Some 1,500 delegates are expected to attend an international conference next month to hear speakers from China, Colombia, Sri Lanka and Eritrea give first-hand accounts of the persecution of Christians. The 2004 International Christian Human Rights Conference, sponsored by Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Premier Christian Radio and Release International, will be held in London on Saturday, Nov. 6.
The International Christian Human Rights Conference, entitled ‘Don’t Stand in Silence’, represents “a unique opportunity for people in the UK to hear authentic, first hand evidence from the members of the persecuted Church,” said Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW. “This is our 15th annual conference and having been involved in them all, I can truthfully say I have yet to meet anyone who has not been inspired and challenged by the faith and courage of those who speak. By teaming up again with our friends at Release International and Premier Christian Radio we hope to send a very clear signal that Christians need to work together to raise awareness of religious freedom and the persecuted church to as broad an audience as possible."
The line of speakers for the conference includes Peter Xu, founder of one of the largest Christian groups in China. Described in Brother Yun’s ‘The Heavenly Man’ book as “my father in the faith,” Xu had been forced to hang in a crucifix position for hours in excruciating agony during his seven years in detention. Xu’s courage was typified in his response to his torturers, thanking them for helping him understand Christ’s suffering on the cross.
A speaker from Colombia, where there is a murder every 20 minutes, will be sharing her first hand experience of battling for human rights. The Colombian Church, which often gets caught in the crossfire, has seen the assassination of 120 Protestant pastors in the past three years along with Catholic priests and bishops who have spoken out for peace.
From the nation of Sri Lanka, where 130 churches have been attacked in the last two years and 140 forced to close, Godfrey Yogarajah, the General Secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, will speak about Christianity in the predominantly Buddhist nation, giving accounts of persecution there.
Dr. Berhane Asmelash, an Eritrean church leader, will also be speaking, informing delegates of the estimated 375 Christians imprisoned in Eritrea since 2002 when the government banned all but three denominations.
In commenting on the conference, Eddie Lyle, Chief Executive Officer of Release International said, “I have always had a problem with the phrase ‘the silent majority’.”
Lyle added, “We have been too quiet too long as a church and it’s time now to redress that abdication of responsibility. Don’t Stand in Silence is a clarion call for words and action. It’s time for us to make our position clear. We stand with the persecuted church and we urge the church in the UK to do the same.”
Peter Kerridge, Chief Executive of Premier Christian Radio, said: “Premier is totally committed to supporting this important conference. It's my prayer that Christians here in the UK may be encouraged to become much more aware of the plight of their brothers and sisters who suffer for their faith. Around the world there are some terrible situations and thousands of advocates are needed to become a voice for the voiceless.”
The conference, which will be held in Buckingham Gate’s Westminster Chapel, will also see the launch of the ‘Don’t Stand in Silence’ initiative, a joint project of CSW, Release International and Premier Christian Radio.
The initiative, aimed at those who are unaware of the extent of religious persecution around the world, takes an interactive approach to explaining the plight of the persecuted church through quizzes and downloadable resources on its website, www.dontstandinsilence.info.
In addition, Premier Christian Radio will be creating a ‘Click To Commit’ campaign to encourage those visiting the site to tell others about the persecuted church. Further campaigns are planned under the Don’t Stand In Silence banner, including books, CDs and road shows.
Meanwhile, regional conferences will take place at Bradnich Baptist Church, Exeter on October 30, Findlay Memorial Church, Glasgow on November 13 and City Temple, Cardiff on November 20.
Delegates to the International Conference will be invited to pledge their support for the persecuted church, and those who wish to buy conference tickets or require further information on the Don’t Stand In Silence project, are encouraged to call the Information Line or visit www.dontstandinsilence.info as tickets will not be available on the door.