Women and Children First

What image comes to mind when I say "the face of persecution" or "the face of martyrdom"? A robust man, standing resolute and Luther-like, saying "Here I stand," while a firing squad takes aim? Let me put the face of persecution into better focus as we prepare for this Sunday, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Who are the more than 200 million being persecuted as Christians? The face of suffering is a child's face. Last month, in Buddhist Burma, militia and insurgents destroyed a Christian hospital and orphanage, using rocket-propelled grenades. In North Korea, great grandchildren are punished for a great grandparent's "crime" of following Christ. International Christian Concern reports, "if there is even a hint of the possibility of Christianity, the person and their entire family to the fourth generation are killed outright or sent to a prison camp to be [starved and killed]." Several Muslim countries have intensified persecution since September 11, mistakenly equating Christianity with the United States. Attackers beat, burned, and sexually abused a nine-year-old Pakistani girl -- saying it was "revenge for the American bombing of Iraqi children . . . because you are an infidel and Christian." "The face of suffering is a female face," observes Marli Spieker, founder of Trans World Radio's "Women of Hope" broadcast. In Indonesia she met a young woman who had refused to deny Christ. So a jihad member put a gun into her mouth and said "Let's see your God help you now." Then he pulled the trigger. Miraculously, she survived, but she was horribly disfigured. It's the face of Soon Ok Lee, a Christian and former prisoner in a North Korean concentration camp. She testified before the Senate that Christians are assigned to the cast iron factory, the most dangerous place in the gulag. She saw a group of elderly Christians killed, one-by-one, doused with molten iron because they would not deny Christ. The suffering faces are from every race. Many leaders of China's unregistered church have been arrested, beaten, and tortured. In Vietnam, Christians are denied jobs, promotion, and medical benefits -- even water from the community well. When a Vietnamese pastor was beaten to death, authorities pressured his brother to sign a confession that he had done it. News dispatches from around the world read as follows: "Mexico: Armed Assailants Kill Evangelical Pastor;" "Israel: Bible Shop Trashed . . . ;" "Nigeria: Two Catholic Priests Assassinated." But other faces involved are yours and mine. In the body of Christ, after all, when one suffers, we all suffer. And therefore, we feel it when our brothers are being persecuted. Go to because you'll find links there to additional information including a link to an audio clip of a song portraying a prisoner wondering whether anyone cares enough to pray for him. Well, prayers matter. Irina Ratushinskaya, my friend, the Russian dissident and gifted poet, was in prison for seven years because of her Christian faith. She told me that every day in that cold, dank gulag she felt the prayers of believers offered for her around the world. Let the believers around the world feel our prayers. For further reading and information: Learn more about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. (At this site, you can listen to a song about a prisoner, called "Pray.") Also visit this page. Kristin Wright, "Standing with the Persecuted Church," BreakPoint Online, 6 November 2003. (Find links for more information and organizations on this page at the end of the article.) "They're Attacking Our Brothers and Sisters!" a bulletin insert for churches from Christian Aid. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.) Stand Today, organized by Kristin Wright, includes numerous practical ideas for Christians to help persecuted brothers and sisters. See "The Case for Christian Solidarity." (Adobe Acrobat Readerrequired.) Visit the website for International Christian Concern. Find current updates on Christian persecution and sign up for ongoing e-mail updates: Voice of the Martyrs and Compass Direct: News of Christians worldwide who are persecuted for their faith. See specifically, "What is Persecution and Why Is It Growing?" and "Test Your Knowledge of Christian Persecution." "Women No Longer Forgotten," about Project Hannah, Trans World Radio, 30 September 2002. "Support human rights in North Korea," BreakPoint Online, 23 September 2003. Simon Tisdall, "Horrifying tales of torture, execution in North Korea," Sydney Morning Herald, 20 July 2002. See the Voice of the Martyrs website for children. Visit the Global Prayer Digest and the U.S. Center for World Mission. Country-specific information: Afghanistan (archived commentary; free registration required); "China: A state of intense spiritual struggle," "Chinese Christian Xiao's wife notified of charges; Liu investigation ongoing," and "Torture and Truth: China's Persecuted Church" (archived commentary; free registration required); IndiaIraqPakistanSaudi Arabia; Vietnam: "Pastor Tortured 'Like Christ on the Cross'" and "Massive Crackdown Against Vietnam's Highland Christians." BreakPoint Commentary No. 021108, "Remembering the Mistreated: Prayer for Persecuted Believers." (Archived commentary; free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 020614, "A New Century of Martyrs: Anti-Christian Intolerance Around the World." (Archived commentary; free registration required.) Learn about Irina Ratushinskaya. Nina Shea, In the Lion's Den (Broadman & Holman, 1997).


Chuck Colson


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