“People just wouldn’t talk about it.”
That’s what Johnnie Moore, a Christian author, humanitarian and faith adviser to President Donald Trump, recently told IJR about those persecuted at the hands of ISIS.
It’s certainly a difficult topic: one Americans have trouble understanding. What exactly is persecution? Sure, we understand it in an abstract sense, but truly knowing it — that’s a different story.
Moore is hoping to lead readers with head knowledge of persecution into a place of heartfelt understanding with his new book, “The Martyr’s Oath: Living for the Jesus They’re Willing to Die For.”
In it, Moore chronicles the gritty firsthand accounts of those who have suffered intense persecution yet whose faith has only grown stronger under pressure, and he encourages believers in the West to examine the fortitude of their own faith in the process.
“I heard from everyone, every Christian I encountered from the Middle East, that they felt forgotten — that people didn’t know their story, they didn’t feel cared for,” Moore told IJR. “I wanted to continue telling those stories.”
Though ISIS has been thwarted in many places across the Middle East, radical Islam’s grasp on the war-torn region remains strong, and Moore said he wants to ensure the American church — as well as policymakers in Washington, D.C. — continue to advocate for persecuted Christians because it is “one of the great human rights issues of our time” and “a theological responsibility” for the church.
“I think one of the reasons why people are just so disillusioned with our faith is because they’re missing a huge part of it that you can only experience if you’re helping those who are suffering or if you’re suffering yourself,” Moore said. “I just believe that’s the way it is.”
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, a research group that studies trends in Christianity around the world, there were an estimated 900,000 Christians martyred between the years 2005 and 2015, an average of 90,000 each year.
And Open Doors USA, a nonprofit advocacy organization for persecuted Christians, estimates that from Nov. 1, 2015, to Oct. 31, 2016, at least 1,207 Christians were killed around the world for faith-related reasons. The group cautions that is a conservative estimate because it only includes documented cases, not wartime deaths or unconfirmed reports from remote places in the Middle East and North Korea.
In “The Martyr’s Oath,” Moore brings those abstract numbers down to earth by sharing “the very words” of those who have fled persecution and who are still experiencing the pangs of its grip on their lives.
“We didn’t go looking for miraculous types of stories, but we found them,” he said. ”[T]hese are their testimonies — actual transcripts, their very words that they told us — and the lessons I was able to draw from it.”
Moore’s own passion for persecuted Christians was born out of an experience he had as a college student at Liberty University many years ago when he traveled to India for a graduation ceremony at a Bible school founded by one of his longtime mentors.
Before the students were allowed to graduate, he said, they recited “The Martyr’s Oath,” which declares the supremacy of the Christian gospel, demands the utmost sacrifice from believers and recalls the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
That moment kindled within Moore a question that has remained with him in the years since: “Why are so few of us in America willing to live for Jesus when others are so willing to die for him?”
Now, as one of Trump’s faith advisers, Moore has the chance to take that question — and the issue of persecution — to the White House.
“One of the reasons why the world is in the mess that it’s in is because we don’t have enough religion [informing our] foreign policy,” he told IJR.
Moore said there is “a world of difference” between the Trump administration’s response to Christian persecution and former President Barack Obama’s response to the issue.
“Whatever you want to think about, or talk about, or say when it comes to this administration,” Moore said, “on this issue, this administration is already doing more by multiples than not only the immediate previous administration but the one that preceded it.”
Though Moore said he drives the White House “crazy because I’m always asking them to do more,” he said he has “never been in a circumstance where I didn’t feel like I had a real listening ear.”
The stories of persecution are real, the pain is real, and “The Martyr’s Oath” author aims to prove the faith to be just as real in his new book. In writing it, Moore said that, in his “attempt to bless” those who are persecuted, they have “blessed me in profound ways.”
“My prayer,” Moore said, “is that [readers] would be moved to help and that they would be changed along the way, in the way I have.”