This Christmas season reveals a growing danger facing Christians in many parts of the world and underscores why the international work of the American Center for Law and Justice and its international affiliates is so important.
You don't need to look past the headlines - report after report of Christians facing persecution - even death - because of their faith.
Of course, our work continues to keep the spotlight and pressure on Iran, which has delayed a decision regarding the fate of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who faces a death sentence because of his faith. Unfortunately, the list of Christians facing punishment and persecution this Christmas is not a short one.
In Egypt, as I told you earlier this week, Coptic Christians are facing grave danger as a new Islamic-based government is being formed with the radical Muslim Brotherhood gaining even more control. The Egyptian military is stepping up its violence against protesters - targeting women, who are now fight back. They are turning out by the thousands to call attention to the systematic abuse of women in that country.
Muslims attack a Christian settlement in Nigeria, killing one woman and wounding others. A gang attack in Kenya. Muslim men beat a young Christian man unconscious - just weeks after the victim's brother was targeted and severely wounded because of his Christian faith. Threats are on the rise in Kashmir, India where Christians are becoming increasingly fearful this Christmas season as the Islamic government there is poised to punish missionaries on charges of proselytizing and what the government calls "forced conversions." And in Laos, officials arrest eight Christian leaders for assembling some 200 church members to celebrate Christmas.
This global attack on Christianity also has triggered a sharp rebuke from the Catholic Church with Pope Benedict XVI recently noting that Christians "are the religious group which suffers most from persecution on account of its faith." The Vatican is even calling for a World Day to mark anti-Christian violence and persecution, saying there might be more than 200 million Christians suffering discrimination. That's a warning we issued many months ago.
Here's the good news. We're making a difference in this fight to safeguard religious freedom. Thanks to your support. We're making a difference in places like Pakistan. For instance, we're representing a Pakistani Christian convert as he seeks asylum from religious persecution. We secured a judicial victory for the family of one Christian who was tortured and murdered because of his religious beliefs, ensuring that those responsible for the death faced punishment. We worked with a Christian pastor in Pakistan to ensure that he and his congregation would retain ownership of their church, which was illegally taken and occupied by Muslims. We have also helped bring those responsible for abducting a Christian woman and forcing her to accept Islam to justice, and succeeded in defending 43 Christians who were falsely detained in their homes.
Our expansion with an office in Pakistan has allowed us to battle Islamic blasphemy laws and defend many other persecuted Christians.
As the threat against Christians in Islamic nations continues to mount, we remain committed to assisting those facing discrimination and persecution. Our promise is clear: we will work to protect religious freedom.
Anti-Christian bigotry and persecution does not take a holiday. This Christmas season, stand with us. Support our work at the American Center for Law and Justice, and please pray for those Christians around the world who are sacrificing so much for their faith.