The Human Toll of Persecution
05/22/2020 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – When we read about persecution in the news, it often begins with the bare facts. The who, the what, the where, and so on. That’s a shame, because it overlooks the immense tragedy and the immense pain that comes from these attacks. With each long imprisonment or act of violence, there is a massive ring of grief and pain that radiates out into the community and among the loved ones.
I want to give you a real world example of this. Back in 2015 in Pakistan, there was a series of church bombings. If you would read about the attacks, you would simply read how many were killed and how many were wounded.
In one of these attacks, at Saint John’s Church in Youhanabad, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb, killing 17 and wounding over 70. When our nearby staffer heard the massive explosion, he ran to the church. There’s many pictures that I’ve been exposed to through ministry to the persecuted that have stuck with me because they are so painful. And this is one of them.
The photo shows a mother and her living son, and she is cradling her dying son. He’s in her lap. You see his face. His lower extremities are gone and life from his face is fading quickly. And the mother’s face is just contorted with shock and with grief, and she’s looking up and crying to heaven and the tears are flowing down.
That was just one death, and you see that massive ripple flowing out.
Yet, that’s not even the end of the story. In the midst of tragedy, we also witness amazing stories of courage and sacrifice and love. We find that in this story too, because it turns out that in this series of bombings, the churches knew they were in great danger. Yet, believers were still getting together and meeting. At Saint John’s Church, two young men had a volunteered to guard the church, and they would wait at the gate and try to keep out any suicide bombers.
During that church attack, they saw the suicide bomber coming. One of them slammed the iron gate shut, and the other one jumped outside and grabbed the suicide bomber and pinned his arms, but the suicide bomber detonated his bomb. But if he had gotten inside, the death toll would have been in the hundreds.
I may be strange, but I am often haunted by the suicide bombers, because they think they’re martyrs. And in Islam, the only sure way you can know you’re going to heaven is to die as a martyr in jihad.
And so what happens to these men? They wake up in eternity and all of the sudden the truth is known. They have been completely deceived and they have been captured. Everything they knew was a lie and they’ve been captured by Satan and they’re captured for eternity. And on top of that, they have murdered many innocent people. And that’s a haunting thing.
But in spite of that, the suicide bomber is not the martyr. The real martyrs are the two young men who confronted the bomber, Akash and Sikundar. We spoke with Akash’s mother after the attack, and she expressed a couple of things to us. One of them was, of course, the great grief she had for her son. The other feeling was immense pride because he had sacrificed himself. He was a true martyr. He had sacrificed himself, and his act of sacrifice had saved hundreds of people. She knew that he was standing in heaven at the Lord’s throne, wearing the crown of the martyr.
In Revelation 6, we see this scene played out. You see all the martyrs standing before God and they’re crying out for justice. They’re saying, “How long, oh Lord? What’s it going to take?” And the Lord comforts them, and He says, “It’s going to be just a bit longer. Hold on.” He gives them a white robe and a crown, and He comforts them. I think if that was the end of the story, that might be enough because again, He does comfort them, and He’s saying justice will be served.
There is a hidden story behind everything you see. For thousands of years, the hidden story has a hero. That hero is going to stand up. He’s going to stand up at the end, and he’s going to save the day, and he’s going to defeat evil, and he’s going to provide justice for all the evil in the world. He’s going to swallow up death. Then the martyr is going to hear this: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”