First Post in a While – Persecution
I sincerely apologize for the lengthy delay in me posting things on my blog. In between my last post and the one I’m writing now, I’ve been in Lithuania doing photographic work for several ministries, Prague in the Czech Republic to speak to ministries about security concerns and practices in the context of social media, and Austria for meetings. I even took a week-long break to go to my home-away-from-home in the Netherlands and be with some old friends.
So, seven countries later, well over 1,000 pictures taken, and countless tens of thousands of words edited and written, I’ve been a bit stretched and had my moments of being burned out.
I’ve been working on some really huge projects. One project in particular has been writing radio scripts in English, the plan being to use these scripts as a “vanilla” script to be accurately translated into the language of the audience. The intended audiences are persecuted Christians around the world. Pretty massive and beautifully relevant. It’s also pretty daunting. Who am I to try and say something meaningful to persecuted Christians? How am I to put any weight behind the very words that these people experience as realities every day?
Thankfully, I’m not writing every single script myself. The vast majority of my responsibility in this project is to proof and edit interviews conducted by and with people from areas where they were persecuted for their faith. This includes, but is certainly not limited to places in Northern, Eastern, and Western Africa as well as the Middle East and Central Asia.
Part of what I do is proof these interviews to make sure that names, locations, and any bits of detail that might create security concerns for these individuals are omitted. I am also responsible for creating grammatically correct, culturally understandable transcripts in basic English without changing any of the original speaker’s intent. Tricky and certainly a cause for paranoia, but I love it. For me, this is where my behind-the-scenes desk job has very real and life-threatening consequences. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but in some of these cases, I hold the identity of these people, their friends and family away from their very hostile countrymen and women.
All of my work on this has to be finished by the end of December, so I’ve been really pushing myself to get these interviews and radio scripts done quickly and correctly.
Today, I’ve been working on some interviews from some Africans. In one of the interviews with a man from Mali, where Isl_mic militants invaded the north and are imposing very strict religious law, a statement he made struck me.
The interviewer asks, “You’ve been driven from the north of Mali. Isn’t that persecution?”
This man responds, “Well actually, no, I wouldn’t call it persecution. Honestly, we left the North because we were afraid of news we received about the Isl_mic camp and the sharia law which they want to impose.”
The interviewer is puzzled. “Isn’t that legitimate? Isn’t it persecution when a religion is imposed on someone who does not belong to that religion? The churches which have been sacked, pillaged, Bibles burned—isn’t that persecution?”
The man answers, “Yes, that is persecution. I know that if I had stayed there, they would have beheaded me because of my faith. That’s for sure. But—I do agree with you—but when we were fleeing, they didn’t say specifically that they were after the Christians. You must understand, even the M_slims fled this sharia. We know they didn’t attack the mosques, but people just couldn’t bear the sharia law, especially the Christians. It’s true, they attacked our churches; they attacked all the religious buildings that belonged to the Christians—they sacked all of them, you see.
I was struck by his calm reply. “I know if I had stayed there, they would have beheaded me because of my faith. That’s for sure.”
It sure is humbling to hear people say these things on such a regular basis. The reality for me is that, even though I read these kinds of testimonies and bold statements every day, this is nothing more than an extremely small fraction of the people who live, die, are kicked from their families, denied from marriage, beaten, humiliated, harassed, insulted, maimed, amputated, gored, marked, isolated, robbed, raped, and vandalized for their faith in Jesus Christ.
I’ve read stories of Christians who see their friends abandon their faith and others die for it.
Part of what we ask these people in their interview is how the global body of Christ can help.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single one of these Christians said the same two things: Pray & Get Involved
The need for the comfortable, peaceful Church to pray for their brothers and sisters is obvious and should be more involved in the daily existence of the Church. Especially in the West.
These Christians also said that they don’t just need spiritual nourishment through prayer. They need encouragement from their brothers and sisters around the world. They all testified how important it was to their congregations to know that other Christians were praying for them and were proud of them and wanted to see them succeed in living lives in testament to Christ.
A person has three needs: Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual.
We can pray for them, but I also feel that the Church abroad needs to really think hard about how we can be intimately involved in offering physical and emotional encouragement to our brothers and sisters. They face a harder reality than many of us ever will, but that doesn’t mean that our faith shouldn’t be accompanied with works.
We live in an era where global communication is the easiest it’s ever been. There really is no excuse for the church abroad to withhold encouragement. Ignorance in the era of the global interconnectedness just doesn’t classify as acceptable anymore.
Just as Paul wrote letters to encourage, instruct, and chastise his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ abroad, the model still holds true for us.
When fellow Christians are in need of material goods, places to stay, or even vehicles to drive, how can we in the plentiful Church abroad not want to help?
This blog is not intended to insult the non-persecuted Church. These are just my thoughts and convictions on what I want to do with my own church and the churches I know.