I came across what I think are real gems while archiving some of our older newsletters. In 2003, ICC interviewed three Chinese pastors and asked them two simple questions – what would the church in China be like without persecution, and what would you say to the church in the West? One of their answers to the first question astonished and inspired our community on Facebook, so I wanted to share the rest of their answers with you.
What Would the Church Be Like Without Persecution?
The Church would not grow and there wouldn’t be revival. People will be caught up with pleasure and the current trends of society. The preacher’s love for God and his flock will decrease –they will not have clear vision. The Chinese Church has grown and survived because of persecution. We don’t like persecution, but every time it comes we grow and we fall in love with God more. Persecution is from God’s mercy, it is His inoculation against decay and destruction.
No persecution means we will have lukewarm Christians with weak spiritual lives. In fact, if there is no persecution, the number of churches in China would rise but their devotion would fall.
I agree, you see Jesus chose the three, the 12, and the 70. He spent time with them so they would become like Him. Persecution has caused us to spend time with him. Persecution brings blessing.
If there is no persecution, Christians will become “religion-ized.” They will become Christians to have a good moral life and good families-to get the blessings for this life. The Chinese Church will lose its drive to evangelize. Yes, they will want to give money but not go to reach the lost. They will want to stay home and be prosperous.
Without persecution we would have famous speakers going Church to Church. Speakers without power —without real depth. You know, Chinese Pastors don’t envy the West because they don’t hear about the Church in the west giving their lives away. Freedom would be a disaster for the Chinese Christian.
What Would You Say to The Church in the West?
Tell them that religion is different than real lived out faith. Real faith is to receive the revelation of God, while religion is humanitarianism and doctrine and formality. Religion is a form of culture while true faith is to lay down your life.
Please tell them that the persecutions you read about in the book of Acts are happening in China. The Chinese Church is presently writing the book of Acts. In fact, we have true theology in China- not just theological degrees or points of view but an example of life-following.
Real Christians here don’t chase titles or degrees. They seek the laying down of their lives and pleasures. They seek to love the people of God; our Chinese pastors are giving their lives away.
I would tell them that the value of life is to live for Jesus. All the false pursuits of life will pass away. Only if your life is hidden with Christ will you find peace. Seek the righteousness of God to bring your life meaning. Western brother and sister-you live in a rich and free world. You should treasure God more than us.
Farrin, whose name had to be changed for security reasons, has lived in hardship since her early childhood. Her mother was a drug addict and her father was a dealer. “He was either in prison or when he was at home, he took so much drugs that we were unable to speak with him,” Farrin remembered.
Her family became so addicted to heroin that they could no longer afford to keep their house and sent their youngest children to beg on the streets. In their drugged state, Farrin’s brother and father verbally abused her and, on two occasions, tried to sell her as a prostitute.
Farrin could not take it anymore. She worked in a clothing shop for infants, earning just $20 per month, before making enough to escape. “I took this money and ran away. I wanted to be anywhere else but with my own family. I also wanted [to commit] suicide.” But, three months later, she found herself back in her family’s home.
“[They found me] and they took my arms and they cried and I thought everything had changed. But, it didn’t take a long time, just one week later, that my brother started talking really bad things about me. The brother told me, ‘You’ve been gone three months away from home, and we don’t know with whom you slept.’ And I said, ‘It wasn’t like that, because… I am still a virgin.”
She ran away again to her aunt’s house, but only to find similar abuse and judgment. Late one night, with her cousin and cousin’s boyfriend, Farrin attempted another escape. Drifting off to sleep in the backseat of the vehicle, all Farrin remembers next was waking up in a hospitable bed. A terrible accident proved fatal to her cousin and the boyfriend, but Farrin had survived. Farrin’s family took her home and she was bedridden for two months. Physical abuse from her brother pursued and, once healthy enough to leave, Farrin escaped for the third time.
Without money, anywhere to go, and not having the ability to walk without crutches, Farrin did whatever she needed to survive, mainly begging for assistance from strangers. Among the first was a Persian man she met in the park. “The Persian guy took me to his home and there were two people, two guys from Afghanistan, and they took me and abused me. It was terrible. I cried and didn’t like it and asked them to stop, but they didn’t stop. After this situation, everywhere I liked to stay at night… they always asked if they were going to be able to use my body.”
Farrin decided that rather than selling her body for a place to sleep, she might as well earn some money. Farrin had become a prostitute. “When I started this, I couldn’t understand this life and it wasn’t the life that I wanted, but I couldn’t go back and I saw no light. Really, really old guys came; they were as old as my grandfather even. And, I was like all the time asking, ‘Why doesn’t the earth open up and eat them, or just take them away?’
“To be able to do what I was doing I started to drink alcohol. After awhile, alcohol didn’t give me rest, so I had to take hashish. After a while I started to take another drug, and so on. I fell from depression into more depression. I was really broken inside, because so many times, many guys started to abuse me and use my body. I started cutting myself. I had no strength or power to do something to the other people, so I took it out on myself. I was looking for something to give me peace, but nothing could give me this peace.”
Looked down upon and cursed, Farrin began making up stories to justify her circumstances and to get the love she craved. “I started to become a liar… I was hungry for love. When somebody told me that he loves me, I just thought that he loves me. I was so hungry for his love and he just touched me and gives me kind words. But, afterwards when he finished his work with my body, he just threw me off, like rubbish.”
Farrin eventually met a woman, who she later found out was a Christian. “She rented this small apartment and the rest of the money they used to buy some stuff that I needed. I was so happy because it was like, ‘It’s my own and I’m going to buy something for myself.’ After five years, it was the first night that there was nobody that used my body. So that problem with my body came to an end.”
However, other problems arose. A brace that was placed in Farrin’s leg that should have been removed after one year was still in her four years later. No longer able to walk, she went to the doctor who told her that she only had two months to remove it or she would be paralyzed. However, Farrin had no way to get the $10,000 needed for the operation. “Every time I went to somebody for help, they always had another idea to use me or abuse me in a bad way.”
The friend who had helped her with an apartment had also told her about Jesus and that only He “can change your life.” Farrin remembered seeing Christians pray during her childhood and decided to give it a try.
“People said that you can take my problems away and you can change my life,” she prayed. After, she went to church and felt, “all [her] problems go away like a mountain was taken away from [her] shoulders.”
The next day, however, worrying about the money, Farrin fell back into depression. “At that time, I didn’t know that it was the devil talking to me. The devil told me, ‘Kill yourself. You are a lonely person, nobody loves you, so kill yourself.’ I tried suicide several times, but Jesus – although I didn’t know that it was Jesus, but now I know – didn’t allow me to die.”
At midnight in the rain, Farrin cried out to God. “I have nowhere I can hide myself and no protection. I have no protection… Please do not allow them to cut my leg. If they cut my leg, what should I do? What am I going to do?”
“I was just crying and asking the Lord, ‘Help me.’ I cried a lot before Him and I just told him that He alone can protect me and I have no other refuge or place where I can hide myself.” Less than a week later, Farrin found out that the Christian friend was willing to pay for the operation and, after the surgery was over, sat beside Farrin at her bedside in the hospital.
The woman invited Farrin to church where a verse struck her core. “They read, ‘All you, that have so much burden and work so much come near to me.’ It was so amazing that God knows me.” But, not long after, afraid of getting too close to her new Christian friends, Farrin took off again and remained out of contact for more than a year. However, loneliness and the temptation to revert back to drug use set in. Miserable and without hope, she again sought the Lord’s help.
“I wanted to share my pain with somebody, but there wasn’t anybody. I just wanted to have someone that would take me in their arms and give me a hug, but there was nobody.
“I had the Bible so I started looking into the Psalms to find something that would give me a little bit comfort. I closed the book, but… it was like a magnet. I couldn’t put it away. I wanted it near me. My heart shook in a way. My knees broke and I fell on my knees, and I just cried and said, ‘Jesus, I feel so miserable, horrible, please come and help me, I’m alone. Please help me and bring me out of this situation and this emotion.’ I cried so much, I can’t tell you at what time I fell asleep.”
The next day, Farrin called her Christian friends to tell them what had happened. They had been deeply concerned about her the past year and were so glad to hear she was okay. While Farrin, for the first time, told her friends about her past, she felt a love that she had never experienced before.
“When I started telling them the stories of my real life… I was crying, but they cried more than me. [Everyone else judged me], but they were so loving, giving me their heart and taking me in their arms. I was wondering why they showed so much love.”
With the help of her friends, Farrin slowly started breaking her addictions and cutting off relationships with old boyfriends. Because of their love, Farrin had the strength to begin life anew. Farrin never again questioned the source of that love.
“When they told me that Jesus is God, I just believed this. I never said, ‘It isn’t like this,’ because He has a kindness, a love, something special that draws me close to Him.”
One night, in her loneliness, Farrin again prayed for comfort. “When my prayer finished, I came and prepared a sleeping place. I closed my eyes and fell into a sleep. Do you know who came and cared about me? It was Jesus. It wasn’t a dream because I felt so terrible and my body was hurting and every time when I woke up, I just saw that Jesus is beside me and He is sitting there and caring for me. Do you know what He told me? He told me, ‘You are never, never alone. You were never alone before.’ Do you know when God showed Himself to me? It was at that time when I thought that there was nobody that would care about me. At that time He came and showed Himself to me… He washed, in a way, all the circumstances [of] my childhood away, all the bad things that I experienced in my childhood. I never felt such a love.”
Farrin was never the same again. “A lot of people told me, ‘You are really a joyful, happy girl.’ And my answer to these people is, ‘For twenty-one years I cried. But from the day that I knew Jesus, He put His joy, His happiness, into my heart and still since the day that I met Him, there is no place to be sad.’”
Farrin soon began praying for a godly spouse and it wasn’t long before she met and married Rahim (not real name), a man who, like Farrin, went through tremendous hardship before knowing Jesus.
On September 4, 2010, while worshipping with friends at a house fellowship in Hamadan, Farrin, Rahim, and the others were arrested by Iran’s state security agents for their Christian activity. Farrin was separated from her husband and held in solitary confinement for 11 days.
“I was under such huge pressure that I thought I was sleeping or dreaming. After awhile when [the guards] left me for twenty minutes alone, I started crying and screaming to the Lord. I asked the Lord, ‘Why did you let them to do this with us? If you didn’t want it or didn’t allow it, they couldn’t do this with us.’ Suddenly, I heard the voice of God in my heart, and it reminded me of a prayer I had made, ‘Can’t you remember that you prayed, ‘If you see the strength in me, send me to prison?’ So, He told me, ‘I’m seeing the strength in you and now continue, go on.’” It took awhile for Farrin to see the same strength in herself but, although afraid, she remained faithful to the Lord.
Interrogators demanded that Farrin write down the names of the Christians she knew in return for her and her husband’s release. She took the pen and started to write, but again heard the Lord’s voice, “With whose hands are you going out of this prison? With mine or someone else’s?” Farrin remembered that without Christ, she had no freedom. Therefore, it became clear that she must wait on His timing for her release. A sudden strength swept over her. She told the guards she would not make the confession they wanted.
“What are you going to do? You’re going to kill me? Jesus had already told me in the Bible that to go after Him means there will be persecution.”
Farrin could hardly believe the words coming out of her mouth, but the Lord was giving her the strength He had promised.
When the peace of the Lord came over her, she grew more and more emboldened. About sixty women heard Farrin’s testimony while in prison. One of them gave their life to Jesus.
A guard overheard and was amazed, saying, “God loves you so much.”
“This love of God is also for you,” Farrin responded.
The threats continued. “Everybody told me, ‘Because you’re from an Islamic background and you moved away, they will kill you.’ [But], the words from the Bible came up and I just brought the Scriptures before the Lord, and I also mentioned, ‘God, in your Word it’s written, where two or three people come together and ask you something,’ I know that people are praying for me… there weren’t just two, three, four, or six people, there were more. I just know that all over the world there were people coming together to bring their hearts before God and asking before God to let us go.”
Throughout her entire imprisonment, where inmates are routinely abused, tortured, and raped, no one laid a hand on Farrin. Farrin and Rahim spent eight months in prison. Though being advised to leave the country after their release for their own safety, Farrin and Rahim continue their ministry today among Iranians living abroad. Through it all, Farrin continues to praise God.
“It was the strength of Jesus that brought me forward. And I just want to pronounce and profess that all glory belongs to Him. He didn’t allow me to fall… or to tremble in my faith.”
“They did many bad things to me…Apart from abusing me sexually, he (one of Hiba’s abductors) tried to force me to change my faith and kept reminding me to prepare for Ramadan. I cannot forget this bad incident, and whenever I try to pray, I find it difficult to forget.”
Hiba (left) was only fifteen years old when a gang of Muslims kidnapped her in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum in June of 2010. Remarkably, after one year of abuse, she escaped from her abductors in July of this year and told ICC when we met with her in September that she is praying “to Jesus that He reveals Himself to my assailants and forgives them for what they did to me.”
When we asked how she was recovering from the abuse, Hiba said, “I am feeling good now because I am reunited with my family after spending one year in the custody of my Muslim kidnappers. I escaped from them by the help of God who did not want me to suffer more in their hands. I have faith that one day God will change my situation for good and be a blessing to my mum and the family.”
Hiba is aware of the power of prayer. She appreciates all that prayed for her release, saying, “I want to thank God who saved me from the hands of the abductors. I also thank God for all believers all over the world for their prayers for me and my family. It was because of your prayers that my situation changed.”
Hiba, who missed one year of school due to the abduction, is now starting her studies again, but under financial constraints. Her widowed mother lost her job because she had taken time off work to search for her daughter.
Hiba told ICC, “All that I want now is to pursue my education. Even though my mum does not have money for that, I believe in the power of prayer of the believers.”
ICC is providing financial assistance to help pay for Hiba’s education and help rebuild the life of her family by helping her mother to start a business. If you would like to give to support girls like Hiba who have been abducted and abused, please give to “Save Our Sisters,” our new fund which our Facebook community helped us name. Click here to give today.
Christians’ and Moderates’ Greatest Fear Becoming Reality
Washington, D.C. (December 5, 2011) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that radical Islamists acquired the majority vote in phase one of Egypt’s parliamentary elections last week, validating ICC’s early predictions that Islamists would gain control of the country in wake of the revolution that deposed former President Hosni Mubarak.
Islamists attained 65 percent of the overall vote last week in the first of three phases to elect the lower house of parliament which began November 28 and ended today. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party emerged with 36.62 percent of the 9.7 million ballots cast last week. Close behind was the Salafists’ Al Nour Party which garnered 24.4 percent of the vote.
Egypt’s elected parliament will be given the authority to select a 100-member panel to draft a new constitution that will be put to a referendum before the presidential election is held in June. Many are concerned that an Islamist majority in the parliament will use its power to base the constitution on Sharia law, greatly restricting the rights of non-Muslims, especially Christians.
Most disconcerting for Coptic Christians is that one in four Egyptians opted for the ultraconservative Salafists, whose interpretation of Islam derives from Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. In post-revolution Egypt, Salafists have been accused of committing several attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority, including the torching of a church and the killing of twelve Christians in the Imbaba district of Cairo on May 7. Many Christians fear that laws instituted by Salafists will be similar to those enforced under the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Salafists want to apply the laws of early Islam from 1400 years ago in the 21st century,” Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub told ICC. “They believe in cutting the hands off people who steal and stoning adulteress women. They are Wahhabis. If they rule Egypt, it will become like Afghanistan under the Taliban. Salafists are one of the largest threats to Christians in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is also very dangerous, but the difference is that Salafists don’t negotiate. They are straightforward. They want to kill.”
While Egyptians wait for the final two rounds of elections for the lower house, or People’s Assembly, which is scheduled to take place later this month and in January, there is little hope that results will improve for the country’s Christians and liberals. The votes in the electoral districts of Egypt’s two largest cities, which were predicted to have the greatest moderate support base, have already been counted.
“If the moderates do that bad in the big cities, what’s going to happen in the villages up the Nile?” said Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center. “The Brotherhood came in first in Cairo and Alexandria. Think about that. Of course there are millions of migrants from rural areas in those places, but that’s also where the middle class, such as it is, lives.”
Aidan Clay, ICC Regional Manager for the Middle East, said, “The worst fears of many Egyptian Christians and secularists are now becoming a reality. There was some hope that at least contending Islamist parties would steal seats from one another; however, that did not prove to be the case. Coming in second place, Salafists will drive the Muslim Brotherhood toward ultra-conservatism. The Brotherhood no longer needs to appear moderate when the majority of Egyptians have voted in favor of radical Islam and its natural end point, Sharia law. Sadly, Egyptian Christians are entering into a time of intense persecution.”
In mid-November, ICC asked its supporters to start making emergency calls to Congress on behalf of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, or USCIRF. The Commission, which is perhaps the greatest voice in the U.S government speaking up for the rights of religious minorities today, was on life support. A single senator was holding up the funding for USCIRF and putting America’s reputation as the champion of human rights and religious freedom at risk. ICC sent a representative to his office, and ICC supporters made dozens of calls. Soon after, the Commission got a temporary stay of execution. However, its long term existence remains tenuous and still hangs on the decision of the same unrelenting senator – Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.
What is USCIRF?
It is an unfortunate but well known fact in political circles that religious persecution is a very low priority for the U.S. government. Created by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, over the past twelve years USCIRF has used a few dedicated professionals, unpaid commissioners, and a relatively tiny budget to investigate and report on a massive amount of religious freedom violations around the globe. The State Department also has an International Religious Freedom office, but its reporting on issues of religious persecution is compromised by political considerations that USCIRF doesn’t have to deal with. If USCIRF ceases to exist, then what little emphasis the United States did put on promoting international religious freedom will certainly be reduced.
USCIRF also makes detailed policy recommendations to the White House, Congress, and the State Department. When Secretary of State Clinton traveled to Burma, one of the world’s worst persecutors of Christians, USCIRF wrote a letter strongly encouraging the secretary to publicly address persecution. In 2010, when Muslim groups tried to pass a resolution in the U.N. to make it internationally illegal to say anything considered “offensive” about Islam, USCIRF was instrumental in campaigning against the legislation, which ultimately failed.
A World Without USCIRF?
What many don’t seem to understand is that the future of millions of people who live in constant fear of persecution is at stake. The United States wields a great deal of influence overseas, and most foreign governments will work to keep stable what is usually a valuable economic relationship with the U.S.. This in turn means that they often have to promote human rights and religious freedom to avoid uncomfortable sanctions. American influence, if used correctly, can have a profoundly positive effect on the policies of foreign governments towards religious minorities. In some cases, it can even lead to wrongfully tortured and imprisoned Christians being set free on the spot.
In a world where nearly 200 million Christians are suffering persecution at any given point, every voice that speaks up for them is important. If the United States loses USCIRF, it will lose one of the only official organizations that promotes what Americans have always considered a fundamental right — a right established in the very first sentence of the first amendment to the U.S Constitution.
How You Can Help
Please agree with us in prayer for America’s leaders, that they will seek the Lord’s guidance in their decision making, and that they will continue to make religious freedom a priority for the government of the United States by funding the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom. You can also still make calls to Senator Durbin’s office at 202-224-2152, asking him to release his call back on H.R. 2867.