The Age of the Martyrs
is Now Upon Us
All Christians, in every place and at all times, are instructed by the Epistle to the Hebrews: "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body." 13:3)
Writing in the Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers wonders why Christians seem either unaware or complacent about thepersecution of Christians TODAY in the Middle East. She writes:
In Syria, Christians are under attack by Islamist rebels and fear extinction if Bashar al-Assad falls. This month, rebels overran the historic Christian town of Maalula, where many of its inhabitants speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The AFP reported that a resident of Maalula called her fiancé's cell and was told by member [sic] of the Free Syrian Army that they gave him a chance to convert to Islam and he refused. So they slit his throat.
Syria is joined by Pakistan, where at least 78 Christians recently were killed in an attack on All Saints Church. These countries are not alone as the 21st century is proving to be another Age of Martyrs. Post 9-11, the persecution of Christians has become a force driving Christians out of the Middle East, beginning in Iraq, as Powers notes:
Nina Shea, an international human-rights lawyer and expert on religious persecution, testified in 2011 before Congress regarding the fate of Iraqi Christians, two-thirds of whom have vanished from the country. They have either been murdered or fled in fear for their lives. Said Shea: "[I]n August 2004 ... five churches were bombed in Baghdad and Mosul. On a single day in July 2009, seven churches were bombed in Baghdad ... The archbishop of Mosul, was kidnapped and killed in early 2008. A bus convoy of Christian students were violently assaulted. Christians ... have been raped, tortured, kidnapped, beheaded, and evicted from their homes ..."
This would explain why the majority of native Arabic speakers in the US are Christians, not Muslim.
The example above of the young man who was given a choice to convert to Islam or die is hardly unique, not in the 21st century or in modern times. As a reader of the Lives of the Saints, whenever I come across the term "new martyr" (which is often), I know there is a good chance I will be reading about another Greek executed by Ottoman Turks in the 18th or 19th centuries after refusing to convert to Islam.
So why are not Western Christians paying much attention? Actually, many conservative Christians are at least aware of persecution and report on it. You can find many sources on Christian persecution. Morning Star News is one that we use in Touchstone. Some Christians send relief, also, and recommend other actions, such asOpen Doors and Voice of the Martyrs.
But why no protests? Is that just not our style? What is our style? It should be our style, minimally, to "Remember those who are in prison...and those who are ill-treated..." So how do we "remember" them? Daily, beseeching God on their behalf. In our homes, in our churches, early, often, lest we forget. Paul ended his letter to the Christians to Colossae, "Remember my fetters." Let us pray, then, to God untiringly for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Do not forget!
Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,
James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James
PS. In case you didn't know, Touchstone has published regular updates, "The Suffering Church," for more than 20 years now, and while I wish we could stop for lack of news, that doesn't seem very likely. Alas.