[jwplayer config=”pjm_lifestyle” mediaid=”62719″]
My little brother — they shot him in the chest. His name was Gideon and he died at the age of ten. I saw my father bleeding seriously from the attack. He’s always kind, always telling us to read the Bible and be close to God. And that was the last time I saw him. He is not dead. Definitely one day we are going to meet again.
—Victoria, age 13
That day last year, eighteen people were shot and twelve died when Muslim extremists attacked Deeper Life Church in Gombe, Nigeria, during a church service. The Christian community in Nigeria has been under attack by Boko Haram, which has committed shootings, kidnappings, and bombings of schools and churches. Boko Haram seeks to eradicate Christians in their quest to enforce their strict version of Sharia law on Nigeria.
In September, an Afghan convert from Islam to Christianity was scalded with boiling water and acid at a refugee processing center in Norway. “If you don’t return to Islam, we will kill you,” his attackers told him.
Another Afghan Christian, Aman Ali, fled Afghanistan in 2010 after a video of his baptism was leaked to the press. “Someone had reported my activities to the secret police of Afghanistan and they were looking for evidence to arrest me, but I was so careful and had to stop my work,” Aman told International Christian Concern. “After the television showed pictures from a baptism ceremony, the Afghan government started arresting believers from different parts of Kabul… Most Afghan believers were scared… and left the country. So did me and my family.”
Ali and several others fled to India, seeking refugee status with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), but his application for status based on “well-founded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion” was rejected. Ali said the UNHCR did not view his conversion to Christianity as a legitimate threat to his life. Nearly a dozen other Afghans from the baptism video have been turned down by the UNHCR, including Ratimullah, who said, “I cannot return to my country because I will be arrested and executed by the Afghan government.” Ratimullah wrote in an appeal to the UNHCR, “A definite death is waiting for me in my homeland.” Most are now in hiding, fearing they will be sent back to Afghanistan. Some have fled to other countries, including Turkey, where they languish in refugee camps, often facing persecution from Muslim refugees.
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “In 2011, at least two Christians in Afghanistan were imprisoned by the Karzai administration, another was brutally beheaded by the Taliban, and nearly all Afghan Christians lived in fear of persecution. There is no evidence to suggest that the situation for Christians is improving, but every indication that it is only getting worse.”
In the Sinai Peninsula, controlled by Egypt, Bedouin Muslims abduct Christians from Africa, holding them in torture camps, demanding that their families pay ransoms of $40,000 to $50,000, which most cannot afford. “They torture them in horrible methods, like hanging upside down from the ceiling, like using electric shocks, like burning them on their bodies,” Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBNNews. Eritrean and Ethiopian Christians are fleeing their homelands, seeking refuge in Europe and Israel from the kidnappings and brutal torture. “They hang us the way [Jesus] was hanged and they take off their clothes. While they are naked they will hang them. And they will just hit them with big bats like all day for hours.”
[jwplayer config=”pjm_lifestyle” mediaid=”62720″]
These are just a few examples of the brutality and persecution Christians around the globe endure on daily basis. Those who know and support missionaries in Muslim countries have heard firsthand the stories of the difficulties Christians face in regions where Islam is the predominant religion. Missionaries learn to compose emails and newsletters in a kind of Christian “code” in case they are intercepted, lest the missionary be accused of proselytizing. The emails carry warnings not to post them on the internet. Most are concerned not for their own safety, but instead fear for the safety of national believers who often face great danger and persecution for open demonstrations of Christianity in Muslim countries. Missionaries change the names of Christians for whom they request prayer to protect their identities. I know missionaries who have been booted out of Muslim countries and some who have buried friends who were tortured and killed for their faith.
The YouTube video clips and news reports tell stories of real people. In our media-saturated world, it’s easy to imagine they are dramatic presentations. But these are stories of real moms and dads burying their sons and daughters and kids burying their mommies and daddies and hundreds of thousands of refugees displaced from their countries because they believe in Jesus Christ in countries where He has been declared the enemy.
Today, November 10th, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Millions of Americans will sit in churches and worship God without fear of Muslims storming up the aisles with assault rifles. We will sing and pray and take our happy little children to Sunday school to learn about the Bible and sing songs about Jesus. We won’t have to worry about kidnapping, torture, or our churches being firebombed. Praise God for that.
As we enjoy our ability to worship freely and practice our faith openly in the United States and other free countries, many Christians around the world will join in prayer today for those who do not enjoy the same freedom. As we sing and fellowship in our churches, we have the opportunity to lift up in prayer many who are in chains, in jail, and are suffering for their faith in countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq where persecution of Christians is most severe. The Bible tells us to,
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3).
Saeed Abedini, the American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran since summer of 2012 and has recently been moved to a more violent prison, making his situation more urgent, wrote a letter to encourage and thank those praying for him. It’s a vivid reminder that while we go about our daily lives, some of our brothers and sisters are suffering, counting the minutes and marking their days in terrifying prison cells.
I always wanted God to make me a godly man. I did not realize that in order to become a godly man we need to become like steel under pressure. It is a hard process of warm and cold to make steel. The process in my life today is one day I was told I will be freed on bail to see my family and kids on Christmas (they are all lies) and the next day I am told I will hang for my faith in Jesus. One day there are intense pains after beatings in interrogations, the next day they are nice to you and offer you candy. These hot and colds only make you a man of steel for moving forward in expanding His Kingdom.
When for 120 days you are asleep in a room with one big light that is constantly lit and does not separate day or night and when you can only see true sunlight for a few minutes a week, that’s when you are becoming His Workmanship and you can be a vessel in bringing His Kingdom in a dark place and you are able to share the Gospel of Peace and Life to the dying world. And this is where you learn you can love your enemies with all of your heart.I am looking forward to the day to see all of you who are behind me with your prayers and to embrace you in my arms. Thank you for the love you have showed me. What is in us is stronger than what is in the world and it has conquered the world.
—Pastor Saeed Abedini, in chains for our Lord Jesus Christ
Pray for Pastor Abedini and all the other persecuted Christians today, on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.