This month the Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani marked his 1,000th day of incarceration in Lakan, a notorious prison in northern Iran. Charged with the crime of apostasy, Mr. Nadarkhani faces a death sentence for refusing to recant the Christian faith he embraced as a child. He embodies piety and represents millions more suffering from repression—but his story is barely known.
Mr. Nadarkhani's courage and the tenacity of his supporters, many of them ordinary churchgoers who have crowded Twitter and other social media to alert the world to his plight, bring to mind the great human-rights campaigns of recent years: the fight against apartheid in South Africa, or the movement to assist Soviet Jews seeking to emigrate from behind the Iron Curtain. As Nelson Mandela represented the opposition to South African racism, and Anatoly Sharansky exemplified the just demands of Soviet Jews, so Mr. Nadarkhani symbolizes the emergency that church leaders say is facing 100 million Christians around the world.
Yet Mr. Nadarkhani has almost none of the name recognition that Messrs. Mandela and Sharansky had. Despite the increasing ferocity with which Christians are targeted—church bombings in Nigeria, discrimination in Egypt (where Christians have been imprisoned for building or repairing churches), beheadings in Somalia—Americans remain largely unaware of how bad the situation has become, particularly in the Islamic world and in communist countries like China and North Korea.
The principal reason public opinion hasn't been galvanized around the persecution of Christians is that the various church leaderships either ignore or dance around the issue. If churches don't speak up forcefully, then it is unrealistic to expect the world's democratic governments to do the same.