What do I believe in? What matters in my life? These are questions that every person will ask themselves at some point. These are the questions that define our existence. I have been asking myself these fundamental questions more and more. For some, these answers are quite clear.
Shahbaz Bhatti was a member of the Pakistani Federal Cabinet, and a Christian. Pakistan, being a primarily Muslim country, has been trying to pass and enforce blasphemy laws. These laws make it a capital crime to say anything negative about Islam. Shahbaz Bhatti was one of only a few people publicly speaking out and working against these laws. As a Christian, Mr. Bhatti represented a small minority of Pakistanis, about five percent. His Christian faith and his vocal opposition of Islamic Sharia Law made him a target. Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered on March 2, 2011 by Muslim extremists. Al-Qaida and the Taliban have claimed responsibility for his murder. A note left at the scene said, “With the blessing of Allah, the mujahedeen (those waging jihad) will send each of you to hell.”
Mr. Bhatti knew he was a target and that Muslims would try to kill him, yet he stood firm in his faith and his beliefs. In a message taped four months before his death he said, “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given His life for us.”
I read an article about his death the morning after his murder and posted it to my Facebook wall, without giving it a whole lot of thought. But as I was driving to work that morning, I heard the audio of his pre-recorded message played on a radio show, and his words hit me right in the chest. This man stood up for what is right. He stood up for liberty, human decency and his Faith in Jesus Christ.
Youcef Nadarkhani is a Christian pastor in Iran. He was arrested in 2009 for apostasy, the renunciation of Islam. He is expected to be executed by hanging next week. He has been given several opportunities to recant his faith in Jesus Christ, but has refused.
He first came to the attention of the Iranian authorities because he had the courage to speak out about a constitutional violation. The Iranian Constitution, in Article 13, officially recognizes Christianity as an accepted religion. The Christian Post reported that “The government had recently passed a law stating that Islam must be imposed on children in local school, and even on Christian children.” Pastor Nadarkhani protested this new law as a violation of the constitutional rights of Christians. I’ve been following Pastor Nadarkhani’s story for quite some time, and I never fail to be amazed at the political courage he has shown as a result of faith.
Christian history is filled with martyrs, people who were persecuted and killed because of their unwavering faith in Jesus. We read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” James tells us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”
We go to church most Sundays, we read our Bibles when we get a few minutes and we pray when we remember. The anti-Christian left says that our children can’t pray in school, and we back down. Our nation proudly speaks of a woman’s right to choose, while slaughtering millions of babies. Even some people who call themselves Christians support this new holocaust, and we refuse to condemn them. Our own President marginalizes any positions that we may take by telling the world that we’re just bitterly clinging to our religion. The mainstream media paints us all to be home-grown terrorists. I fear that this is just the beginning.
Shahbaz Bhatti and Youcef Nadarkhani have both displayed an innate understanding of a simple principle that continues to evade most of us here in America; faith and politics are connected. They have both taken a stand of faith on political issues and have been willing to pay the ultimate price for that stand. This is something that, by and large, we’re missing. Our Founders pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in the quest for liberty and religious freedom. Our Founders understood that faith and politics were connected, and as a result of that understanding they were willing to risk everything. Politics is an extension of morality, morality is an extension of faith, and therefore politics is a direct reflection of faith. Never let anyone tell you any different.