Demonstrations in support of persecuted Christians around the world
On the 23rd of June 2018, there was a demonstration in Switzerland, to support persecuted Christians. 1,200 people gathered from across the nation at the Federal Square in Bern for the event. Present at the event were four members of the National Council and three individuals who themselves were persecuted for their faith. Solidarity International supported the demonstration and erected a tent on the square where participants could spend time in prayer for persecuted Christians.
On the 23rd of June, the Federal Square of Bern was transformed into a big open-air meeting centre. Hundreds of people came from every corner of the country to support the millions of Christians around the world, who are persecuted, insulted, tortured and even killed for their faith.
The demonstration lasted three hours. During this time, a variety of programmes were offered to the participants.
Gerhard Pfister: “A growing threat.”
The round-table discussion about the persecution of Christians was moderated by Marc Jost, the Deputy Mayor of the Municipal Council of Bern. Four members of the National Council participated in this discussion. It was noted that Gerhard Pfister, the national advisor to the PDC, (Christian Democratic Party in Switzerland) is anxious about the growing threat to Christians in some countries. “Ninety per cent of the countries where Christians are persecuted, are Islamic countries”, he said and advised that this issue of ongoing persecution over the last years be addressed. Pfister thanked the Swiss organisations for supporting the Christians and went on to say that these organisations must be supported by the government.
Gerard Pfister voiced his appreciation for the help that the Swiss government offers persecuted Christians and suggested that the government should encourage their allies to act in a like manner.
Marianne Streiff: “Let us talk it over!”
Marianne Steiff, the national advisor of the PEV (Evangelical Party of Switzerland), explained why she has a particular interest in the plight of persecuted Christians. “I have always been worried about the torture of Christians”, she said. Steiff, who sees herself as a person who is very sensitive to injustice encouraged the participants to recognise the persecution of Christians as a very serious matter and never be afraid to “talk it over”. Finally, she addressed the local churches: “Sometimes, we care only about our own well-being- we become selfish. The churches have a duty of care to people who are in danger; it is the task of the churches to pray for persecuted Christians and to speak out about their situations,” she said.
Staying firm in the worst situations.
Visitors of the demonstration were particularly touched by the speech of the three persecuted Christians: Dabriane Schwan is a Christian woman from Iran who was arrested because of her faith in 2009 and incarcerated for weeks. In 2010, after she was condemned to six years of prison in her home country, she escaped to Switzerland. Her father, Pastor Viktor was arrested in 2014, and some years later her brother and her mother came to the same fate. Around the same time, hundreds of Christians were condemned and then imprisoned in Iran. “At this moment, as I speak to you, there are hundreds of people in prison for their faith. The Iranian government will not liberate them unless they deny Jesus. But in this difficult situation, they keep their faith,” Dabriane said.
The father of Dabriane also fights for his faith. He is incarcerated in a tiny, dark cell yet despite being physically abused by the guards; he refuses to deny Jesus Christ.
Hakim is a Kurdish man from Irak. His story was very shocking. When the Christians of Irak escaped from ISIS and went to Kurdistan, Hakim was still being pursued as a refugee because he had converted from Islam to Christianity. “Once, my cousins visited me at home, they bound me and beat me. After that, they poured acid on my arm, where I had a tattoo, representing a cross.” Hakim told them that he would return to Islam. His cousins said they would kill him if he entered a church again.
Hakim had to leave Kurdistan with his family in 2015.
Petr Jasek who is from the Czech Republic participated in the demonstration via video link. He works for persecuted Christians and was sentenced to life imprisonment in Sudan where he was detained for 445 days. In prison, he was the victim of frequent attacks and threats causing him to lose 25 Kgs. Despite the ordeal, he survived the tortures and kept his faith. He was finally released in February of 2017.
Translator: Ildikó Ungvári