I receive a monthly newsletter from "Voice of the Martyrs", and this month’s magazine features the persecution of Christians in Uganda, Tanzania, and Zanzibar. Historically, the author wrote, these countries in Eastern Africa have been regarded as safe havens for Christians, and have welcomed various Christianity-sponsored resources.
But that has begun to change, and the Muslim minority region has grown more hostile to our brothers and sisters in Christ. They are daily enduring beatings, mutilations, murder, etc, and their private worship meetings are being stormed by Islamist militants on a regular basis.
The article detailed events of three pastors and their churches. Zanzibarian Pastor Kaganga's church and automobile were set ablaze; he was spared, but only because raiders could not find him hiding. Tanzanian Pastor Mathayo was hacked to death by a machete-wielding mob. In that attack, one of the assailants attempted to behead the pastor, but missed his neck and hacked into his chest instead. Ugandan Pastor Umar was surrounded by a mob who poured acid and gasoline on his head and back and set on fire. He was badly burned, but survived the attack. A note was sent to him as he endured his 5th surgery, threatening, “We will finish the job.”
Harrowing stories like these cause me to wonder, “Why are our brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted like this around the globe?” Or maybe another way of asking should be, “Why aren’t we in the ‘West’ being persecuted like this?” Aren’t we professing to live in the same kingdom of the same Savior? Haven’t we been indwelled by the same Spirit?
Please don’t mistake my intent; I cherish my great freedoms in America. I enjoy meeting with fellow Christians any day I choose without any real fear of losing my life simply due to the purpose of that meeting; my home has never been ransacked because of my faith in Christ; no church I have attended throughout my life has ever been destroyed by arsonists because of the gospel message. I live in relative peace, and I embrace it.
I must ask myself, “Do I live a life that is truly transformed by Jesus Christ and markedly different from the world around me?” Would others have reason to persecute me because of Christ? Or would they even know I belong to Christ in the first place?
What particularly special transformation is occurring in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe? How has faith in their Savior impacted their witness so passionately that the same is not occurring here? What have our persecuted brothers and sisters discovered that makes their faith so vibrant, so real in the face of horrible persecution? Worse yet, what are we missing?
Is persecution a key component in answering these questions?