Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Genocide, Martyrdom and Forgetfulness

Reading can be painful, especially when it’s about the forgotten and persecuted church. Here’s something I was just reading at

  • Kenya is also experiencing a dramatic rise in terrorist violence, particularly in Eastleigh, a clogged suburb east of Nairobi’s central business district also known as “Little Mogadishu.” Kenya’s Christians make up 85 percent of the country’s population, but entering Eastleigh is like arriving at an Islamic, even Arab, enclave. Women dress in full-length black head coverings, and calls to prayer blare from megaphones mounted over shopping malls.
  • With the changes have come rising violence directed at Kenyans, and particularly Christians in Eastleigh. Last November a grenade attack killed seven residents, and authorities say they traced it to al Shabaab. In December militants killed 14 people in three separate attacks in Eastleigh, the worst killing at least 10 people when a bomb exploded on a minibus full of passengers. And on Dec. 16 another grenade explosion injured one resident.
  • Of 200 churches in the area, all but one, called Deliverance Church, have been destroyed or forced to shut down. In a case that made headlines and eventually went to court, a group of Somali backers managed to secure the deed to property for one of the largest churches, a 13-acre site on a prominent corner where Eastleigh’s Gospel Furthering Bible Church had met since 1968. Missionaries held services on the property going back to the 1930s. The Somalis eventually forced out the congregation and bulldozed the church, leaving a mostly vacant parcel surrounded by 20-foot-high corrugated metal barriers.
It’s hard to read about this constant drone of Muslim-on-Christian violence. Christianity Today estimates that 170,000 are being exterminated yearly for no other reason than the fact that they are Christians. What makes this even harder to take is the systematic silence of the West regarding this ongoing persecution.

However, the silence of other Christians is also troubling. Why is this so in light of Jesus’ concern for His church:

  • "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'” (Matthew 25:42-45)
Despite Jesus’ clear mandate to look after the needs of our persecuted and neglected brethren, we tend to justify our indifference: “Well, trials are necessary for the Christian life.” However, so is mercy and compassion:

  • Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:8-9)
Clearly, too many can’t speak for themselves. Many are driven to martyrdom, leaving their families bereft, and hardly anyone – especially the world powers and the media – are speaking up for them.

I met a gentle and sensitive Christian man who has committed himself to traveling internationally as an “ambassador” of friendship and kindness. I asked him about the form that his acts of kindness take. He explained that he backs away from any conversations that might lead to disagreement and discomfort.

Since he has many friends in the Islamic world, I asked him about the murder of Christians so prevalent in these Islamic countries, and whether he felt that “kindness” should lead him to speak up on their behalf. I was shocked by his glib answer:

  • Well, if they are martyred, they will be in a better place.
Although this is true, his answer ignores too much:

  1. The intense suffering that precedes martyrdom
  2. The bereavement
  3. The fear and intimidation under which Christians must live
  4. The loss and subjugation they must endure
  5. The impediments for living out the Gospel
  6. And, most importantly, we are commanded to speak out for the oppressed!
It is hard to not think about Jesus’ parable about the Good Samaritan. A priest and a Levite avoided a naked man dying on the side of the road (Luke 10:31-32). He had obviously been mugged. How did they justify their avoidance? Jesus doesn’t tell us, but the possible justifications are almost limitless:

  1. Blame the Victim: “He had no business being out on this road by himself.”
  1. Karma: “He probably brought this fate upon himself. He was just getting what he deserved.”
  1. I’m a Busy Man…
Perhaps Jesus doesn’t tell us their rationale because any rationale fails to justify why the priest and Levite didn’t offer aid.

We are confronted with a genocide of global proportions. How can we remain silent as God’s children are being slaughtered! John warns us that we must have pity on our brethren:

  • If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? (1 John 3:17)
Lord, help us to be faithful to You! Grant us a heart of compassion for our needy brethren and direct us in wisdom. Forgive us our many sins – our complacency and unfaithfulness.

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