It’s The Least We Can Do?

Counter-intuitively, the church of Jesus Christ has historically seemed to flourish in the midst of persecution. In Iran, China and Ethiopia, Christians are hunted, hounded, harassed and often killed. Pastor Youcef was arrested nearly 3 years ago. He remains in prison in Iran for “offending Islam.” Recently, an execution order hung imminently over his head. It was denied following international indignation, yet daily he waits with no resolution. In spite of this, the church grows. In July 2011, it was reported that the Christian church in Iran was growing annually at 19.6%. [oprev.org]

In Turkey, Christians are getting tired. It’s been five years since three Christian men were bound, tortured and killed in Turkey. [persecutionblog.com] The church is barely hanging on.

“Within Turkish culture, Christians remain vilified and are treated as second-class citizens. The news media often portray Christianity in a negative light, and some church leaders rely on bodyguards and police protection. In 2011, a Protestant group documented 12 attacks against Christians, and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom added Turkey to its list of 16 ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ this year.”

 There is another blessed outcome of persecution.

“Let the whole world bless our God
and loudly sing his praises.
Our lives are in his hands,
and he keeps our feet from stumbling.
You have tested us, O God;
you have purified us like silver.
You captured us in your net
and laid the burden of slavery on our backs.
Then you put a leader over us.
We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.” Ps. 66:8-12

As a grateful Christian, living in America, it’s hard to know what to say. I feel refined in my own daily life, sometimes I feel like the heat is more than I can bear. Why am I spared the sufferings that Christians in other countries experience? Does God know that my faith is not yet strong enough to endure? I pray that’s not the case!

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” Revelation 3:15-17

Often we feel like there’s little to do from where we sit. “All we can do is pray,” is a common, comfy-Christian refrain. First, there is no such thing as “only praying.” I think we see little because we ask little, we expect little, we endure little. However, there is something else we can do.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

Stacy Harp is the editor of persecutionblog.com. I asked her what I can do, what we can do, to raise the awareness of the persecuted church and to increase the fervency of American Christians to support our brothers and sisters. Her first, specific request is that we write to Pastor Youcef.

Would you do that?

 

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While Christians Are Being Killed

You know that question: “What were you doing on 9/11?” or: “Do you remember where you were when JFK was shot?”

What were you doing on your last birthday? I was enjoying a good, craft beer with my husband after a nice, normal morning at church. The weather was great, our windows were open, it was pure relaxation. Meanwhile, 6,599 miles away, in Nigeria, 9 members of St. Finbar’s Catholic Church were killed during a not-so-normal 10:30 a.m. church service.

What if there were youth stationed outside your church as security detail during your Sunday morning service? What if those youth had to detain a car loaded with explosives and self-proclaimed martyrs ready to detonate themselves as long as they could take you out with them?

“We attacked simply because it’s a church, and we can decide to attack any other church,” spokesman Abu Qaqa told United Press International (UPI). “We have just started.”

What would you do? A growing number of Nigerian Christians are reaching their limit. They have endured unprovoked attacks against their churches, their homes and their families. “We are tired of turning the other cheek,” one man explained in 2010. That was 2 years ago! Do you hear the echo of Habakkuk 1:2?

“How long, LORD, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’
but you do not save?”

Clergymen gather around the coffins of the victims of the Christmas day bombing at St Theresa Catholic Church Madalla, during a mass funeral for the victims, outside Nigeria's capital Abuja, February 1, 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Easter Sunday, I was again in church. We had entertained friends over brunch. I wept in worship, lifting my hands to familiar songs and resting in familiar words from the pulpit. I know that Jesus is omnipresent, I know that He is with me at all times, everywhere, but on Easter Sunday, there was another attack on Christians in Nigeria. This one killed several more people. Why do I imagine that His eyes and heart were drawn passionately toward His hurting people. That must be the definition of filling up the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:24) He knows their pain personally.

I wonder if Christ will ask us one day, “Where were you when my people were being slaughtered because they dared to gather together and worship me?” What will I tell Him? Where was my heart? Where were my prayers? What are we doing?

Attacks Claimed by Boko Haram

July 2009: Attacks and clashes in Bauchi and Maiduguri leave 800 people dead.
December 2010: Bombings in central Nigeria and church attacks in the northeast kill 86 people.
June 26, 2011: Attack on a Maiduguri bar kills 25 people.
August 25, 2011: Attacks on police station in Gombi and two banks kill 12 people.
August 26, 2011: Suicide bomber kills 23 people at U.N. building in Abuja.
November 4, 2011: Damaturu, Potiskum bombings kill 65 people.
December 25, 2011: Christmas Day bombings across Nigeria kill 39 people.

taken from: Voice Of America, http://www.voanews.com