Have you ever been physically hurt because of your faith? To many, that is unfathomable.
Karen Ellis from International Christian Response (ICR) works with people who have suffered greatly for what we often take for granted: our Christian faith. Karen tells the story of one such person in Iraq, who we will call Samir (not his real name).
“He was the son of a major leader, a community leader, and his own family and community were very hostile toward him. They plucked out his eye and beat him severely. He told one of our program directors, ‘get me out. I want to leave.’ The Islamic state was pressing in, and oppressing their community at large.”
“He just found so many reasons, naturally, why he would want to leave.”
“Samir took some time, he prayed about it, and he very much felt that God wanted him to stay – in a refugee camp, in Iraq, where his people were. He went back to them. That had a huge impact on the community. They said, ‘Why are you staying? We’ve done everything possible to make you want to leave.’
“And he said, ‘My God has called me to stay here with you. He’s called me to stay here and suffer with you, and forgive you.’
This act of faith surprised the community and as a result of Samir’s decision, many more in the community came to faith in Christ.
“The flipside of our persecution, is always Christian perseverance.
“What I love about framing this global population of brothers and sisters-in-Christ in terms of perseverance, is it takes them out of victim-hood status and it makes them a people that turn your focus to what God is doing through them, through their incredible sacrifice.
“They would tell you they are not the hero of their own story. They would point you to Jesus Christ as the hero and the determiner of the course of history.”
Indeed, God is the author of history and of what is yet to come. Far too often, Christians default to an attitude of entitlement and a familiar forgetfulness.
How might we enter into the reality that faith requires perseverance? May we be a people who actively and intentionally pray for Christians around the world who are facing persecution.
Karen Ellis is an Ambassador for International Christian Response and a PhD candidate in Church History at Oxford Center for Mission Studies in Oxford, England. She holds a Master of Art in Religion (Theological) from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Master of Fine Art from the Yale School of Drama.The perseverance of persecuted Christians