In season of warmth, a look at chilling, global war on Christianity

Pope Francis acknowledges it.

Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, confirms it.

Foreign leaders recognize it.

Human rights advocates, along with more than 80 members of Congress, insist that it is real.

But will the leader of the free world publicly admit it?

“It” refers to the genocide against Christians, Yazidis and other religious minorities in the Middle East.

Genocide involves the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.

In addition to outright murder, genocide includes preventing births within the group and forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Can you say “Boko Haram?”

Recently, Pope Francis said, “Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus.

“In this Third World war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom says, “What is happening to Christians in (the Middle East) is the religious equivalent of ethnic cleansing.”

However, words such as ethnic cleansing and genocide are radioactive to many politicians, because they imply that we have a moral and legal obligation to use whatever means necessary, including military force, to end the atrocities.

Some in the West are slow to acknowledge Christian persecution because they are in the habit of thinking of Christianity as rich, powerful and socially oppressive, and therefore cannot imagine that Christians in many parts of the world are themselves oppressed.

But facts are stubborn things.

From West Africa to Indonesia, from Eritrea to North Korea, Christians are routinely subjected to violence, imprisonment and death, for no other reason than believing in Jesus.

German Prime Minister Angela Merkel declared that Christianity is “the most persecuted religion worldwide.”

According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular organization based in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed against Christians.

Between 2006 and 2010, Christians faced some sort of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of all countries on earth, according to the Pew Forum.

The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts reports that over the past decade, an average of 100,000 Christians have been killed every year.

John Allen, associate editor of The Boston Globe, writes that the global persecution of churchgoers is the unreported catastrophe of our time.

According to Allen, it is “the greatest story never told of the early 21st century.”

When will the world pay attention?

One church leader in the Middle East put it this way: “Does anybody hear our cry? How many atrocities must we endure before somebody, somewhere, comes to our aid?”

Silence in the face of evil is evil itself.

Pray for our government to use financial and diplomatic pressure against offending countries.

Pray for direct humanitarian assistance by our government and condemnation of these crimes against humanity.

Pray for Christian martyrs to be faithful unto death, and pray for their persecutors to be forgiven and to better understand the faith which they seek to destroy.

The Rev. John Armstrong is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Columbus.