This past Sunday was dedicated as the International Day of Prayer. Take four minutes to watch Shafia’s story. Please. And then take four minutes to replay the story of your life. Does being a Christian mean anything different here than in the land of our slain brethren?
This Sunday, I am preaching my third message on Matthew 10:16-25, a very difficult passage dealing with persecution, suffering, hatred, and death–all because of living on mission and becoming like Christ. As I am reminded of the relative absence of such realities here in America, reports like this are vivid testimonies of what our brothers and sisters face daily around the world. This report comes from Christian Solidarity Worldwide and is dated August 5, 2009:
A thirteen-year-old Nigerian Christian has told Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) sources how she was forced to watch her pastor’s murder, and has also spoken of her four-day ordeal as a prisoner in the besieged compound of Islamist group, Boko Haram.
On 26 July, Mary was in church with her pastor, his brother and an older Christian woman when a group of fifty militants broke in. She and her pastor hid as the group killed the pastor’s brother and dragged the older woman out of the room. On discovering their hiding place, the militants cut off her pastor’s hand to stop him holding on to her, then hacked him to death with machetes before setting him on fire.
The girl and the woman were dragged to Boko Haram’s compound in Maiduguri’s Railway district, and were placed in a room with around 100 other Christian women and girls. They were all asked to renounce their faith or face continued imprisonment, while Christian men were given the choice of renouncing their faith or dying.
Mary vividly describes how she was forced to wash the blood stained clothing of Boko Haram fighters. She was in the camp for four days, but managed to escape with a few others when military forces intensified their attack on the compound.
Mary’s pastor was one of three Christian ministers targeted and killed by Boko Haram during last week’s violence. Photographs showing the corpse of one murdered pastor from the Church of Christ in Nigeria, Rev Sabo Yakubu, indicate that his heart may have been ripped out.
Stuart Windsor, CSW’s National Director said: “CSW is deeply saddened by the appalling nature of the crimes committed by this sect against innocent civilians. Local Christians have also expressed disappointment that some western media have disregarded the targeted nature of attacks on their community, and the brutal murders of Christian pastors. Unless this aspect of the violence is recognised by all and dealt with effectively, people in Northern Nigeria will continue to suffer because of their religious beliefs”.
As world Christians, let us pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters under such intense suffering for the sake of Christ. They may rip the hearts of men of whom the world is not worthy, but God has given them hearts that beat only for the glory of Christ–a rhythm that will continue for eternity.