Two hundred Assyrian Christians are still being held by ISIL following mass kidnappings in north east Syria close to the Turkish border. The rest of the Christian community in the region have fled. It is a sad moment for society when the salt and light of the Christian presence is removed. ISIS releases 19 Syrian Christians.
Europe and the world have faced similar violence and danger before, – not least but there is something very “end time-y” about the systematic violence in the Middle East now. See this article.
The following material is taken from Joel News, Issue 939 in association with the Egyptian Bible Society, and which provides some seriously encouraging news on how God is using the fallout from the massacres in Libya. This is seriously worth praying into!
How Egypt’s Christian martyrs are witnessing to the nation
Undaunted by the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya, the director of the Bible Society of Egypt saw a golden gospel opportunity. “We must have a Scripture tract ready to distribute to the nation as soon as possible,” Ramez Atallah told his staff the evening an ISIS-linked group released its gruesome propaganda video. Less than 36 hours later, ‘Two Rows by the Sea’ was sent to the printer. One week later, 1.65 million copies have been distributed in the Bible Society’s largest campaign ever.
The tract contains biblical quotations about the promise of blessing amid suffering, alongside a poignant poem in colloquial Arabic: ‘Who fears the other? The row in orange, watching paradise open? Or the row in black, with minds evil and broken?’ “The design is meant so that it can be given to any Egyptian without causing offense,” said Atallah. “To comfort the mourning and challenge people to commit to Christ.”
‘Their intended victory was instantly nullified by the steadfast voices of the 21, putting their trust in Christ.’
The Egyptian Bible Society’s ‘Two Rows by the Sea’ tract.
The moment-by-moment staged filming of the process of torture and beheading of 20 Christian workers from Egypt and one from Africa, accomplished what for ISIS was an unwanted and unforeseen result. The intended ‘victory’ proclaimed was instantly nullified by the steadfast voices of the 21, putting their trust in Christ to sustain them, not in whispers but in shouts of, “Yasouh, Yasouh, Jesus, Jesus”, for the world to see and hear. It echoed in living colour the prophecy in Revelation 20:4 – ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus, and because of the word of God.’ But also the promise in Rev. 2:10 – ‘Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.’
God is moving in the aftermath of the ISIL massacre
The beheadings by the Islamic State in Libya have resulted in unprecedented sympathy for Egypt’s Christians, who are increasingly finding common identity across denominational lines. The martyrdoms have also allowed Copts a platform to witness to the realities of their faith, as they publicly forgave the terrorists.
BBC Trending reported on a video made by young Egyptian Anne Alfred, which had gone viral in her home country in the wake of the slaughter. The video, which calls for forgiveness and peace instead of anger and hate, was watched over 500,000 times in the week following the murders. Quoting Jesus with the words ‘Forgive them father, for they know not what they do’, Anne’s video, which was actually made some time ago, struck a chord with Christians and Muslims in Egypt and beyond.
The golden thread running through these stories is this remarkable notion of forgiveness, even in the face of unspeakable horror. People who have been directly bereaved are expressing grace, forgiveness and peace to the very people who caused their pain. “What kind of power produces that much strength?” asks columnist Martin Saunders of Christianity Today. “I don’t think we should underestimate the power of this reaction. In the face of brutal radicalism, forgiveness is an even more radical response, that might ultimately throw ISIS’ plans and ideology off course.”
The power and the point of forgiveness is brilliantly illustrated by Coptic Bishop Angaelos, who said:
“When it comes to crimes perpetrated against us, there is only one way forward, and that is to forgive. If we don’t forgive what do we have? Retaliation, resentment and anger, but no solution and no closure.”
And of course, this is what sets Christianity apart, both as a worldview and as a faith. Forgiveness is part of the Christian DNA.