London, England. Buried in the English countryside of Kent there is a roughly-built stone house, with a wartime shelter in the garden, which houses one of the most important listening posts for events behind the Iron Curtain.
This is Keston College, founded by Rev. Michael Bordeaux, an Anglican priest, who is helping to bring to light the fate of thousands of Christians in the USSR and satellite countries.
Information on what are perhaps the world’s most forgotten people is hard to come by. It is smuggled out on scraps of paper pressed into the hands of travelers by refugees, and by whatever human rights organizations still remain in the Iron Curtain countries.
Rev. Bordeaux estimates that there are at least 10,000 Christian prisoners of conscience in the USSR alone, all of whom are in various penal colonies for no other offence than practicing their religion, which means also campaigning against oppression, injustice, and abortion.
I looked over the long rows of filing cases in which are recorded the details of each known victim of what is the longest, large-scale human persecution of modern times. Each file contains often poorly-taken photos of the victims, with their location, state of health, and sometimes grisly accounts of beatings, loss of limbs, etc.
Their sentences range from two years to 20 years in labour camps, where they are subjected to cold and hunger and maltreatment at the hands of criminal prisoners – for Christian prisoners of conscience are considered the lowest of the low.
This is the story nobody wants to hear in the West (how many readers have stayed with my column this far?) for reasons which are obscurely linked to deep feelings of Western guilt.
We all know about the soviet Gulag – Alexander Solzhenitzen has written all about it at eloquent length – but we wish to look the other way, because the Soviets possess the greatest arsenal of nuclear weapons on earth, and anything that attacks the soviets is regarded as “war-mongering.”
We try to get rid of these guilt feelings by concentrating our attention avidly on violations of human rights in South Africa, Chile and El Salvador. We expend our concern on the Muslims of Afghanistan, the Buddhists of Cambodia, and the Falashas of Ethiopia. But for the Christians of the Iron Curtain lands, we have no time at all.
There are other reasons for this, besides the nuclear threat. What do these Christians stand for? They are the last defenders of life in the Communist world, where there are as many as 20 million abortions a year. The average soviet woman is estimated by actual poll to have three abortions in a lifetime- some have seven or eight. Euthanasia is practiced on the most widespread scale on earth. Psychiatry is used for brain-washing in ordinary hospitals. Drugs are instruments of torture.
All this Christians are opposing with their lives on a scale that staggers. Travellers to the USSR note the empty churches, but fail to see the invisible army of thousands of Catholic priests and nuns, Baptist and Evangelical ministers and lay people, working in Russia and Siberia, baptizing, teaching, spreading the message of Christ even in the Gulag.
If we gave as much time and effort to the cause of defending the dignity of life (with far less danger to ourselves) as these brave and lonely fighters behind the Iron Curtain, the problems of abortion and degeneracy in the West would be quickly solved.