2023 in Review: The Forgotten Stories
2023 is in the history books. We wanted to take a look back at some of the year’s highs and lows, with a three-part series we are calling “Favorites, Forgottens and Unfathomables.” With “Favorites” our assorted Stream writers will share their favorite story or stories of the year. With “Forgottens,” each will name the story or stories we think have not gotten nearly the attention they deserve. And then there are the “Unfathomables.” These are the stories that are nearly impossible to believe actually happened. “Wait. That’s not the Babylon Bee? Or the plot of a dystopian horror movie?”
Today, the Forgotten stories.
The biggest “forgotten story” of 2023 is still unfolding right before our eyes. Since October 17, when Iran-backed terrorist proxy groups began launching attacks in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, U.S. troops have been targeted more than 100 times in Iraq and Syria. Several dozen have been injured and the missile, rocket and drone attacks continue on an almost daily basis.
As brave US troops remain under attack in Iraq, Syria & the Red Sea, please join us in praying for the brave @USArmy pilot who was critically injured earlier this week. #ServiceandSacrifice@TSileo https://t.co/SPaEINqqpC
— The Stream (@Streamdotorg) December 29, 2023
As The Stream has been reporting, American warships have also been the target of Iran-backed Houthi terrorists in Yemen. More than 100 attacks have been carried out against U.S. Navy and international ships in the Red Sea, causing chaos and instability in the shipping industry. Only recently were U.S. forces finally given the green light to retaliate against the Houthis.
What troubles me the most about this story is how little we’re hearing about it. Yes, there are some journalists covering the attacks, but these attacks are receiving nowhere near the coverage of the latest Trump-Biden or Trump-DeSantis or Trump-Haley poll numbers. Approximately 200 strikes against U.S. military and international civilian targets on orders of a hostile regime like Iran is a massive story with huge global implications.
Most importantly, the lives of our nation’s volunteer warriors are at risk. To truly thank them for their service, we must pay more attention to their sacrifices and demand more action to keep them safe by politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Too few media have been honestly covering the ongoing persecution of hundreds of peaceful election integrity protestors on January 6, 2021, which has extended to include even citizen journalists who filmed the events in real time. Read about the campaign against journalists Tayler Hanson and Owen Shryer by Deep State-directed prosecutors. And this Gateway Pundit headline really does say it all: “US Government Trailed Credentialed Reporter Tayler Hansen for 2 Years with 48 Air Marshalls on 16 Different Flights for Reporting at Jan 6 Protests.” Remember when the feds did that for the George Floyd rioters, and those who vandalized pro-life churches? Neither do I.
I interviewed one such journalist, Nicholas Ochs, the day before he reported to prison to serve a four-year sentence for making a video and for “obstruction of an official proceeding.” You know, like when a Democrat congressman pulls a fire alarm to disrupt a vote.
The shameful collaboration of GOP elites in this political witch hunt must not be forgotten or forgiven. Any candidate who called that FBI-infiltrated, partly unruly demonstration an “insurrection” should be hounded out of office. If you’re wondering about a Republican politician on this issue, just Google his name and the word “insurrectionist.” See if that’s the term he used for citizens who walked on the steps of their nation’s Capitol, unaware that it had been quietly declared off limits by a Capitol Police that would go on to shoot unarmed protestors, attack crowds with pepper gas, and otherwise behave more like CCP troops in Tianenmen Square. Remember that GOP leaders Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy colluded to keep the J6 tapes secret, illegally withholding exculpatory evidence, to support the “narrative” of the Capitol Police. Did your congressman vote to support them?
We must be grateful for courageous reporters such as Julie Kelly (subscribe to her amazing Substack!), and for the small number of media figures willing to defend free speech in our country, including Steve Bannon, Jason Jones, Charlie Kirk, Revolver News, The Epoch Times, and Eric Metaxas. And let’s not forget the most important political film in the past five years, Dinesh D’Souza’s sobering Police State.
While The Stream has a small handful of stories on Torben Søndergaard from Dr. Brown’s and my coverage of his detainment and release, his story has not garnered widespread coverage. Perhaps it’s easy to assume that if he was detained, he must have done something to deserve it. Or perhaps even that the detainment of an immigrant seeking asylum is typical. (If so, why only detain him and not his wife who was here with him?) As more information has come out, it has become increasingly clear that Torben’s detainment in a U.S. immigration detention center for over a year is indeed an example of Christian persecution: a targeted attack against him because of his powerful work as a minister of the Gospel.
On a recently created website, torbensondergaard.com, Torben has posted a timeline explaining the events that led to his persecution. He says two powerful men have been seeking to bring him harm. One reportedly is a charismatic former employee who apparently became jealous of Torben’s influence and sought to cause division within the organization and then to harm Torben after he was let go. Another reportedly is a man angry with Torben for bringing a then-prostitute he was obsessed with to repentance and faith in Jesus, so he now seeks to destroy Torben. These men are reportedly behind a smear campaign against him in Denmark that had him at the center of Danish news media, tips to law enforcement in Denmark and then the U.S. accusing Torben of crimes, and then his detainment in the U.S.
This story may sound hard to believe, and perhaps that’s exactly why the story hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. I know of the story because Torben has been very influential to me and my church leaders. I’ve heard John Zmirak remark in other contexts that reality is sometimes so crazy that when he explains it to people, they think something is wrong with him rather than with reality. But I think we do well to look into this story and seek to understand it. If this could happen in the U.S., it’s certainly worth our attention. Torben has warned that God told him when he first came to the U.S. that persecution was coming here as well. He’s seen how powerfully deceptive news media can be to smear a person and cause him undeserved grief.
His story is not one to be forgotten. It matches quite well Jesus’ description of persecution in Matthew 5:10-12, and yet takes place in Western nations:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
One of the biggest forgotten stories occurred in Uganda this past June. While we are reeling over the Hamas attacks on Israel, we have forgotten that terrorist attacks happen regularly — all over the world. As Raymond Ibrahim reported June 26, “Islamic terrorists stormed a private high school in Uganda, where students were closing the night by singing Christian hymns. Over the next 90 minutes, the Muslim invaders committed unspeakable horrors against the Christian youth — murdering, in the end, at least 42 people, 37 of them teenage boys and girls.” The boys were locked in their dorms and set on fire; the girls were mostly stabbed to death.
We have forgotten that the Muslim terrorists slaughtered these young people because they were Christians. As Ibrahim stated, there have been prior terrorist attacks in Bangladesh, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, and even the U.S. “The attack was about religion, namely, killing Christians — and only Christians.” Uganda, a mostly Christian nation, only has about 12% of a Muslim population, but every month terrorists kill or terrorize Christians. “[T]he June 16 massacre of Christian students, far from being some sort of aberration, is reflective of just how bad things have gotten, and not just in Uganda, but all throughout sub-Saharan Africa, wherever there are meaningful Muslim populations.” Let’s not forget these young martyrs of the faith.
“I feel like I don’t matter.” That’s East Palestine, Ohio resident Jessica Conrad speaking not only for herself, but likely for her entire community. East Palestine was wrecked, poisoned, ruined when a Norfolk Southern train derailed February 3rd, spilling dangerous chemicals, which were then burned off, sending a black toxic cloud over the area. The soil in this poor, rural town was contaminated, as were local waterways.
Residents got sick.
What they didn’t get was a visit from the president. Oh, the White House promised repeatedly he would come. But 11 months later, still no visit. He’s hopped on planes to visit other disaster areas. Or if there’s a mass school shooting where the perp isn’t a minority or angry transgender quicker than you can say “Hunter’s laptop.” He went to Ukraine. Poured hundreds of billions into the place. He went to his Delaware homes 30 times in 2023. Slurped chocolate chip ice cream. But the short flight to East Palestine? Sorry. We’re sure Biden’s snub has nothing to do with the fact that East Palestine went 70% for Donald Trump in 2020.
My top under-reported story of the year is that there is still one place in the world that hasn’t turned political. A lot of people think it has, but that’s because they’re getting their information from the wrong place.
I’m talking about our churches. Polls say a lot of people think Christians are too political, even pushing “theocracy” or promoting “Christian nationalism.” Our public policy efforts get reported in the news because that’s what the news does. Our positions and purpose get distorted because that’s what the news does, too.
What’s not reported is everything else churches do. We take a public policy stance on marriage, for example, but our real work on marriage is in the churches, and it always has been. Pastors across the country preach thousands and thousands of hours of sermons on marriages every year. Thousands upon thousands of small groups meet to study marriage and to strengthen and encourage each other’s marriages, not to mention the myriad counseling and mentoring sessions churches do with couples, and the conferences, and the videos, podcasts, and books.
And 99% of it is blessedly non-political. It’s about learning how to follow God’s design, and if the world thinks that’s politics, that’s their mistake, not ours. Frankly, we’d be better off if more Christians would at least vote, and more pastors would give them more biblical guidance!
The same goes for care for the poor, for education, for parenting, and for so much more. If the world wants to push ethical issues into public policy debate, we’ll willingly meet them there. But if anyone thinks we exist for that purpose, or that politics occupies more than a fraction of what we do in church, they’re too busy reading the news, and not getting to know real Christians or real Christianity.
So what is your choice for “Forgotten” story of the year? Let us know at [email protected].