When 21Wilberforce opened its doors in January 2015, little did I realize that the wisdom I would gain from the persecuted would far exceed anything I could offer them. As we near the end of 2019, I want to share seven insights the persecuted have taught me.
First, I experienced joyful worship from 1800 Chinese house church pastors our team met in Hong Kong. With religious persecution worse now than at any time since the Cultural Revolution, when these pastors worshipped together they expressed sincere and heart-felt gratitude to God.
In Ethiopia, I witnessed the forgiveness of 20 Christians for radical Islamists who entered their church with machetes, slashing everyone in sight and killing two. Those who survived – including two amputees – showed us their scars. Responding with acts of kindness, they spoke of their love for their attackers.
I saw servant leadership from the Dominican Sisters in Iraq who were driven from their homes, but immediately began to serve their displaced friends by creating clinics and schools in camps, working 24/7 to help the least among them.
Lebanese Christians modeled love while offering humanitarian assistance, building schools and developing relationships with desperate Syrian refugees – historically their enemies – who flooded their small country.
I have a greater appreciation for our shared humanity, because seeing all these people and places underscored for me that the persecuted are just like us: mothers, fathers and children, doctors and farmers, old and young, healthy and sick. They have ambitions, hopes, fears and dreams, just as we do. They have done nothing to deserve their suffering.
I gained Biblical insight when I listened to people around the world interpret Scripture. I better understand how suffering is part of life. While for many the cross may be a beautiful symbol, for me it is the mark of persecution, imprisonment and even death for some of Christ followers. And for others, persecution is marked by the crescent moon, or the Star of David, or the Dharma wheel.
Finally, I have come to value enduring faith as possibly more heroic than martyrdom.
During Advent, I ask that our hands and voices not remain still and silent. Rather, that we commit to knowing the testimonies of persecuted people, weep for their wounds, and intercede on their behalf through prayer and advocacy.
Randel Everett, Founder & President
- Get involved in combating persecution. Visit 21wFreedom.center
- Donate to our year-end “For Such a Time as This” campaign
Photo: An Iraqi Christian woman prays during a Christmas mass at St. Joseph Chaldean church in Baghdad,. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudan