warning to journalists

Being a voice for the suffering and persecuted Church is not as straight forward as some might think. For the space in which information exists and moves is crowded, corrupted and contested. Political, geo-political and economic interest, along with selfish ambition and crippling fear – all ensure that the space is packed with propaganda, false narratives, disinformation and misinformation, and that truth is routinely suppressed.

If I was liken that space to anything – I think I’d liken it to soup – very thick vegetable soup. And I’d liken Christian writers and publishers to diners who are allergic to everything in that soup except the carrot. We have to be able to recognise the carrot – find the carrot – stick to the carrot . . . knowing everything else is destined to cause problems.

Similarly, when dealing with information, we need to be able to recognise the truth – find the truth – and stick to the truth . . . knowing everything else is destined to cause problems, and possibly even hurt rather than help the suffering Church.

The need for a discerning mind

So as to avoid becoming an unwitting propagandist or Agents of Error, it is imperative that we construct within ourselves, a discerning mind. Think of that discerning mind as a laboratory, where information goes to be dissected, tested and analysed.

The foundation of a discerning mind is worldview. For as theologian Henry Van Til noted, “culture is religion externalised”. It matters what people believe, for what we believe determines how we act. We cannot understand any culture or cultural practice until we first understand the religion, the belief system, the worldview at its heart.

Persecution – even a person’s response to suffering – cannot be understood without reference to worldview. So do some worldview studies; listen to some online lectures, read some worldview books. . .build a firm foundation.

Atop that firm foundation of worldview will be sturdy frame of context: comprised of history and geography, politics and geo-politics, trends and events. For every incident and every crisis exists in and arises in and/or out of a context: it is but one piece of the big picture.

The more picture you can have in place the better – for that will enable you to assess fairly quickly if the piece in your hand is what you think it is – and whether it even fits the picture at all.

Once again – the only way to build this framework is to learn . . . in particular — we must be prepared to read widely. Read news from as many angles as possible – including from the opposition. Read expert analysis (comments/opinion) political, social and religious. Read history – ancient and contemporary. Read biography. And if you can afford it then subscribe to and read good intelligence. If you are not a reader – then pray and ask God to make you into one; ask him to give you a hunger for knowledge and a love of reading.

The roof over this structure is prayer – a truly discerning mind is covered in prayer.

In 2 Chronicles 1:7 we read: “In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And what did King Solomon ask for (v10)? He asked for “wisdom and knowledge” so that that he might govern God’s people well.

God answered Solomon (v11) “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honour, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you.”

If you believe that God has called you to be a voice for His suffering persecuted Church, then pray likewise – pray for guidance, wisdom, insight, knowledge, discernment and clarity, that you may report truthfully and faithfully in the service of the Lord. THAT is a prayer to which God is certain to say YES.

Returning to that crowded, corrupted, contested space . . .

Chapter 7 of my second book After Saturday Comes Sunday is entitled “Myth-busting the Syrian Crisis”. It includes a section on the nature on asymmetric warfare; because, despite virtually all conflict today being asymmetric, most people (certainly most Westerners) don’t understand how it works.

An asymmetric conflict is a conflict between two unequal forces: one militarily strong (armed forces of a nation state); the other being militarily weak (opposition, jihadists, separatists etc).

Because the weaker force cannot win militarily, it must focus its energies on psychological warfare (i.e. employing PSYOPS/tactics that target the enemy’s mind, designed to convince the stronger enemy to retreat/surrender. This is as old as conflict itself.

Today, political opposition, Islamic jihadists and ethnic separatists might be militarily weak but, they are experts at PSYOPS — especially the art of creating and disseminating propaganda which they feed into the target state’s public sphere (i.e. at the masses). The goal: (1) attract sympathy, score political points (UN); and possibly even (2) secure military aid.

No democratically elected leader is going to risk their chances of reelection by involving their forces in an unpopular campaign – which is why Western interventions and even Western support for Islamic jihadists, are invariably legitimized and publicized as “humanitarian interventions” in defense of human rights and democracy . . . which of course they are not.

Military interventions are determined by Realpolitik (i.e. realistic politics determined by interests, not values) which explains why they are so selective – why the West does not intervene in Sudan’s Nuba Mts (for example). Countries intervene in order to GET something — everything else is false narrative designed to cover the unpalatable truth.

Not only is the space in which information exists and moves corrupted and crowded — making truth hard to find — it is also a hotly contested space where truth is routinely suppressed. Truth doesn’t float to the surface! More often than not it struggles to get air as it competes with parties whose “interests” necessitate the truth about the suffering Church be suppressed.

Persecutors (especially needy ones) suppress the truth to protect their interests. They don’t want their evil deeds or plots exposed; they don’t want international criticism or crippling sanctions; they just want to advance their schemes in peace, under the cover of darkness.

Human rights-defending democracies will suppress the truth to protect their economic, political and geo-strategic interests. This is realpolitik in action. Whenever human rights – especially religious freedom – conflicts with economic interest (access to markets, trade and resources) – economic interests win every time! That is the reason why Western democracies suppress the truth of the slow genocide indigenous Melanesian Christians occurring in eastern Indonesia’s Papua region (Iran Jaya).

The West’s “progressive” political, media and academic elites routinely suppress the truth because it clashes with their neo-Marxist worldview, which maintains that society is evolving/progressing towards a post-Christian utopia. They have no interest in defending or preserving Christians or Christianity!

On the back cover of my book – After Saturday Comes Sunday – I maintain that the existentially imperilled Christians of the Middle East have been “Pushed deep into the fog of war, buried under a mountain of propaganda and rendered invisible by a shroud of silence”. There is nothing accidental about this; truth-seekers have a difficult task.

Even Christians routinely suppress the truth, for reasons both good and bad. And this is where it gets really complicated.

Dancing with dictators

All Christians need to understand how Christian political engagement with dictators and persecutors works. If I was to liken it to anything, I’d liken it to a dance.

Because he holds all the cards, the persecutor takes the lead, insisting that he will only dance with those who agree/promise/covenant to not criticise him/her.

Christians eager to dance with the dictator/persecutor will agree to the terms (no criticism); some with a view to sustaining ministry; others in the hope that if they can just get in on the action, get a seat at the table where they’ll be able to talk, have influence, and maybe even steer things in a different direction.

Though the persecutor gets to set the terms – the Christian must decide where to draw line.

Unfortunately, many don’t think that far ahead and consequently find themselves serving as agents, apologists and propagandists for some of the world’s worst persecutors, at the expense of the persecuted.


In their 1975 open letter to the 5th World Council of Churches (WCC) Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, Father Gleb Yakunin and Lev Regelson risked life and liberty to implore the WCC to speak out on behalf of “Christians who are victims of persecution anywhere in the world”.

But, in its eagerness to dance with dictators/persecutors, the WCC had enacted an official protocol which mandated that no reports of human rights abuses could be acted on without the approval of WCC member churches. This meant an appeal from the severely persecuted Russian Church — an appeal that was by nature critical of the regime — could not be acted on without the approval of the Communist Party’s proxies in the Communist Party-controlled Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

In their letter Yakunin and Regelson lament:
“The world has not heard the World Council of Churches raising its authoritative voice when the Russian Orthodox Church was half destroyed . . . no indignant protest was heard from the WCC even when religion was completely crushed in Albania – and the WCC still remained silent even after a priest was shot to death in Albania for having baptized a baby.”

“We are deeply aware that many Christians are deeply concerned about the suffering of their brethren and wish to help them with all their hearts, but often they do not know how to proceed.”

They wrote of their pain at hearing the “leadership of the ROC denying that persecution was taking place at all and which lied before the whole world that those who appeared to be suffering as martyrs for their faith were, in reality, just political offenders”.

“In 1961 the ROC joined the WCC. For the ROC that year was marked by an increasing wave of anti-religious terror and by forcibly closing of churches, monasteries and theological schools everywhere. Protestant churches were subjected to no less brutal persecution at the same time . . . More than 10,000 Orthodox churches were closed on the territory of USSR from 1959-1965.”

Yakunin and Regelson said they understood that the Communist Party had sanctioned ROC membership of the WCC in pursuit of its “own strategic aims” [i.e. to control the narrative, quash criticism, and spread propaganda], still, they had hoped that Christian solidarity might “prove stronger than the influence of anti-Christian forces” and that “the WCC would provide a powerful support to its new member, and initiate an international movement for the defense of the persecuted and invite all Christians to join in prayers for the suffering church.”

Letter caused a huge commotion in WCC Assembly, dividing the delegates. Many were deeply distressed. Others were greatly irritated, seeing the letter as a threat to their “quiet diplomacy”.

In Moscow, Soviet authorities neutralised the letter, deviously labelling it a threat to the ecumenical movement.

In what was nothing other than blackmail, the Communist Party-sanctioned ROC threatened to withdraw from the WCC if the WCC didn’t bury the letter; which the WCC dutifully did, suppressing the truth in the interests of quiet diplomacy.

In 1976, at a colloquium in Canada, the WCC appeased and reconciled with the Soviets by lobbying for the establishment of “Christian-Marxist dialogue”.

Meanwhile, back in the USSR, Fr Gleb Yakunin was busy establishing the ‘Christian Committee for the Defense of the Rights of Believers’, to document Christian persecution.

In 1979, Yakunin (45) and Regelson (40) were arrested on charges of “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”.

Regelson pled guilty and was released.

Yakunin remained defiant and was sentenced to 5yrs in prison followed by 5yrs internal exile in Yakutsk, 8,400km north-east of Moscow in remote arctic Siberia. Neither the Moscow Patriarch nor the WCC made any comment, for that is precisely what the quiet in quiet diplomacy means.

There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

I share this historical case  because this same abandonment and betrayal of the persecuted is occurring today. Indeed most persecutors have perfected the art of exploiting Christian good will (especially the will to dialogue) to serve and advance their own interests.

Journalists beware!

Doubtless most Christian leaders who go out to dance with dictators and persecutors, do so full of good will, hoping (even expecting) that eventually they will be able to steer things in a different direction (i.e. influence religious policy).

While dialogue is good, and co-operation can be fine (especially to sustain ministry) – troubles arise when Christians fail to recognize that the persecutor has interests too, and an agenda – and silencing a would-be critic is just beginning. If the Christian hasn’t decided where to draw line, they may well find themselves serving as agents, apologists and propagandists for some of the world’s worst persecutors, at the expense of the persecuted.

This explains why we often hear Christian leaders saying things that beggar belief – and why they angrily reject the work being done by those who advocate for the persecuted Church.

This is really serious because every time a Christian leader tells the ABC, BBC, CNN, Reuters, Associate Press or even Christian media – “there is complete Religious Freedom in China; the state only arrests criminals” or “Muslims don’t persecute Christians; Islam promotes peace and only trouble-makers have troubles,” they undercut and delegitimise all Christian experience and testimony to the contrary.

A further complication exists in situations where Christians have long been persecuted and subjugated under Islam: the complication of dhimmitude. Two of the best books of this subject are the ground-breaking “Islam and Dhimmitude” by Bat Yeor, and “The Third Choice” by Australia’s Rev Dr Mark Durie.

Islamic law mandates that idolaters and polytheists (traditionally tribal Arabs) be given the choice of converting to Islam or death. Because they were highly skilled and needed, Jews and Christians were given a third choice: they could retain their faith and live – but only so long as they submitted as dhimmis (humiliated, subjugated, second class citizens) as mandated in the Quran in Sura 9:29…

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, nor comply with what Allah and His Messenger have forbidden, nor embrace the religion of truth from among those who were given the Scripture, until they pay the jizya, willingly submitting, fully humbled.”

The most serious aspect of the dhimma pact was/is the total absence of legal rights. Dhimmis may not bear arms, meaning they cannot defend themselves as a people. Dhimmis may not criticise Islam or Muslims, and in line with this, are not permitted to press charges against Muslims. Consequently, Christian dhimmis can be robbed, raped, tortured, assaulted, abducted and murdered with impunity. Dhimmis must pay jizya – protection money – to secure their right to life. As long as they do all this – then they are “protected” (allowed to live), a concession for which they are expected to be eternally grateful.

BUT, if a Christian breaches the dhimma pact, then protection is withdrawn and jihad resumes.

We see this today – especially in Egypt and Pakistan – one accusation is all it takes to trigger a pogrom; and what follows is not justice, but a government sponsored whitewashing or “reconciliation” where the Muslims agree to end the cycle of violence in exchange for the Christians agreeing not to press charges against the Muslims who have ransacked, looted and torched their homes; and raped and murdered their loved ones.

You live like that for long enough – always under the shadow of the sword; always waiting for the next pogrom; always grateful to have been allowed to live another day – it cannot fail to affect your psychology.

The persecuted dhimmi who tells you “Muslims don’t persecute us”, might be consciously choosing to say what they need to say in order to stay alive (like a captive being interviewed in the presence of their captors). However, if they have been born into generational dhimmitude, then it is highly likely that the lie has been heard from infancy and repeated so often that they have come to believe it – they are not consciously lying to you; it is just that lie has taken them captive. It is a form of spiritual oppression requiring spiritual deliverance. [See Dr Mark Durie’s book, Liberty To the Captives.]

While untruth can be analysed, it should not be amplified or released into the already crowded, corrupted and contested space – for the undiscerning mainstream media does enough of that already!

The suffering persecuted Church needs truth-seekers who will speak truth on their behalf.

Finally – while it probably could go without saying – credibility is everything.

While it can be really difficult to move people into action these days, moving people into action is not what we have been called to do. We have been called to shine a light into dark places; to be a voice for the suffering persecuted Church. Moving people into action is the work of the Holy Spirit. Knowing that truth will set you free, making it less likely that you will fall into the temptation to try and shock Christians and policy-makers into action.

In line with the highest standards of professionalism, everything we write and publish should be defensible, otherwise we are just creating problems for others, harming the cause more than helping it. Remember, Christ’s enemies have interests too – and that includes an interest in discrediting Christians. We must not hand them free ammunition.

To sum up:

We are living in unprecedented times – but it is not the persecution that is unprecedented. Rather, what is unprecedented in the Church’s ability to respond. To that end – the Church requires quality, accurate, reliable, credible, defensible information.

I believe that the 21C will go down in Christian history as the Century in which God knitted together a global Church using chords of love forged in the flames of persecution . . . and I believe the impact of this will be profound.

A lot has been said about interests — well, my brothers and sisters, God has interest in this work of being a voice for the persecuted Church; so persevere and be encouraged.

Pray for wisdom, understanding, insight and discernment.

Pray for the Lord to bless not only your work but the work of all who would serve him as a voice for his suffering and persecuted Church.

And pray that our Lord will accept, bless, multiply and use our meagre offerings for his glorious purposes … to warm hearts and melt divisions; to save lives and sanctify the Church, that we might be ONE, that the world might believe …

by Elizabeth Kendal

[This is Part Two of Elizabeth Kendal’s keynote address entitled “Being a Voice for the Persecuted Church,” delivered at the Crisis Publishing Initiative conference — a gathering a Christian journalists, writers and publishers, convened by Magazine Training International, held in Sopron, Hungary, October 2017. Part One can be found here.]

Photo by Possessed Photography on Unsplash

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