying to control the virus and prevent deaths. And maybe they genuinely are! And I use inverted commas, because unfortunately I don’t have a great deal of faith in our powers that be, to say the least. I am a bit of a sceptic, you might say. The evidence that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” is rather evident from my perspective on the world. But I don’t just want to slag off the rich and powerful – this is not a political lament, Lord, it is a spiritual lament; for we are in a spiritual battle, I think, and it is not powers of flesh and blood that I lament – though it does present itself in such forms… I’m way out of my depth here, Lord, but it worries me. I was reading all the alternative view on this new virus control – the so-called “conspiracy theories” and they truly are very compelling – not least because so many of them posted on YouTube or Facebook suddenly “disappear” without warning, or are “taken down”… And I become very suspicious when views are silenced and people and ideas disappear. And this ties me back in to my earlier lament about the atrocities in China and the fact that nothing seems to be being done about it – not even much said about it. I hear constantly from Open Doors and Barnabas Fund about the persecution of entire cultures and communities of people, because of their religion or ethnicity – and I know this isn’t new and is widespread; I know it happens all over the world – in Burkina Faso, in other African countries, in India, Middle East, far East and even in the West, though much more subtly of course. Vast numbers of people are simply wiped out, displaced; genocide, refugees everywhere… we are aware of it and we sympathise and want them to be settled – we just don’t want them in our tidy neighbourhood! But yes, I have a heart for China and India, because I was there for 3 weeks in each, and I met and loved people, and I tried to learn and speak the language – and I have loved-ones who lived in and loved these places… so they are close to my heart and I pray for them and look out for them… And I watched countless videos about the plight of the Uighurs, the secret concentration camps and the orphanages for the children of the incarcerated Uighurs; about the indoctrination of the Han Chinese, who do seem to believe that such people are “being re-educated for their own good”… of the new ‘points’ system, whereby each Chinese citizen is monitored and surveilled; and what a person buys, where they go, what they watch, what they say, who they say it to, how they behave…. It is all monitored and they get points added and deducted, and they lose points for buying alcohol, or watching or doing something deemed “illegal” – and a loss of points can mean that they are denied a train ticket, that travel and other spending, or activities, is restricted or denied and then they may be arrested and taken away for questioning… I find it so scary! It seems like 1984, but with modern technology and even fewer places to hide! Maybe I read Orwell at too impressionable an age, but Orwell had no idea where technology would be able to reach. I have had discussions about why I don’t want a cashless society, why I don’t want a smart-phone, why I don’t want to get rid of all my CDs and DVDs and rely just on one piece of technology! I know that makes me seem like a dinosaur, a technophobe, an old-fashioned antique – but it’s more than that – I am concerned! If the electricity supply was cut off, or our computer systems hacked, or they got a virus, we would all be lost in a world we know longer knew how to navigate! And I know people laugh at me, that’s okay. I still fear it happening. I’m sure Noah, Moses, Abraham and a few of the greats (with whom I do not compare in the slightest, of course) were ridiculed and mocked – “You’re building a boat? Here in the desert?” And maybe they had moments of doubt? The thing is that hindsight is the greatest of teachers, and so it still takes a great step on faith to get out of the boat! (Excuse me for mixing metaphors) So, I also fear the level of surveillance I feel, if I send an email to HMRC or buy something on Ebay, the same item or information pops up as an advert on my Facebook site! I find that disconcerting to say the least! I recently re-read 1984, because of all that I could see happening and was amazed that people actually choose to buy a device that hears everything they say and will respond if you say, “Alexa, do this”… It makes me want to throw away even my laptop – but they have us by the short and curlies, cos we have to do some things online now – it is almost impossible not to have online utilities and banking… – and then COVID happened!!! And we were told to stay indoors for 3 weeks… Three weeks, I exclaimed, incredulous! Of course it’s all for our own good… and we don’t want to be responsible for killing Grandma, do we? But we’ll pay (most of, but we’ll give the real details later) your wages, they said – furlough, they call it; you won’t lose your home or your job… in fact see it as a holiday at home. We’ll let you do your shopping for essentials – but, even better, do it ONLINE!!! Help one another, look after each other, but keep your distance – 2 metres – no hugging, cover your mouth, muffle your voice, be afraid of your neighbour – they may have the dreaded virus! We are doing it for your own good; we’re all in this together… and 3 weeks became 3 months, became 6 months… new restrictions, bubbles, all sorts of hoops to jump through to keep safe, protect others, control the virus, control the people… can’t go to school, can’t go to church, can’t sing and worship… do it all online! Yay! Wonderful zoom – allows us to have everything monitored and drives us just that bit further apart… we forget people, we get used to zoom and restrictions, we become afraid of one another, visitors are not allowed in our homes, no hugging, no laughing or singing… cancel the holidays and the parties and the celebrations, cancel the gatherings and the meetings and the fellowship, cancel the weddings and funerals and sense of occasion – get as many online as possible and get them to the point when they are desperate for a vaccine. And wait a bit longer and then we have them eating out of the palm of our hands! But what about the sceptics who refuse a vaccine? There are always a few that fall through the net and won’t be indoctrinated, that never trust authorities… these “conspiracy theorists” – well, we just won’t let them have their freedom back – if they won’t be vaccinated, we’ll say they are a danger and a menace – we will blacklist them and refuse them to travel and such – we will curtail their liberty (it works in China) – for the good of the majority of course – and the majority will believe us, they will malign those rebels and exclude them themselves – people will be so grateful to have their “freedom” back that they will police our plans themselves…
Lord, this is my lament, my fears and my confusion and the garbled thoughts on my heart. And in prayer I went to read Revelations, where You inspired John to write about end times stuff, and there I read (Rev 13: 16) “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no-one could buy or sell unless he had this mark…” Is this what it is? The biometrics tags they propose and the vaccine we may be forced to have… that will be used to ‘track and trace’ us? In Revelations, this beast that forced the mark, “was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast – all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.” (Rev 13: 7-8) So I don’t know who or what to believe in the world or the news. It goes on to say (in Rev 13) “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints” (verse 10) and later – “This calls for wisdom.” (verse 18) I believe that You do know, Lord. I believe that you have conquered sin and death. I believe You are on the throne, that You are the King of Kings and The Lord of Lords. You are there from the beginning right through to the end and You know every step along the way. You are here with me now. And I believe that You want Your children to repent and turn to You with all our hearts, and You ask us to be strong in faith and to trust You and obey You. And please God that I will. Please God that I will not be pulled this way or that away from Your will and that I will resist evil and always know how and where to do good. I pray that You will have Your way over us, protect Your people, draw more people into Your Kingdom through the very strategies of confusion that were meant for evil. I thank You that Your church is growing daily in all the places where there is persecution… I pray for grace and mercy for those who suffer and for those of us who may yet have to suffer, for Your glory. Strengthen Your people in Your Power and Your Truth, Holy Father. Amen.
If you read this to the end and think I’ve gone cuckoo, please comment that you are praying for me, and please do so. I may add that I wear a mask in public places and abide by all of the rules and restrictions that the Government has imposed on us to’ keep one another safe’. I’m simply being honest about what is going on in my mind as I pray for our leaders and our world. Blessings.
If there is an unwritten code that forbids bloggers to be political, I have to warn readers that these thoughts could be seen as political. If outrage against human rights’ abuse and social injustice is political, then my ramblings do take a political flavour to be sure. Is it wrong to want to be a voice for the voiceless? Forgive me, but my heart will not rest until I say something…
In 2015 I was lucky enough to go to China for 3 weeks as my son was studying in Beijing. I loved being in China. Two years later I was blessed with a trip to India for another 3 week, wonderful adventure. Before 2015 I had never been out of Europe. Consequently I now have a bit of my heart and ear to the ground in both of these two countries and I take an interest in them.
I have been praying this morning into the terrible atrocities that are happening in China… We are aware of the atrocities and persecution – I read regularly, online and in publications, about the atrocious treatment of the Uighurs and the systematic persecution of Christians… of concentration camps/rehabilitation centres/torture prisons, correction centres – whatever we may wish to call them – where (especially) the Uighurs (over a million) are “detained” indefinitely, to ostensibly try to “re-educate” them (a euphemism for torture?) until they are what? No longer Uighurs? No longer Muslims? No longer themselves? Dead? And meanwhile the officials put the Uighur children (now potentially, and to all intents, “orphans”) – in beautiful new children’s centres, all purpose built, brightly coloured, re-education camps/orphanages to train them to be like good, communist, han-Chinese citizens.
And I see stories of Christian bookshop managers who have “gone missing”, pastors jailed for “illegal activities” and books confiscated; books and bibles burned; crosses pulled down from churches – (now made a law that they must come down. Crosses may be attached to the side of the building in a stone/brick colour only) Some whole church building have been torn down, closed down… church meetings are videoed and scrutinised by ‘Big Brother’ and video-call meetings are hacked and disrupted. Surveillance is rife and easy on smart phones, which are required by all and monitored. Chinese Christians also “disappear” and those that re-appear often have to “confess” their illegal crimes. (Crimes of being a Christian).
It makes me so riled, heart-broken and feel so helpless. Always the minorities bullied and down-trodden, I think, but then it dawned on me – minority? There are between 1.3 and 1.6 billion Chinese – that’s a fifth of the world’s population. There are about 11 million Uighurs in China! The Uighurs are a minority within China, and so are Christians, but estimates of the number of Christians range from the extremely conservative official number of about 16 million to anything toppling 100 million. This is huge! Chances are that there are more Chinese Christians than there are Britons! But they are still being severely persecuted – at the very least they are being closely monitored, intimidated and their freedoms severely limited and controlled. The Chinese state is afraid of Christianity and its power and growth.
But what do we do about it in the West? What can we do? What should we do? I don’t know the answer to these questions. My heart is to be a voice for the voiceless…
I asked myself that question this morning and have done a little research… I have copied and pasted a whole load of reports and photos and evidence of all these terrible violations of human rights. (I was going to quote some of the reports, but there is so much, and it us there for anyone to read…) And I see that people are speaking out. Some have courageously demonstrated outside the Chinese Embassy and been seriously condemned for doing so (by the Chinese officials I hasten to add. In the UK, we are so far still allowed to protest peacefully…) And I see the US has kicked off about it – even exchanging threats between US and Beijing… People are reporting it, people know… What are we afraid of? I guess it is a very real fear. The cold war is in living memory of many of us, and of course we all want reconciliation and we want peace. China is huge! And it has power!
But at what point do we speak out against human-rights violations in our world? When do we speak up for those who are silenced? Or do we wait until injustice happens to me and mine? Until my freedoms are eroded slowly… I honestly don’t know the answers. I feel moved to do something, say something, because doing nothing and saying nothing makes me feel complicit and cowardly…
I don’t know what to do about this or any of the terrible world situations – in China, India, Nigeria, North Korea, Yemen, and so many places in the world (about which Open Doors is one of many sources of accurate updates) – and even the injustices on our own doorstep – the down-trodden, the homeless, those discriminated against because of their race, religion, gender or social status.
We can pray for these persecuted minorities and the Governments that tolerate or endorse the persecution… – Jesus tells us to pray for our persecutors and for the authorities, but He also tells us to defend the orphan and the widow! How do we do that? How can we examine our own lives – to see if we can sign petitions, speak out and fight for justice for those that cross our path, like the Good Samaritan. Maybe we can do more, and can storm and question the powers that be? I don’t know. I’m not telling anybody what to do. I’m expressing my discomfort and seeking wisdom from heaven, first and foremost, and requesting the prayers of those who want to intercede for those who suffer.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters around the world. xx