I have started reading a book called “Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe” by Tom Doyle. In light of Easter and the great sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for all of man kind, I want to share some excerpts from the book. It is from a Syrian pastor living under war and the threat of death from “Al-Nusra front” an Al Queda group that has taken over their town and is killing Christians. His name is Farid.
“I think what followers of Christ in Syria fear the most are the crucifixions. It’s a horrifying prospect. Death on a cross is gruesome, and on top of that, crowds mock and torture the believers leading up to actually nailing them onto crosses. Some who face this are new in the faith, and I don’t blame them for being frightened, but it would be an honor to die for Jesus in this way. Just think: the Lamb of God went to the cross in Jerusalem only two hundred miles from Damascus. Now two thousand years later, the prospect hangs over our heads as a real possibility, just like it did for Jesus and His followers in the first century.” (p.41)
It was really challenging and quite the heavy reality check to realize this Christian man is telling a story that is happening today. Reading his words as they are shared in this book about his small group of believers in Syria is very powerful. It is a gathering of Sunni and Alawite men who had given their lives to Christ. They meet in secret in early morning meetings at secret locations. These two factions are waring today in Syria with large scale death and tragedy. But, in these meetings, because of Jesus, they meet together in peace and wash each others feet. Here is another exerpt from the book, Farid speaking at one of their secret worship services…
“‘Think of it: Kamal, from a Sunni family, led me, from an Alawite family, to Jesus, who was from a Jewish family, so I could join the Christian family.’ Laughter rippled across the room. ‘What an amazing peace plan that is!'” (p.31)
Indeed, what a beautiful peace plan! As the story continued, it shared about how Farid gathered with his group of brothers in one of their meetings and prayed about leaving Syria for safety. Farid’s own mother and father had guns to their heads the previous week being told to convert to Islam or pay a $10,000 fine or be killed. So he prayed with his brothers telling each one to fast and seek the Lord that week. If they felt they should flee Syria during their fasting, then they should do it without shame or hesitation. If they felt they should stay then they would meet again the following week.
Farid shares how he honestly was hoping for at least one brother to be their the next week, so he could have at least some fellowship in their suffering. To his surprise the meeting was full the next week, nobody was leaving Syria. That night they took up an offering amongst the gathering. They used the money to buy a plot of land. The reason for the plot of land is so they can at least have a place to bury each other should the time come that they are killed for not denying Jesus and converting to Islam. This is the final quote from Farid in the book…
“Pray for us in Syria, but please do not feel bad for us. We have never been more free. And even though we’re willing to die, our graveyard is still empty.” (p.42)
As we celebrate Easter tomorrow, we are celebrating an empty grave that changed all of history! Farid’s story is recent but I assume some time has passed since it has been published. I hope that we would all join in praying for Farid and all the Christians in Syria…that the graveyards would remain empty! Amen.
We joined a movement this week to wear Orange for Holy Week. The idea is to wear the orange in solidarity with the Christians and others who are being marched out in orange jumpsuits and beheaded by radical Islamist in Iraq, Syria, Kenya, Somalia, Libya and other countries. I am planning to wear orange for Easter Sunday. Will you join us and wear orange tomorrow too? And let’s pray for peace, pray for the Christians who are being persecuted today in 2015, and pray for Jesus to change that entire region of the world where darkness is so heavy and people are suffering greatly.
God Bless You and Happy Easter!