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Persecution Of Foreign Christians Flourishes Under Clinton, Declines Under Bush


I recently attended the National Pastors Convention in San Diego with several thousand pastors from many different denominations. During one of the general sessions, the MC introduced a pastor from Uzbekistan. He had traveled the farthest to attend the convention, so they wanted to interview him. I don't remember his name, and even if I did, I know I couldn't pronounce it. However, I do know this: I will never forget this man.

Right away, I liked him. He was humble, sincere, and gracious. He apologized for his broken English, though I thought he spoke very well. As the MC interviewed him, he began to share about his ministry in his country that borders Afghanistan. He talked about the church he pastors of a few hundred people. He also shared how it is illegal in his country to be a Christian. You see, his church is an "underground" church. Amazingly, his city also has 3 "underground" Christian schools. He talked about how the Christians have been arrested and even killed in his country.

Then, as the interview was about to end, he began to speak very urgently and passionately. He said something to this effect: "I would like all of you to know that my church and the Christians in my country are praying that President Bush will be reelected."

I was stunned. I knew that this gathering had to include many pastors from all over the political spectrum and I was certain this would not go over well. Immediately, there were murmurings and rumblings throughout the audience and the MC seemed a little uncertain about what to do next.

However, this pastor would not be denied. Grasping the microphone firmly in his hand, he continued, "The officials in my country are afraid of President Bush, so they don't persecute Christians as much. Under Clinton it was very bad for us. Many of us were arrested, put in jail, and some were killed. With Clinton, it was very bad. But under President Bush, it has been so much better, so we are praying for him." [The founder and president of the huge INIM ministry in India to many nations, including Iraq and Afghanistan, told us he prays every day that God will keep the US military in those countries so that the Gospel can continue to go forth. He likewise prays daily for our President.]

The murmuring ended. It was suddenly very quiet. The MC paused. Then he just asked us to stand and pray for this man and we did so with great passion.

Choking back tears, I was immediately struck with this realization in my heart: this coming election was not just about me or my church or my country. This coming election would affect the entire world. And while there are many Christians and churches in this country that may not support and may even despise our current President, there is a group of Christians halfway around the world who are desperately praying for his reelection.

All of the sudden, the election became something very different for me. It is not just about the economy, gay marriage, or weapons of mass destruction. It's about the persecuted church around the world. As believers, what issues should be more important to us? This transcends politics. This is about the Kingdom of God for which Christ suffered and died, and for those believers in other countries who are suffering and dying as well.

I was also convicted in my heart about praying for our President. And I wonder, which church is praying more fervently for him: the persecuted church in Uzbekistan or the prosperous church in America? It makes you think.

As the Apostle Paul said in Hebrews 13:3, "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."

Remember, this election is not just about us. It's about them [too].

James Lair
Senior Pastor
Church of the Living Christ
Ojai, CA


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