Persecution should not be ignored

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113Picture the scene. The first Roman church gathers to read a letter from Pastor Paul. This church, a people who once called the Emperor their ruler, now live under the rule of another, a crucified Jewish prophet who claimed to have defeated death. The way they do life has changed: friends begin to see them as enemies; their discreet gatherings gradually become secret; their hope for a new tomorrow seems somewhat futile under the cruel Emperor Nero, who used Christians as human torches to light his garden parties. It’s into this reality Paul writes these words:

‘…we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.’Romans 5: 1-4

As Paul’s words were uttered into the ears of the first persecuted church I wonder how they felt hearing ‘glory in our sufferings.’ I honestly cannot begin to imagine.

I wonder sometimes if I, a Christian brought up in a Britain where my right to religious freedom is mostly protected, will ever read the words of Paul and truly understand how the first church received this promise of hope. For them suffering was real and persecution a tangible reality that went hand in hand with choosing to follow Jesus. The concept of a persecution-free life doesn’t seem to be present in their story. Yet the truth is, for those of us who chose to follow Jesus today the story hasn’t changed.

I’ve been sitting on this fact for a while now. Uncomfortable with the noise of persecution and yet the silence of the church. Unable to ignore the insanely unjust realities people have been living, most recently in Syria and Iraq; and the incredibly comfortable place I’ve been reading about it from. It makes sense that in this place of conflicting feelings and aparent powerlessness about whether I am doing enough, that I would be asked to write about how to respond and draw the young people into the discussion and make use of the events and resources of projects like International Day of Prayer (IDOP) to do so.

My response is covered in the article written for ‘Threads’  and I invite you to read it. (You can read the article here)

But if you’ve had enough of reading my brain on paper let me leave you with this thought.

You are powerful, you have a voice, it may be quiet but it’s not alone. You are (most likely) safe and free to follow Jesus if you are reading this blog, so take advantage of that freedom and speak up for our Brothers and Sisters. Don’t feel guilty about how much you do, just do something.

Here are some quality charities and resources to get you started…

IDOP (International Day of Prayer)

Open Doors Youth

Barnabas Fund

The Voice of the Martyrs 

 

 

What the papers have missed – Yousef Nadarkhani

Hi,

I can blog, speak, sing and live my life as a follower of Jesus with literally no worries of being arrested, threatened or even made fun of most of the time (apathy can be handy)…but on this planet of ours there are brothers and sisters, who know what it means to really ‘carry a cross’. Brothers and Sisters, who because of societal laws are unable to simply follow what they feel is right.

One such man is Yousef Nadarkhani. Who I think is an amazing man. He is a Pastor in Iran and is currently on his way to the noose unless he rebukes his conversion to Christianity. I have so much respect for Yousef, the religious authorities accused him of Apostasy (for which the sentence is death) and the way he replied was so integral and gutsy.

The most frustrating thing about this case is it is not just a religious issue, IRAN has signed the ‘International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights’ which clearly states in article 18:

‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.’

What is crazy is that this news is not in mainstream media. It should be, but it’s not. So I wonder if this man will get enough external support to be free to live as he feels is right.

Some helpful ways to engage

I hope that like me you want to do something to force this situation towards good, so here are a few emails you send your concerns to and politely remind certain people of their commitments:

Iran at UN
iran@un.int

UK Iranian Embassy
info@iran-embassy.org.uk

Ayatollah Ali Khameini, Supreme Leader of Iran
http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter
Some other links:

http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/ccpr.htm

http://www.inspiremagazine.org.uk/news.aspx?action=view&id=5495

http://www.mohabatnews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2286:iran-annuls-death-term-for-yousef-nadarkhani&catid=36:iranian-christians&Itemid=279