Just read a story yesterday about a city in Iraq (Qaraqosh) being taken over by IS. IS was systematically going house to house to all the Christians and asking the children to denounce Jesus. As of yesterday no child had, and so far all had consequently been beheaded. But not the parents. The UN has withdrawn and the missionaries are on their own. A particular missionary has asked for prayers, as he and his parish are determined to stick it out for the sake of the families – even if it means their own deaths. He is very afraid and has no idea how to even begin ministering to these families who have seen their children martyred. Yet he says he knows God has called him for some reason to be His voice and hands at this place and at this time. Even so, he is begging for prayers for courage to live out his vocation in such dire circumstances (and, like the children, accept martyrdom if he is called to do so.) Yesterday, IS was about 10 minutes from where the missionary team (Crisis Relief International) was working. At the moment, I don’t know any further details.
It’s incredible that children would choose martyrdom over denying Jesus. I hope that makes us all ask ourselves, “What if I was in that situation? Would I choose Jesus even if that meant death?” At the moment, we’re pretty safe here in America. But imagine what it would be like to know there’s a terrorist group where you live. To hear they’re just 10 minutes away. To have to flee for your life without even having time to pack any of your possessions. Or perhaps you receive no warning and the next thing you know IS is knocking down your door, demanding that you deny Jesus and convert to Islam or die.
It’s hard for us who live in free countries to imagine being persecuted for our faith. But we must stop and try our very best to imagine such a circumstance, for this is the only way we will even begin to understand what our Christian brothers and sisters are going through!
With this week’s blog, I ask each and every one of you to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Middle East as they face IS. And IS isn’t just killing Christians – it’s killing anyone and everyone who won’t accept their extremely radical form of Islam. So please pray for everyone who faces the threat of IS daily. And pray that our brothers and sisters would be given the strength and the courage to never deny Jesus, even in the face of torture and death. Thank you.
Hebrews 13:3 Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (NIV)