Missionary's death in India draws BWA leader's lament
WASHINGTON (BP)--Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, has condemned the religious bigotry that caused the death of Australian Baptist missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in the eastern state of Orissa, India, on Jan. 23.
"We must say 'no' to bigotry and 'yes' to the forgiveness and love of our Lord Jesus Christ," Lotz said as he praised Gladys Staines, widow of the martyred missionary for her loving response in the face of persecution.
Reports quote Gladys Staines at the funeral for her family as saying: "I am terribly upset but not angry. My husband loved Jesus Christ who taught us to forgive our enemies." She also led the congregation at the funeral for her family in singing, "Because He lives, I can face tomorrow."
"It is in loving that people will see Christ and it is in forgiving that hearts will be changed," Lotz said.
"This is the latest tragic death caused by religious intolerance and fanaticism, not only in India, but worldwide," Lotz said, noting Christians in the Chin State of Myanmar have been persecuted by Buddhist military leaders and Christians in the south of Sudan have been attacked and brutally killed by Muslims in the north who also kidnap the Christians' children and force them into slavery. African American churches in North America, meanwhile, have weathered arson, Lotz said.
Lotz emphasized however, Christianity was not the only target of this religious violence.
"Not only do Christians suffer religious persecution, but foreigners of various religions also suffer the same injustices," Lotz said. He gave examples of skinheads in Germany who have killed and burned Turkish Muslims and Bosnian Muslims who have been raped by "Serbian Christians." He also noted that in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe, "hostile religious majorities, incited by local priests, attack religious minorities, destroying their churches and physically abusing believers."
"Baptist Christians need to be in the forefront of defending religious freedom," Lotz said," but more than this, we must teach our own people the need for tolerance and respect for one another's cultures and traditions. We must discuss with leaders of various religions the need for dignity respect and peaceful coexistence."
"We applaud President K.R. Narayanan of India who condemned "the barbarous killing ... which belongs to the world's inventory of black deeds," Lotz said.
At the Jan. 8-11 International Summit of Baptists Against Racism held in Atlanta, by the BWA, Baptists pledged to take the lead in fighting racism and ethnic conflict and the BWA will propose 2000-2010 be declared "A Decade of Baptists Against Racism."
"We must do more than make resolutions," Lotz said. "Local churches and individual Christians are called upon to witness to the love and compassion of Jesus Christ in word and deed."