Rev. Spriensma is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
In the Presence of Mine Enemies is the title of a book relating the experiences of Christian missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham when kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf (bearer of the sword), a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in the southern Philippines. This horrendous ordeal, which began on May 27, 2001, finally ended after one year and eleven days with the death of Martin and a nurse and the gunshot wounding of his wife, Gracia. While this is shocking for many of us who live in the United States in relative peace and security and enjoying freedom of religion and assembly, for many Christians this is not the case. Are you aware of the constant persecution and ill treatment of many Christians globally? Here are several examples from various global areas.
On November 7, 2007 it was reported that in India a young Indian evangelist and shepherd, Vipin Mandloi, was shot and killed. On October 14, Vipin left his house to go to a nearby mountain to graze his goats and sheep near a Hindu temple. Three Hindu priests came and shot Vipin, angry that he had become a Christian. News sources claim that his decision to follow Christ prompted the priests to give him as a sacrifice to the goddess Kali. This same region has become notorious for crimes against Christians, including the gang rape of four nuns and the looting of their convent in 2001. Fifteen militants broke into the convent at 2 A.M., looted the facility, and later forced the four nuns to a nearby field and gang-raped them.
There is growing concern about attacks against Christians in several parts of India. In the state of Orisssa, news emerged that on October 27, forty Hindu militants beat a Chris- tian worker, Phiroj Lima, while he was praying for the sick in the hospital and distributing Christian tracts. Earlier, Hindu militants dragged four pastors to a Hindu temple on charges of “forced conversions.” The pastors were released after twelve hours of beatings. Other pastors were threatened after Christians refused to give contributions and to participate in Hindu temple festivities.
Such persecution is happening not only in the rural areas but even in India’s capital, New Delhi. Hindu militants disrupted a Christian meeting and manhandled the speaker on October 28. In Andhra Padesh, local residents repeatedly forced Christians to eat meat offered to the Hindu goddess Durga. When pastor Bikku Lal and some of his church members refused, they were beaten.
In Iran, a Christian couple were punished by whipping for “apostasy” from Islam. Six officials believed to be of the feared religious police visited the home to carry out the punishment. Although the husband was indeed a former Muslim, he became a Christian many years ago. The wife was born into an Assyrian Christian family. The couple were among a group of Christians who were arrested while meeting for worship in a house in a town northwest of Tehran. This too is not an isolated case. But despite the dangers, Iranian Christians staying outside the country plan to return. The Iranian Church Netherlands said that it plans to train 4000 Iranian Christians who fled their country to return to Iran to preach the gospel. There are an estimated 40,000 Iranian exiles living in the Netherlands.
In Beijing, China, Zhou Heng is a Christian pastor and manager of a registered Christian bookstore, the Yayi Christian Book Room. He was arrested, beaten, and detained on August 3 for allegedly receiving three tons of Bibles from South Korean Churches. Zhou was forced to sleep on a concrete floor for the first month of detainment, then put in a cell with fourteen other inmates who were directed by prison officers to beat him, in an attempt to make him testify against himself. After several imprisonments, he was released to his rented house, but was subjected several times to severe beatings that left him unconscious—by officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), one of China’s main law enforcement agencies. Chinese authorities have also shut down a multimillion dollar branch of the Australia based Enoch Group because it allegedly promoted Christianity and hired Christian workers. High-ranking officials said that the central Chinese government was upset that the Enoch Group hired a large number of Chinese Christians. Local Christians there say that the latest raids are aimed at sending a strong warning signal to other foreign businesses in China owned by Christians. There are fears within the Communist Party that evangelical Christians will use the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing to spread Christianity in the country.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, a court has sentenced forty-one Christian leaders to five years imprisonment on charges of blasphemy. These leaders, at a prayer gathering in December 2006 in East Java, openly prayed that Muslims “come to know Christ.” Criticizing Islam, and especially evangelism, are sensitive issues in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. In June, three Indonesian women who were serving a prison sentence for including Muslim children in a church program in West Java were released under international pressure.
In Kuduna, Nigeria, Muslim extremists on October 12 beat to death a 24-year-old Christian, Henry Ogbaje, with wooden clubs. The following day, a young Christian man, Basil, was killed with a sword. This violence followed a Muslim leader’s appeal to wage violent jihad against youthful Christians. The Muslim clerics argued, Why attack elderly Christians, whose lives are almost over. Rather, attack and kill the young.
Many more stories could be told of persecution in Asia, Africa, the Americas, China, Europe, Middle East, Russia, and the former Soviet Union. You are urged to visitwww.christianpersecution.info for more information.
Surprised we should not be. Did not Jesus warn: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 10:22)? “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:22, 23). “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (I Pet. 2:21). “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you….Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (I Pet. 4:13-16).
May this lead us to pray. Let us pray for our fellow Christians. And what shall we pray? Not that the Lord take away persecution, but rather that He give grace, so that our fellow saints remain strong in their faith and witness. May this lead us to pray for ourselves here in the States, that we may be bold in our witness and faith, that we may love Christ more than our lives or reputation among people. And as the evil days approach, and the kingdom of Antichrist appears, let us pray that we may be willing to fill up the sufferings of Christ, and rejoice that we are counted worthy. Yes, we stand in the presence of our enemies, Christ’s enemies. May God give us grace to stand antithetically and boldly, confessing Christ and His righteousness.