K. A. Ellis Compares the Struggle of Today’s Suffering Church to the Struggle of the African American Community

(Photo: K. A. Ellis)
(Photo: K. A. Ellis)

“[The murderers] had tortured the child in such an inhuman way. . . His neck was cut, toes were broken and hands were slashed and burned. His face was burned, as well, while hot fragments of coal or firewood were placed on his stomach, burning his abdomen. His mouth was also found tied. Autopsy reports came back indicating the final cause of death was drowning.”

This could be the introduction to a Black history reflection on the death of fourteen-year-old Emmett Till.

It is not.

It’s actually a description of seven-year-old Amnol Gemethi, a pastor’s son, found face down in a pond in Rajasthan, India this past November.

Emmett Till and Amnol Gemethi are worlds apart, separated by culture and generations. What do their deaths have to do with each other?

Images of the Till boy’s battered body published in Jet magazine brought global attention to a people’s suffering. Gemethi, meanwhile, represents one of hundreds of thousands of Christians in the global tally of those who suffer at the hands of religious extremists and anti-Christian governments. The numbers in the Middle East, in North, West and Central Africa, and in South and East Asia are staggering, and growing daily.

Christian populations have recently been targeted, scattered and diminished worldwide. The Prince of Wales has boldly named the phenomenon a “crime against humanity.”

Nigerian Archbishop Magnus Atilade compares what is happening in his country to the Rwandan genocide. Numerous congressional hearings have been held to address this worsening situation for Christians worldwide, with the most recent held on Capitol Hill at the start of this year.

When world leaders raise their voices using such language, history tells us that it is beyond time to take notice. If we have learned anything at all from history, then it is likewise time to take note of those who remain silent.

Our Unique Voice

The African American community is well acquainted with systemic oppression. The similarities between today’s suffering church and the struggle of African American Christians throughout church history are striking.

God, as the Creator and sustainer of all, is limitless in His creativity. Mercifully, He has limited Satan in his ability to devise evil. Because of this limitation, violations of the image of God often show the same manifestations and patterns wherever they are found.

Scripture shows us that Satan works in three ways: preternaturally in the unseen realm, tangibly through individuals, and systemically through governments and other man-made structures. While the societal fabric of oppression may change from age to age, the general contours of abuse and degradation remain the same. Consider the similarity in methods of dehumanization from one oppressive regime to another; the destruction of name and identity, false accusations, unjust courts and imprisonments, zoned housing to substandard conditions, the denial of societal advancement, and so on.

As we consider events overseas, we come into contact with familiar territory; rapes conducted with impunity, and the public example of lynchings sprouting the ‘strange fruit’ that hangs not only from the poplars of the American South, but from trees in numerous other climates. Similarly, rights to vote and the opportunity to change one’s circumstances are denied through strict legislation, lack of power and resources, lack of physical mobility in the marketplace and on the byways, and the threat of death. Christian churches and business today are routinely targeted, even marked for destruction with black X’s as during last summer’s violence in Egypt, reminiscent of the hundreds of our own churches, businesses and homes bombed and burned throughout our history and leading up to our own theologically driven civil rights movement.

As it was with us, so it is with them.

A watching world takes note of our similarities. Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund makes note of “a powerful comment from a Muslim lawyer in 1992: ‘Christians must realize that they have become the n*ggers of Pakistan, even though the cotton-field chores may have been replaced with ‘dhimmi’ street sweepers.'” [i],[ii]

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: The Christian Post
K. A. Ellis explores the zone where theology, sociology, and the rights of Christian minorities intersect, working over the last twenty years in conjunction with International Christian Response (ICR), Cross Currents International Ministries (CCIM), World Concern, and Barnabas Fund. Mrs. Ellis holds an MFA from Yale University in New Haven, a Master of Art in Religion (Theological) from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, and is a DPhil candidate at Oxford Graduate School. She has guest lectured at Trinity Forum Academy, Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, and at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS. Follow her on twitter @KarAngEllis.

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