Daily we read the news of violent persecution that is directed toward professing Christians in the world. India particularly has seen the murder of many and the burning of thousands of houses of these professing believers. I understand that over a hundred meeting houses have been burned to the ground. Militant Hindus have led in this wholesale slaughter. We know that many of those who have faced the Hindu wrath are not true Christians, for most are Catholics and different kinds of Protestants. However, the fact that they do profess to follow Christ in some form or fashion shows that persecution is active in our world!
Indonesia, the country with the greatest number of Muslims in the world, is a place that has witnessed the murder and persecution of vast numbers of professing Christians. Rioting and burning of meeting places occur, incited and carried on by radical Muslims.
China has had a miserable record on the violation of human rights, and part of this entails the extensive persecution of professing Christians in the underground church. These are the ones who refuse to be part of the acceptable state church that is regulated by the Communist government. They fear that their freedom of worship and belief will be compromised, thus they would rather suffer physical, economic, and social persecution than leave their faith. Fearing some opposition to their leadership, the Communist leaders have conducted massive raids of Christian gatherings and consigned leaders to prison sentences, while family members are left to languish without protection or support.
We used to think that the Communist persecution of Christians in the former Soviet Union was extremeand it was. Todays persecution seems to be found primarily in Islamic lands. One of the basic commands of the Lord Jesus was to preach the gospel to people around the world. He declared, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). Again, Jesus commanded that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations (Luke 24:47). Sharing our faith in Jesus Christ and the truth of God as well as Jesus Christ is at the heart of our commitment to Him. It is not an option. It is basic to our life.
This seems simple enough, but through the years it has been hard to implement! In the first preaching of the gospel in Jerusalem, the Jewish leaders persecuted the apostles (Acts 3-5). This persecution reached out to the common Christians, as far away as Damascus, and they sought to bring the Christian faith to an end through violent persecution, even to the point of death (cf. Acts 8:1; 9:1-2, 14; 22:4-5; 26:9-11). Wherever Paul traveled and preached, he received persecution from both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 13:50; 14:19; 16:22-24; 2 Corinthians 11:23-29).
Today, in many countries, it is impossible to carry out Christs final command without facing the threat of death. This may be difficult to understand in America or in Europe, but it is true in multiple nations in the world. In a number of Islamic countries today, proselytism is illegal. They define this as preaching the gospel of Christ to Muslims with the hope of winning them to the Lord and His kingdom. This is absolutely forbidden, under the pain of death! Even open Christian meetings are forbidden in some radical Islamic nations. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq are among the most repressive.
They assert that it was good and praiseworthy for Muhammad and his followers to march across the Middle East, Africa, and even into Europe, bearing the sword, and forcing vast multitudes to accept the religion of the Koran, but conversion to any other religion is absolutely forbidden.
Today the news carries a pathetic report of a young, 34-year-old girl by the name of Gayle Williams. This girl was a dual British-South African national who was part of SERVE (Serving Emergency Relief and Vocational Enterprises), a professing Christian organization with this expressed purpose: SERVE Afghanistans purpose is to express Gods love and bring hope by serving the people of Afghanistan, especially the needy, as we seek to address personal, social and environmental needs.
As a Christian who is wholly oriented to the way of God found in the New Testament, I may have some reservation on this. In the New Testament, we have no impression that the early Christians went into the entire world to do charitable work. They expressly went to preach the good news of a crucified and risen Lord who offered forgiveness and eternal life to all who would repent and believe the gospel. Their charitable work was primarily directed to poor Christians in need (cf. Romans 15:25-27; 1 Corinthians 16:1ff; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:1, 12).
However, we do not wish to pursue that point now. Whether Scriptural or unscriptural, this organization sent a young woman to express Gods love and bring hope by serving the people of Afghanistan. This seems innocent, but the militant Muslims didnt see it this way. As Gayle walked to work at 8 AM, to help handicapped Afghans, she was mercilessly shot to death! The report says that the militants said she was killed for spreading her religion.
A spokesman for the militants said the Taliban ordered her killed because she was accused of proselytizing. Aabiullah Mujahad told the Associated Press, This woman came to Afghanistan to teach Christianity to the people of Afghanistan. Our [leaders] issued a decree to kill this woman. Douglas Alexander, Britains secretary of state, had a different opinion: To present her killing as a religious act is as despicable as it is absurdit was cold blooded murder. We would agree!
Afghanistans highest Muslim council said that for the past couple of years rumors have spread that Westerners have been preaching Christianity to Afghans. They cannot or will not tolerate this preaching, lest some of their Muslim flock might be persuaded to come to see that Jesus is indeed Lord, the very Son of God, and the only way of salvation. Council member Jebra Ali asserted, We have heard rumors that houses have been rented to preach Christianity in Kabul and some provinces, but we have no evidence that this is taking place.
The report gives some of the background of this killing. Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic nation. Proselytizing is prohibited by law and other Christian missionaries or charities have faced severe hostility. Last year, 23 South Korean aid workers from a church group where taken hostage in southern Afghanistan. Two were killed and the rest were eventually released. (This report came from the article, Taliban Gunmen Kills Christian Aid Worker in Kabul, World News, Oct. 21, 2008.)
Regardless of George Bushs assertion that Islam is a peaceful religion, we must understand that the Koran is a bloody book. This document offers many commands for Muslims to kill (murder) people of other faiths. Anything other than Islam is not to be tolerated. We are grateful that many Muslims are of the liberal variety, ones who do not take their own inspired book seriously, otherwise there would be more than one billion people on earth intent on slaying Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and professing Christians. While only 10 percent of Muslims may be considered radical Muslims, this is still a staggering 100 million people! Even if only 10 percent of this number are extremist enough to choose to die for their false beliefs, this yet is a huge number of people10 million!
We dont want to be placed in a position of defending every professing Christian who is in Islamic lands. As we take the New Testament as our authority, we must conclude that the great majority of these people are not truly saved, not truly under Christs Lordship, and not true Christians. But we should be very aware of the extreme opposition to all preaching of Jesus Christ the Son of God, all commitment to the Bible as the exclusive Word of God, and all commitment to the Christian way of life.
This world is not a friendly place for the committed and true follower of Christ Jesus. The Christian who enters any one of these conservative Islamic lands, and is determined to preach the good news of Christ and win others to Him, will definitely face almost immediate opposition, imprisonment, and perhaps even death. It is nearly fatal for a Muslim to accept the truth of Christ and be born againand live a consistent and uncompromising life in Christwithout extreme persecution, including death. Ones baptism is virtually a death sentence.
Let us pray for those who are mistreated by unbelievers everywhere. Let us remember the persecuted people who claim to be Christianswhether they are genuine or notthat the will of God may be done and that the world may come to know the truth that will set them free from sin, from death, and from hell! Muhammad is death. Christ Jesus is alive!