Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

Politics & Prose

Byron Borger


March 15, 2013

By Byron Borger

Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians 
Paul Marshall, Lela Gilbert, Nina Shea (Thomas Nelson; 2013) 

Forty years ago, when I first heard of Amnesty International, I was nauseated to learn of gruesome torture doled out by governments of the left and right. Human rights abuses seem to be no respecter of ideology. But Amnesty’s call to citizen action on behalf of others who had no voice was a clear, specific option for involvement and served as a viable on-ramp which many used to learn about political activism.  

Twenty years ago, I got involved in a decade-long campaign to help a group of Chinese asylum seekers fleeing the forced abortions and draconian one-child policy of communist China and found myself learning more than I wanted to know about global religious repression and international human rights violations. The byzantine process of changing government policy about what constitutes a human rights violation and who qualifies for asylum compelled us to document the horror stories of others who were terribly persecuted, usually for religious reasons. 

It was a tiny footnote, but part of our first-hand work with the Chinese detainees from the infamous Golden Venture ship ended up in Paul Marshall’s Their Blood Cries Out, a truly seminal work that put the face of the global persecution of Christians on the consciousness of many church folk, evangelicals especially. To know early on about Marshall’s human rights work and to see a small, small bit of how that book came to be, was a great, if sad, privilege.

In subsequent years, the broader evangelical community has become remarkably aware of global injustices and the prevalence of religious persecution, in part due to that now outdated work. Marshall (himself long an important friend of the Center for Public Justice who has done scholarly work on the philosophy of the legal language of rights and written a fine introduction to the notion of Christian perspectives on politics) has significantly contributed to our ongoing education, most recently with the stunningly important book Silenced: How Apostasy and Blasphemy Codes are Choking Freedom Worldwide (released last year by the prestigious Oxford University Press).

Indeed, the three center chapters of Persecuted are a helpful and up-to-the-moment summary of that project, explaining the spreading repression found in countries influenced by radical Islamic movements from South Asia to Saudi Arabia and Iran, from Northern Africa, Egypt and Iraq to Somalia and Nigeria.  

It can be noted that all three authors of Persecuted have been the best sort of activists, tirelessly traveling, researching, testifying at governmental hearings, publishing influential white papers and the like. Shea and Marshall work at this full time through the respected Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, where the gifted writer Lela Gilbert is herself an adjunct Fellow. That they have again combined their insight, passion and skillful writing talents to document the increasing threats to our Christian brothers and sisters all over the world is a true, if costly, gift.  It must have taken quite a toll to write, and I am sure they are marked in some quarters for their stances. This powerful new paperback is a thoroughly updated, expanded and re-written version of Their Blood Cries out, and it is a book that we should buy, share and promote. 

As Eric Metaxas writes in his perceptive and powerful introduction, “Persecuted steps in where the broader media has turned away. It focuses on a scandalously underreported fact, that Christians are the single most widely persecuted religious group in the world today.” 

This work offers more information, country by country, than most of us may need, but it will be hard to put down—it is riveting reading. The footnotes themselves provide a wealth of information. One can hardly imagine the amount of reputable—and often quite dramatic—research that went in to it. The narratives are gripping, the background information astute, and the proposals, if one can say so, are actually inspiring. They naturally invite us to more serious prayer and spiritual solidarity, but they also make specific policy recommendations about our own government’s role in diplomatic advocacy for international religious freedoms. The story that Persecuted tells is one that faithful citizens must know and advocates must tell. As the Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, OFM, Archbishop of Philadelphia, writes in an excellent afterword, “Ignorance of the world is a luxury we cannot afford. We must know our faith, know our world and its struggles—and then open our hearts, engage our minds, and lift our hands.”  

—Byron Borger runs Hearts & Minds Books. Capital Commentary readers can get a 20% discount on books listed here by ordering through Hearts & Minds.

“To respond to the author of this Commentary please email:
Capital Commentary is a weekly current-affairs publication of the Center for Public Justice. Published since 1996, it is written to encourage the pursuit of justice. Commentaries do not necessarily represent an official position of the Center for Public Justice but are intended to help advance discussion. Articles, with attribution, may be republished according to our publishing guidelines.”