St Michael’s and St Barnabas, 25th March 2018
Readings – Psalm 69:1- 18; Mark 14:43-65
Hussein is a 68 year old believer in Uganda. He spent most of his adult life as a leader of the local Muslim community. He secretly converted to the Christian faith in 2006 but kept his faith hidden for over 10 years. Then he offered his land for the building of a church. A local mob set out to kill him, and three young men visited him, pretending to be interested in getting some Bibles. Hussein has now fled to a refugee camp, having lost everything.
Hannah grew up in North Korea. She found life there too difficult there and fled to China where she became a believer. But then she and all her family were discovered by the Chinese secret police and deported back to North Korea where they were detained in a labour camp. There Hannah’s husband was killed for his faith. Hannah managed to escape to South Korea but remains in fear of her life. Hannah is not her real name.
In India a Christian family wanted to bury their baby girl. But local Hindu extremists demanded that the child be buried outside the village. Eventually the family paid a large amount for the burial to take place on the land they owned. But the night after their girl was laid to rest, a mob attacked the family and burned their home to the ground. The mother, father and other daughter were all injured in the process.
These are just a few of the stories collected by Open Doors, a charity which seeks to support the persecuted church worldwide. This charity reports that across the world over 200 million Christians face high levels of persecution, and that this persecution is rising. Last year at least 692 churches and Christian buildings were attacked. More than 1922 Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced and imprisoned. They also calculate that every month over 100 Christians are forcibly married against their will.
Now none of us have ever faced the same level of opposition because of our faith in Jesus Christ. But even so I guess we all can think of situations where people make fun of us, or single us out because we dare to call ourselves a Christian. Perhaps you live with a family member who can think of no earthly reason why you would go to church this morning. Perhaps you work in a setting where publicly expressing your faith is a disciplinary offence. Perhaps you are at a school or college where you are very much on your own as a believer. Sometimes it really is tough to follow Jesus, isn’t it?
But if we are familiar with the gospel of Mark, then we shouldn’t be surprised by our treatment. Read the rest of this entry »