As Global Persecution Intensifies Survivors and Advocates Seek Solutions: 'I'm Shocked the World Is Just Sitting by Watching'
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WASHINGTON – Across the globe, persecution against Christians and other people of faith is growing. In fact, 80 percent of people live in countries where religious activity is restricted by their governments.
Religious minorities are often blamed for the pandemic. Sexual violence has been increasingly used as a tool to get women to convert, and so-called "polite persecution" puts limits on how religious people live their faith.
This week people from around the world representing 30 different faith traditions gathered in Washington for the International Religious Freedom Summit aimed at finding solutions and growing the grassroots.
Survivors like Mariam Ibrahim told their stories.
"Persecution is very hard," she told CBN News in an interview.
Ibrahim made headlines when she refused to recant her Christian faith despite a death sentence in Sudan.
"It's a choice because we as Christians, we know our freedom is in Jesus," she explained with a smile.
Tursurnay Ziyawudun is a Uighur Muslim who managed to escape from a concentration camp in China. Her pain is palpable. She and other women were regularly raped, subjected to electric shock, and humiliated for the crime of their faith.
She's thankful to be free, but can't escape thoughts of her people continuing to suffer.
"Sometimes I think it would be better if I were back in the homeland with them even if it meant death. I'm so shocked that the world is just sitting by and watching. The Chinese government has absolutely no shame about this," she told CBN News through tears.
The type of surveillance the Chinese Communist regime uses against Uighurs is being exported. Now more than 80 countries are adopting it.
"That means that the government in those dystopian regimes, the bad actors can use that technology to monitor who is going to what church, saying what during the sermon," said Nury Turkel, an American-Uighur Muslim, who has experienced Chinese persecution first hand. Turkel is a current commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Despite growing awareness of global persecution sometimes not even genocide garners enough aid or attention.
Seven years after ISIS nearly wiped out Iraq's Yazidi community, much of their homeland remains uninhabitable.
"There's people dying of hunger and thirst and it's like - people offer sympathy but at the end of the day I was just exhausted, and my family and people were still suffering and dying of lack of medical aid and thirst and hunger," Adlay Kejjan, founder of Yazidi American Women Organization, told CBN News.
For the Hungarian government helping persecuted Christians is a moral obligation.
"Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world," explains Tristan Azbej, Hungarian State Secretary for the Aid of Persecuted Christians.
In the four years Azbej has managed the Hungary Helps Program, the nation has supported 250,000 persecuted Christians in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia; helped reconstruct 67 churches in Lebanon; and rebuilt the Christian town of Telskuf in Iraq after it was decimated by ISIS.
"900 buildings were damaged. The church there was used for target practice by the jihadis," Azbej told CBN News.
No matter their motivation, religious freedom advocates agree they receive much more than they give.
"They have a message to keep our identity, to keep our faith in Christ," Azbej explained.
Religious freedom is really a win for all people. Countries that practice tolerance enjoy greater stability and prosperity.
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