Launched in 2018 as an informal coalition, Save the Persecuted Christians evolved in 2019 into its own non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt corporation working with, representing and empowering coalition members that now include nearly 200 non-governmental organizations and faith groups.
“Save the Persecuted Christians is extraordinarily appreciative of the solidarity and partnership of the coalition that gave rise to this initiative and whose members do so much on behalf of oppressed followers of Jesus,” said STPC President and CEO Frank J. Gaffney. “Their efforts are, unfortunately, more necessary than ever—and require them to be redoubled in 2020.”
That commitment is compelled by these horrific insights: More than 80% of the world’s population live in countries where religious freedoms are restricted. And of those being persecuted for their faith globally, 80% are Christians. According to Aid to the Church in Need, an STPC coalition partner, an estimated 327 million Christians are persecuted for their faith—roughly equal to the number of men, women and children currently living in the United States. Another STPC partner, Open Doors USA, estimates that at least 245 million Christians are being heavily persecuted. That means they are subject to rape, torture, enslavement, banishment and murder, sometimes on a genocidal scale.
“On average, 11 people are killed every day because they follow Christ,” STPC Executive Director Dede Laugesen observed. “Most importantly, the trend is moving in the wrong direction. Open Doors USA has concluded that there are 30 million more Christians who were heavily persecuted this year than in 2018. Clearly, much more must be done.”
To that end, Save the Persecuted Christians seeks to establish a powerful national grassroots movement. To date, thousands of Americans have joined STPC in giving voice in both government counsels and media circles, domestically and internationally, to those who are brutalized simply because they follow Jesus.
Specific areas of impact for Save the Persecuted Christians in 2019 included the following:
- Over 1,000 churches and synagogues have adopted STPC’s “SaveUs” banner to associate themselves publicly with the cause and to engage congregants and passers-by.
- Since its founding, Save the Persecuted Christians has become a valued and trusted resource for the Trump administration and members of Congress, establishing relationships with key executive branch officials, including Vice President Mike Pence and his staff, key figures on the National Security Council, the White House Public Liaison Office and the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom, led by U.S. Ambassador Sam Brownback. STPC has also collaborated with members of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), led by Chairman Tony Perkins.
- This year, STPC launched a news aggregator, ChristianPersecutionNews.com, to serve as a resource for tracking the plight of the world’s Christians. In 2020, this valued tool will also link human rights reports and designations with country-specific news stories to better track anti-Christian persecution globally.
- On behalf of the 100 million beleaguered Christians of Nigeria and the Lake Chad region, STPC focused on authoritatively rebutting official Nigerian and State Department narratives to the effect that what is happening there is simply herdsmen-farmer conflicts over land use that have nothing to do with jihadist Sharia-supremacism. In light of the reality that the Nigerian government has been largely indifferent to, if not actually complicit in, various Islamist groups’ persecution of Christians, STPC has worked closely with former Congressman Frank Wolf—a founding member of and inspiration for Save the Persecution Christians and the author of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998—on the following initiatives:
- Joining with Nigerian partners to bring a Nigeria Crisis Delegation to the U.S. to provide first-hand testimony about anti-Christian persecution in their homeland and in neighboring countries. This delegation included the mother of Leah Sharibu, a 14-year-old schoolgirl kidnapped in February 2018 and held by the jihadists of Boko Haram as a “slave for life” simply for refusing to renounce her faith in Jesus.
- Engineering a series of public and media events to share these personal accounts of persecution. For instance, Leah’s mother, Rebecca, and members of the Christian Adara chiefdom brutalized in multiple attacks in early 2019, testified on Capitol Hill about genocide in Nigeria.
- Meeting with top administration officials in Washington, D.C., after which Vice President Pence summoned his Nigerian counterpart to the White House to address the Crisis Delegation’s allegations of rampant, religiously motivated insecurity, kidnappings and killings committed with impunity and, it seems, often with at least tacit support of Nigeria’s federal and state governments.
- Arranging in October, in coordination with Rep. Wolf and the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), for a visit to Washington, D.C. by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo. He lent his considerable authority to the call for the appointment of a U.S. Special Envoy for Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
- Over 400,000 people have viewed STPC’s heartbreakingly moving exhibit, “The People of the Cross,” which has been shown at the Kansas, Minnesota and Massachusetts state capitols, in megachurches and other houses of worship and conventions, as well as on the margins of both the 2018 and 2019 U.S. Ministerials to Advance Religious Freedom. Internationally, the government of Hungary—an exemplary leader and partner in the fight to protect followers of Jesus—showcased “The People of the Cross” in November at its International Conference on Christian Persecution in Budapest, attended by Gaffney, Laugesen and several other coalition partners.
- In July, STPC leaders again attended the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom and partnered with coalition members to host three side events to: 1) expose the ongoing genocide of Christians in Nigeria; 2) draw attention to the terror-tactic used to degrade and demean women with the premiere of the new STPC exhibit, “Warfare on Women;” and 3) host a viewing of the documentary, “Christians in the Mirror.”
- In September, the Hungarian and Brazilian Foreign Ministers honored the STPC initiative during a meeting on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly by affording Gaffney the opportunity to make the only intervention by a non-governmental organization during an event to highlight worldwide Christian persecution. Other participants included foreign ministers from the Philippines and the United Kingdom, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Destro and other senior diplomats.
- Finally, in a months-long, enterprising effort to intensify pressure on the persecutors, Save the Persecuted Christians launched a campaign last spring to hold accountable those who enable such criminals. In May, STPC sponsored a multi-faith letter to Squire Patton Boggs (SPB), a prominent U.S.-based law firm that lobbies on behalf of such state-sponsors of anti-Christian persecution as Communist China, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Cameroon and the Palestinian Authority. The coalition called for SPB and other lobbying operations to “Stop Persecuting Believers” by ending their representation of and otherwise legitimating and empowering those responsible for crimes against people of faith. When SPB ignored the initial appeal, STPC organized publicized visits to 15 of its offices around the country, accompanied in a number of cases by rallies designed to call attention to the fact that this firm and others like it are taking what amounts to “blood money” from persecutors to lobby on their behalf. STPC followed up by sponsoring in October a petition to President Donald Trump, his Cabinet and members of Congress not to meet with such lobbyists as long as they represent persecuting regimes.
With so much of the world’s Christian population being attacked, imprisoned and/or exiled for their beliefs, the need has never been more urgent for the sort of grassroots campaign STPC’s SaveUs Movement is working to foster. Its efforts are modeled after a miraculously successful one that helped free another population suffering from heavy persecution—Soviet Jews—by penalizing those in the Kremlin responsible for such repression. Through this movement, Save the Persecuted Christians will be working in 2020 to provide American policymakers with the palpable popular support they need to effect real change worldwide and to alleviate systemically the suffering being experienced by so many of those following Christ.