The Power of Persecution
On April 22, 2011, Amina awakened to the sound of gunshots outside her home in northern Nigeria. She had heard about attacks on Christian villages, and now her village of Kataru was about to be added to the list.
She and a friend tried to escape with their children over the back fence, but Amina was six months pregnant and struggled to climb over. As she managed to get to the top, a bullet hit her leg. Her friend dragged her back into the house to hide. Attackers followed the trail of blood and broke into the house.
They brutalized Amina with their machetes inflicting deep gashes on her scalp, neck, and arms. Leaving her to die in a pool of blood, they left, setting fires throughout the village. The next day they returned and set fire to Aminaâ€™s home.
The Nigerian army transported Amina to a hospital, where her baby was delivered stillborn. Doctors took six days to suture all of Aminaâ€™s wounds. She spent the next four months in the hospital recovering.
This story is recorded in the August 2013 issue of Voice of the Martyrs magazine.
Persecution Made Personal
More than 360 million Christians today face some type of persecution (physical violence, loss of property, or unemployment) because of their faith in Jesus. Every two hours, a Christian is killed for following Jesus. Thatâ€™s twelve Christians a day!
I canâ€™t help but wonder: Am I willing to sacrifice my life for Christ? Are you?
The Bible addresses persecution. It was a regular occurrence during biblical times. Joseph was thrown into Pharoahâ€™s prison for supposedly lusting after his wife. And the apostle Paul . . . how many times was he imprisoned? Persecution is commonplace today, too. Who can forget the chilling images of the 21 men in orange jumpsuits being led by ISIS militants along a beach in Libya to have their heads cut off?
So what is the cause of all this evil? People turning to Jesus, of course! â€œIf we pray to stop persecution, then we are praying to halt conversions,â€ says Nik Ripken.
Ripken has interviewed more than 600 persecuted believers in 72 countries. He says that one of the fastest ways to discover where an unexpected harvest is taking place globally is to watch for persecution.
The Great Commission commands us to go to all places â€“ not just safe places. Sadly, the most challenging place to evangelize is family, friends, and coworkers, not those in third-world countries. A chilling statistic is that 95% of those born into the church never share the gospel with anyone! Could we be persecuting ourselves?
A Personal Experience
Whether true or not, there are claims that persecution occurs more frequently in India than in any other country. While the persecution may not be as severe as in other parts of the world, Christians are more frequently harassed, beaten, fined, and imprisoned in India.
I remember when I was in India helping conduct a womenâ€™s conference. The women were receptive to our teachings, music, and crafts. All was going well until a fellow villager showed up on the next to last day of the conference. He was suspected of being a Hindu radical. We had run into him in the past and had, in fact, relocated our conference because of him.
The man accused us of proselytizing the women. To avoid an ugly confrontation, our group hid until the man left. I remember a sense of fear and anxiety sweeping over me. The man came back later that evening with reinforcements and a television crew. A microphone was passed around, and we were each asked questions. One of the ladies in our group volunteered to go to the police station to sort it all out. The problem went away, but then, so did the Indian women! They were afraid to remain until the end of the conference.
The Good Side of Persecution
Following Christ can cost everything. Ripken asks the sobering question: when did it become okay to die for our country and not die for Jesus?
Persecution doesnâ€™t have to be the end of the story. There is joy on the other side that is hopeful and powerful. We should celebrate how the name of Jesus is being shared in dark and dangerous places. In some countries, Christians donâ€™t wonder if they will be imprisoned for their faith. They wonder when they will be imprisoned! But they know their testimony has power and light for other prisoners and their torturers.
My interest in the persecuted church has given me a greater understanding of seeing it as a blessing in some ways. These individuals will have their reward in heaven. I am amazed how persecutors ask prayer not for their release but for strength to endure! Joseph told his brothers, â€œYou planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result â€“ the survival of many peopleâ€ (Genesis 50:20).
Persecution is here to stay. It cannot be stopped, but â€œwe can give it value and make it count,â€ says Ripken. We can do this by not keeping Jesus to ourselves. Share Him, His love, and His eternal hope and salvation.