As you may remember, at the end of September our brothers and sisters at All. Saints’ Church, in Peshawar, Pakistan, were targeted on a Sunday morning by a Muslim extremist and suicide bomber, leaving 85 dead and over 100 injured (see here). What you may not know is that Christians in the Middle East and Africa are currently facing some of the worst persecution in centuries. In the last few years they continue to be slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped, beheaded and forced to flee their homes.
For example, in August, shortly after Egypt’s Mohamed Morsi was removed from power, churches such as the one in Hakim, near Cairo, were attacked, looted and burned (see here). In fact Coptic Christians in Egypt are increasingly under threat of violence and even death.
Elsewhere, in September, in Nairobi, Kenya, a shopping centre was attacked. The Islamic fanatics allowed Muslims to leave, held back the Christians, and killed 70 people (see here).
In Syria Christians are also under attack (see here). This September the ancient Christian town of Maalula (where the people still speak the Aramaic language of Jesus) was over run. When one lady heard the news she desperately rang her fiancés’ phone, only to be told by a member of the “Free Syrian Army” that they had given him a chance to convert to Islam, but he refused, so they slit his throat (see here).
I could continue to list countries and situations around the world, but it is enough to say that Christians in the Middle East and Africa truly are facing some of the worst suffering and persecution imaginable. In fact, according to Pew Forum, between 2006 and 2010 Christians faced discrimination in an amazing 139 nations worldwide, that’s three-quarters of the countries on the plant! For no other reason than they believe in Jesus. Unreported in the news, and largely unnoticed by the church, the world is witnessing the rise of a new generation of Christian martyrs.
These are our brothers and sisters:
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit, into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink … If one part suffers, every part suffers … Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Cor 12:12-13, 26, 27
In December 2011 Rowan Williams, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, did bring this issue to parliament. During his plea, the then chief Rabbi of Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks, said, “It was Martin Luther King who said, ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’ This is why I felt I could not be silent today … I have followed the fate of Christians in the Middle East for years, appalled at what is happening, surprised and distressed … that it is not more widely known.” (see here)
The truth is that in the face of this, even knowing what is happening, it is so difficult to know what to do. I myself feel powerless. But as I have contemplated and prayed I have come to two solutions that I believe we must all do.
Firstly, we must pray. In last months magazine I spoke about the power of prayer. I am convinced that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). So we must pray. Do not forget them. Do not forget our brothers and sisters around the world who daily face threats of violence, discrimination and death because they follow Jesus. Pray for them. With that in mind, I would like as many of you as possible could join my on Sunday 3rd November, 6:15pm to pray for our fellow believers who are facing the worst persecution for nothing other than following Jesus.
Secondly, I will not stay silent. I have no illusions that my small voice will change anything, but I will speak of it nonetheless.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who was finally executed for resisting Hitler and the Nazi regime once wrote, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
That is why I chose to write on this topic this month. Because Bonhoeffer was right and so I shall pray and I shall speak. Will you join me? Please come and pray and talk on Sunday 3rd November, 6:15pm, St. Anne’s Church
God bless you all,