People love seeing their name in print.
During my days as a reporter for a small daily newspaper, people who had been featured in the paper would often stop by to pick up extra copies. They wanted to send them to family or friends, or cut out their story to display on their refrigerator. Some would even frame it.
Seeing their name, story and photo included among the day’s top news and feature stories was a validating experience. They felt, maybe for the first time, that their story mattered.
Given the opportunity, I think we all would feel the same way. We all want to be known on a deeper level. We all want to be remembered.
In January, a field worker and I travelled to Bangladesh to collect new stories to share with our readers. During the trip, we met “Fani” Bitan, 44, a pastor living in northern Bangladesh. That night, he sat in a plastic chair across from us and, in front of a room full of other pastors sitting on a dirt floor, shared the story of the persecution he had experienced.
In our western context, his story was remarkable. It included him being shut off from the Muslim society and suffering multiple beatings. In the context of the other pastors in the room, it was somewhat ordinary. In fact, he started his story by saying, “As a believer of Christ, we have to go through lots of persecution every single day.” In Bangladesh, pastors often receive death threats and have been attacked conducting VOM projects for persecuted believers.
As I listened, I waited for something that made his story stand apart from the rest – those details that were unique to him.
Suddenly, his eyes grew big. He remembered something. He put his hands in his right pants pocket and pulled out some crumpled pieces of paper. Under the room’s single light bulb, he handed them to me.
I unfolded the papers to discover copies of newspaper articles. Although I couldn’t read Bangla, I knew why he was excited.
His story was print-worthy.
The articles discussed a Top 10 list created by the Islamic extremist group Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh. The list ranked the most-wanted Christians in the region – those who were working among Muslims.
Fani was Number 8 on the list for living a bold Christian life, sharing the Gospel and baptising former Muslims.
“Oh my goodness, I saw this news on TV, but I didn’t know he was one of them,” our translator said after Fani explained what he had just handed me.
Fani’s inclusion on the list didn’t bother him. He was actually thrilled to see his name in the paper.
“I am very happy because my name is on the list,” he said. “How many people can get their name on the list?”
I then asked him if he was worried since his name – and Christian faith – were now in print, for potentially thousands of Muslims to see.
“No, I have no worry,” he said. “I am not nervous. If God wants me to die in this way, why not? It is up to God. What can I do?”
One of our many goals at Voice of the Martyrs is to tell the stories of our persecuted brothers and sisters standing firm in their faith in the countries where we serve. And they are not spiritual superheroes. They are regular believers, like you and I, who, after remaining faithful, were empowered by the Holy Spirit to stay strong in their faith during persecution. The strength of their story is found in its ability to be shared as a testimony to God’s work in their lives.
Another goal of VOM’s is to inspire you, as part of the church, to live a better faith story by hearing those of our persecuted family members. After reading how they’ve overcome fears to stand for Christ, we hope you’ll be moved to do the same in your own unique circumstances.
Not all of us will experience the thrill of seeing our stories told in the pages of a newspaper. Thankfully, we don’t need that to happen to be known on a deeper level or to be remembered.
God already knows our stories intimately. He knew them before we were born (Psalm 139:16), and is recording the stories of those who look to Him in a “Book of Remembrance” (Malachi 3:16). Your story matters to Him. What a validating thought.
In the meantime, we must allow Him to continue writing our stories while prayerfully and courageously following His lead. Then, when the time is right, we’ll be able to reach into our figurative pockets, pull out our testimony of His work in our lives and be able to share it with others, printed or not.
Darren Sanders writes for VOM USA.
Fourteen members and leaders of the Khartoum Bahri Evangelical Church were detained on 7 July for demonstrating against the seizure of the church’s training school.
The property had been sold by a “committee” that was appointed by the government but which the church does not recognise and which has been ruled illegal by the Administrative Court.
Police first arrested 11 people, who were released after intervention from the church’s lawyer. When they returned to the church compound and continued to object to the takeover of the building, the police returned and detained 17 people, three of whom were released shortly afterwards (members of the government-appointed “committee”). Even after the prosecutor had ordered the release (pending trial) of the remaining 14 detainees, the police refused to release them.
On 10 July, all 14 were charged before the Bahri Criminal Court. The court sentenced 13 of them to a fine of 300 Sudanese Pounds ($65) for obstructing the police, and the other one to a fine of 500 Sudanese Pounds ($110) for obstructing the police and disturbing the peace. They were all released after paying the fines.
Five of them were released pending trial, as they will be charged for a breach of a signed commitment. They were detained in the first round of arrests on 7 July and then released after signing a statement saying they would not “disturb the peace” again. They were then re-arrested in the second round of arrests and accused of violating the conditions of their earlier release. No date has been set for their trial.
Sources: Middle East Concern, Christian Solidarity Worldwide
• Pray those who have been charged will be treated justly; ask the Lord to grant them wisdom when dealing with the authorities.
• Pray those involved will trust in the Lord and will not be fearful for the future; pray the Lord will grant them strength.
• Pray this case may be used by the Lord as a witness for the Gospel.
SUDAN: Church Leader Released
SUDAN: Three Church Leaders Arrested
Bibles for Sudan
A leaked secret document has revealed the existence of a government body dedicated to church persecution in south-west China.
The document reportedly exposes a ‘state-run command-and-control centre’ operating at provincial level in Guizhou – or possibly at a higher level.
One of the churches in Guizhou that has suffered persecution is Huoshi Church in Guiyang city.
Three Huoshi members – Pastor Yang Hua, Wang Yao and Zhang Xiuhong – are in custody: Pastor Su Tianfu has been released on bail, awaiting trial; his family are under intense surveillance, as is Pastor Yang’s wife, Wang Hongwu. Pastor Yang has reportedly been tortured.
Huoshi (Living Stone), the largest house church in the city, has been banned from meeting as a body so has been forced to divide into small groups. Officials have been systematic in their efforts to identify church members; small groups have been evicted routinely from their premises.
Source: China Aid, Release International
- Pray for the release of all detained members of Huoshi Church; pray that all charges against them will be dropped.
- Praise God that His church is growing in China, in spite of man’s efforts to stop the spread of the Gospel.
- Ask God to raise up people to disciple new Christians in China and to strengthen the church.
CHINA: Lawyer Yang Maodong in Critical Need
CHINA: Wife of Church Leader Buried Alive
CHINA: Human Rights Lawyer Zhang Kai Released
The wife of a church leader in the central Chinese province of Henan was buried alive with her husband underneath the rubble of their freshly demolished church, where she suffocated and died.
On 14 April, a demolition team was instructed to begin the demolition of the Beitou Church in Zhumadian, Henan Province to pave the way for new developers to take ownership of the lucrative property. The church leader, Li Jiangong and wife Ding Cuimei, stood in front of the bulldozers in an attempt to stop the destruction of their church. As a result, Ding Cuimei, was buried beneath the dirt by the demolition team.
The two government workers buried both of them underground, resulting in Cuimei’s suffocating to death. Li Jiangong dug his way up to the surface but unfortunately was unable to save his wife.
“Bury them alive, I will be responsible for their lives,” a member of the demolition team was heard to have said. The two responsible individuals were later on criminally detained by the local authorities because of pressure from the media.
Sources: China Aid, International Christian Concern
- Pray the Lord may bring an overwhelming sense of peace and strength to Li Jiangong and his family as they come to terms with their great loss.
- Pray that God will be with the believers of Beitou Church; pray that they will find comfort in God’s love during this difficult time.
- Pray this tragedy will be used by the Lord to bring attention to the plight of the suffering church in China in addition to furthering His kingdom.
CHINA: Human Rights Lawyer Zhang Kai Released
CHINA: More Crosses Forcibly Removed in Zhejiang
CHINA: Lawyer Criminally Detained as Father Goes Missing
Those who come to Christ in Sri Lanka face challenges and trials from Buddhist or Hindu family members or village leaders. Sometimes the challenges are extreme: church buildings torn down, Christians beaten and even martyred for their faith. Yet God is at work: even with persecution the church in Sri Lanka is growing. Rev Godfrey Yogarajah, the leader of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, tells about both the exciting growth in the Sri Lankan church and the persecution that our brothers and sisters there are facing, and how they prepare to stand strong even in the midst of persecution.
Listen to the full interview on VOM Radio here