Due to the rapidly increasing persecution of believers around the world, we are sharing a special feature this month in place of our regular NewsWatch page and the TBC Notes section.
Pray and Grieve
The suffering of our persecuted brothers and sisters for the cause of Christ ought to bring tears to our eyes and drive us to our knees in prayer for them. It is nearly impossible to get out of our minds some of the horrifying images that assault our senses day after day, knowing that others like these are increasingly being reenacted throughout the world. Regarding my own heart as well as the hearts of believers everywhere who are thus far personally unacquainted with such terror, I pray: “Lord, please convict us of our self-preoccupation and indifference, and help us to support these suffering ones as You enable us.”
A few examples should suffice to remind us to stay on our knees in supplication for believers everywhere whose faith is being tested in almost unimaginable ways, and who, being found faithful unto death, will hear those sweet words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of the Lord”:
‘I Need God to Help Me Forget’ [Excerpt]
The chairman of Garissa University College’s Christian Union [in Kenya], who survived the April 2 Al Shabab attack in which 148 students were killed [asks for prayer for the survivors].…Twenty-one-year-old Frederick Gitonga...explained how he had been up late the night before the attack, praying for one of the students under his care…. The next morning, that student was dead, along with the other 21 Christian Union (CU) members who had attended early morning prayers…. “My roommates ran out, leaving the door wide open,” he explained. “I…hid under the bed [and] could hear the gunshots and screams of fellow students. I could [hear] them lying to women that they should come out since their religion does not allow them to kill women. When they did, they were all killed…. It’s so painful to see people you know butchered like cows. They died for confessing Christ, but I put it to you… Who will stand up and say enough is enough?” (goo.gl/fz7S16)
Protestants in Mexico Told They Must Convert or Pay Heavy Fine to Return to Their Own Village [Excerpt]
Protestants who were expelled from their village in Chiapas, Mexico, for religious reasons in 2012 were told by the government they could return and their religious freedom would be protected; however, when they returned…they were told they would only be granted entrance if they converted or paid an extremely high fine. This, as well as attacks, beatings, barring Christian children from school and cutting off access to water and electricity, are just a few examples of the types of religious freedom violations they have experienced…. (goo.gl/0sua8p)
Persecution of Christians Reached Historic Levels in 2014. Will 2015 Be Worse?
From imprisonment to torture to beheadings, more Christians worldwide live in fear for their lives than at any time in the modern era. That’s the message from Open Doors USA, which released its annual World Watch List on Wednesday (Jan. 7). Christian persecution reached historic levels in 2014, with approximately 100 million Christians around the world facing possible dire consequences for merely practicing their religion….If current trends persist, many believe 2015 could be even worse.
“In regions where Christians are being persecuted as central targets, the trends and issues we track are expanding,” said David Curry, president of Open Doors, a nonprofit that aids persecuted Christians in the most oppressive countries and ranks nations based on the severity of persecution.
North Korea tops Open Doors’ list as the worst oppressor of Christians for the 13th consecutive year, but the list is dominated by African and Middle Eastern nations. Iraq, which experienced the mass displacement of Christians from its northern region, ranked third. Syria was listed fourth, due to the reign of ISIS in that war-torn region. Nigeria ranked 10th, due in part to the more than 1,000 Christians murdered or kidnapped by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. Also included in the top 10 are Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan and Eritrea….The situation is reaching crisis levels: Christianity faces possible extinction in the Middle East and persecution is growing at alarming rates in Asia and Africa. Curry concluded: “The 2015 Watch List is a wake-up call to Western countries to protect religious freedoms around the world.” (goo.gl/U15EXl)
As Dave Hunt wrote: “Christ was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and He told His disciples that they (and that would include us today) should not expect to be treated any better than He was. It was in obedience to His Father that He allowed Himself to be slain, because it was through death that He would “destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil’’ (Heb:2:14). So Paul in the Roman epistle is declaring that the same fate will befall many Christians, but that just as our Lord triumphed in death and suffering, so we shall also. This Scripture does not teach that the Christian will be able through the power of God to escape suffering and death but that we will conquer through suffering and death. This was Paul’s own experience. To Timothy he wrote: ‘But thou hast fully known my doctrine [note the first thing he mentions, the foundation of all that follows], manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra [and many other places]; what persecutions I endured; but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution’ (2 Tm 3:10-12).”
T. A. McMahon