Persecution is no stranger to IFES. Asking for names of people who could write on the topic, the list of names kept growing of people from student movements who are experiencing persecution and suffering today.
There is hope for the persecuted.
‘If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you’, Jesus makes plain to his disciplines (John 15:20). He then offers them a promise: ‘When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness’ (15:26–27). Or, reflecting the Greek word, ‘you also will be martyrs’. So, the persecuted participate in the life of the triune God, in the Son’s persecution and the Spirit’s witness.
There is hope, too, for persecutors.
The Apostle Paul persecuted the Way, but he joined that Way and faced beatings, attacks, imprisonment, shipwreck, and danger. He was able to teach, ‘Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them’ (Romans 12:14).
Many writers in this issue face persecution. An Iraqi Christian forced to flee to Kurdish-held areas, Nazek Matty OP laments how ISIS has disrupted the traditions of an ancient Christian community. The Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, Benjamin Kwashi, links Christian suffering with the cross of Christ. From Gabon, Nesmy Bersot Mvé Nguéma writes about being persecuted because of taking a stand for justice.
The death of martyrs is not glorious but awful and lonely, writes Michael P Jensen, but this is the pattern of Jesus’ death. Matthew J Thomas links the suffering of Christians today to those of the early Church — suffering with Christ and serving as a proof of God’s presence.
In response to persecution, Hwa Yung suggests that in the face of mass violence, Christians must move beyond faithful endurance to consider the just defence of communities. In response to the suffering of many in the Middle East, Yohanna Katanacho invites tears and lament. Where there is no hope, he points to a better hope.
Reading these articles may bring you to tears — but may they also bring hope.
Robert W Heimburger, Editor