I learned a great deal of Bible and mathematics, history and literature, science and Hebrew in the highly academic high school I attended. The school prized its Regent and Merit Scholarship winners and touted its high Ivy League college admission statistics. I am grateful for my education, but there were important lessons learned outside the classroom that guide my behavior today as much, if not more, than the scholastic ones.
Since the school focused heavily on grades and achievement, the occasions when the administration cancelled classes made a deep impression on me. And throughout my four year tenure, they did so with surprising frequency. During those years, Jews were forbidden to leave the Soviet Union and those who tried –known as refuseniks- were arrested and sent to the gulag. In an effort to raise the profile on this issue, rallies were organized. At those times, classrooms were shuttered. We, along with hordes of teenagers from other Jewish schools overflowed the subway system on our way to protest outside the United Nation building in Manhattan.
At fifteen years old, missing class generated excitement and admittedly, our focus at that age was usually on meeting up with friends who attended different schools. Yet, the underlying message burrowed deep inside us. We were responsible for other Jews, no matter where they lived and what language they spoke.
I’ve been thinking of these experiences as I try to understand why my Christian friends are not organizing mass rallies outside the White House, Congress and the United Nations. Why aren’t millions of Christians flooding the streets to protest Meriam Yehya Ibrahim Ishag’s sentence to lashings and death for marrying an American Christian? In Sudan, she and her twenty-month-old son have been kept in disgusting prison conditions for the ‘crime’ of her marriage and rejection of Islam. They will now be joined by her newborn baby girl.
I know Christian friends that are aghast as story after story unfolds of Christian persecution in various countries under Moslem authority. Surely, this issue should transcend theological and ideological differences among churches and bring masses out to protest. Certainly, these protests should be joined by Jews, Buddhists, atheists and other decent people regardless of religion. I know my husband and I would be there standing shoulder-to-shoulder protesting the anti-Christian oppression being practiced in so many of these vicious regimes. Yet the onus for their organization falls on fellow Christian believers. I have trouble understanding the silence in the public square.
The United States doesn’t have important trade and security agreements with Sudan as we did with the Soviet Union. Our influence in the world is lessening under the Obama administration. Nonetheless, we are still a powerful and influential nation. Greater strategic planners than I can plot what may actually be done to help this woman and protect Christians around the world. My memories of high school tell me that in addition to encouraging oppression, the lack of an outspoken mass response misses a priceless opportunity for inspiring the next generation.
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