". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13

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Three Persecution Survivors Exhibit Heroic Faith

June 30, 2022

On the second day of the International Religious Freedom (IRF) Summit in downtown Washington, D.C., Family Research Council hosted a breakout session called, “Heroic Faith: Hope Amid Global Persecution.” The panel was moderated by Arielle Del Turco, FRC’s Assistant Director of the Center for Human Dignity. In her words, “Hearing the stories of the persecuted is vital to understanding what is happening to Christians living in dangerous places. Knowing about their experience enables us to know how to pray for and assist the persecuted.”

Three persecution survivors shared personal accounts of the price they paid for practicing their Christian faith amidst tyrannical government officials. “It isn’t every day that we get to talk to people and to listen to people who have actually experienced these things. To hear testimony means a great deal to me,” remarked FRC’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom and panelist, Lela Gilbert.

First up, Ren Ruiting, a member of Early Rain Covenant Church, recounted her family’s escape from China to the United States. “So far, the Christians in China have no human rights at all,” she shared with the room. The police spied on and harassed her church, eventually forcing 300 church members — including Ruiting and her family — into questioning without a legal process. Ruiting and her whole family were guarded at home at all hours of the day, even when they walked their dogs or attended piano lessons. One out-of-uniform police officer mistreated Ruiting and made her “very uncomfortable,” she shared.

As the police began spreading rumors that she and her family were in a cult, Ruiting explained, “What made us determined to leave China was to protect our baby brother, who was an adopted child.”

Pastor Farhad Sabok Rouh spoke next — a faithful Iranian pastor and church planter of many years. He and his family endured many years of persecution for their faith. Having been arrested and jailed three times, Farhad and his wife spent a year in prison while their children were subjected to corrupt governmental interrogations. “My wife still dreams of prison and interrogation days, even to this day.” Upon their release from prison, they were forced out of their home country of Iran and were told to leave, with no guarantee of their safety if they stayed. After three years as a refugee in Europe, Farhad and his family came to the United States.

“I am only one of many persecuted Christians,” Pastor Farhad reminded listeners.

Following Farhad’s testimony, Rev’d Bishop Jude Ayodeji Arogundade shared about the effects of radical Muslim countries putting pressure and trying to overrun the Nigerian system to make it an Islamic country.

“Once they are able to succeed in doing that, the whole of Africa is in trouble,” Arogundade warned, because while Nigeria has the draw of a large economy, he explained that “Nigeria [also] has the largest Christian population in Africa.”

At the beginning of June, Islamist extremists carried out a tragic massacre of at least 50 Christians on Pentecost Sunday at a church in Bishop Arogundade’s diocese.

“Since then, my life has changed,” Arogundade shared with emotion as he relayed the harrowing details, “I’ve spoken to everybody that cared to listen — that this is not acceptable, that this is evil. And these groups are not relenting — they are going everywhere looking for ways to make life unbeareable to people of faith, to Christians, especially, because they see that Christianity in Nigeria is so strong.”

“But the more they do this, the more people want to go down [for] their faith,” he passionately declared. “You cannot intimidate me out of my faith, that’s not how to do it. The work of Christians in Nigeria is very important.”

FRC’s Vice President for Policy and Government Affairs, Travis Weber, believes there is much to be learned from the faith of the persecuted.

“As we heard today from our panelists, faith under fire purifies one’s faith. Our hearts want to relieve the suffering of those facing persecution around the globe, but we also recognize we lean on our Lord for strength when we do face opposition,” Weber continued, “We need to tell these stories to the American people and to our political leaders and policymakers. When they know of the problem, they will be more willing to find a solution. 

To close the panel out, FRC’s Lela Gilbert charged the room with a passionate call to action. “There are things we can do to make a difference, and one of those things that I didn’t really realize over the years is that we can talk to our legislators about this. These are issues that are public in this country and we can talk about them being changed by politics.” This is something that Family Research Council achieves through keeping legislators abreast to what is happening with Christians both domestically and internationally, according to Gilbert.

Pastor Jay Johnston, FRC’s National Prayer Director, offered to the panel his suggestions on how Christians in America can champion international religious freedom year round. “We can promote special days like November 1, which is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and June 29, which is the Day of the Christian Martyr. While keeping before us prayer calendars, we are reminded to pray for the nations and to continually tell the stories of these heroic people that would not turn from their faith no matter the cost.”

Marjorie Jackson is a reporter for The Washington Stand and FRC's Digital Media Specialist.