International (MNN) — It’s been just over a year since the grisly Easter attack that took place in Pakistan. The bombing by the Pakistani Taliban killed nearly 70 people, says CNN, and Christians were the main target.
For Christians, Easter is the pinnacle holiday to celebrate and remember the hope we have in Jesus. But because of attacks like these, it is also a day surrounded with threats and the unknown. But year-after-year, congregations around the world step boldly into churches to worship.
Tom Doyle of e3 Partners says last year an imam in Syria declared they would wash the streets in Christian blood during Passion week.
Doyle says, “We’re excited to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. And we culminate that in our local churches, the glorious celebration. But if you’re in places like Kenya, or Syria, or Iraq, this is the most dangerous week of the year because radical Muslims know where Christian groups are.”
For the rest of us, it’s hard to understand the kind of courage that keeps believers going to church — not only on Good Friday or Easter Sunday, but every Sunday in places where Christian persecution is high. But just because we cannot understand it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from them.
Persecution is appalling
Within the Church, there can sometimes be an “us and them” mentality when we consider the persecuted Church. The terrifying afflictions of Christians living under persecution are so foreign to us that we don’t really connect ourselves to it. But in reality, we’re in it together.
Doyle says of those living in the West, “They want to retreat from it, they want to just get a break from it, and that’s certainly understandable. We get that. But I think we have to understand where we are. And Jesus said, ‘They’re going to hate you because they hate me.’”
And that’s just it. These precious lives that make up the Church abroad are living out the uncomfortable truths Jesus warned us about. But Doyle says that’s happening everywhere within the Church.
“We may not be experiencing what they’re experiencing in Syria, in Sudan, and Iraq, and Yemen and some of these places. But yet, the hostility towards the Body of Christ is still the same.”
Jesus is our anchor
Even though the Church on a global basis faces different levels of hostility or persecution, there is one thing we all have in common. Jesus is where we find our security, our peace, and our hope.
But it’s probably fair to say that the persecuted Church is more frequently aware of this fact. Doyle says you can notice two things about them that set them apart.
First, he says, “They have learned to tune out the other voices, the threats that are around them, and completely focus on the Lord and receive their joy, and their comfort, and their security from Him. Because ultimately He’s the one [who’s] in charge of their lives.”
Their focus and trust is in the Lord. They have no other option.
And secondly, he says, “They do not have long-term plans. They don’t talk about what they’re going to do next year, they talk about today. And remember, Jesus said, concentrate on today. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It’ll have enough problems of its own.”
(Photo courtesy of 8thirty8 via Facebook)
What we see is that under persecution, these believers have gained and held to a perspective that is much harder for us to find in our relatively comfortable conditions. They are not wasting a minute.
“They’re living life to the fullest today because they really have no promise of tomorrow. And when it comes down to it, we don’t either. We just think we do.”
So, what can you do? Doyle says remember them this Easter season. Passion week is a great time to focus on the truths of the eternal hope given to us through Christ. Pray that this truth would strengthen and grow the Church. Pray for their protection and their witness.
You can also continue to stay updated on the persecuted Church here, and through up-to-date prayer requests at e3’s Facebook page, 8thirty8.
Doyle says another way to get informed is to check out their Facebook live events during Passion week. These will be taking place on CBN’s Facebook page.
Doyle says, “We may not be called to live in persecution in America yet, but we know that Paul said when one of us suffers, we all suffer. So we want our brothers and sisters in the midst of it to know they’re loved, and thought of, and prayed for.”