“By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3b-4 (ESV)
Forgiveness isn’t a natural response. When someone hurts me or I witness wrongdoing, my initial reaction is anger. I want the injurer to realise the pain he has caused. Wouldn’t that be just? An eye for an eye, a life for a life — justice. But because our lives belong to Christ, because we are His children, we are not the ones attacked. When Christians are persecuted, Christ is the target.
Pain we feel is real, sometimes unbearable, but we only experience traces of the actual hurt. Christ Jesus receives the full impact, for in sin His precious creation acts against Him. As a man, Jesus sacrificed everything for mankind’s sin. In the midst of physical pain, He also endured the emotional and spiritual weight of His Father’s apparent absence. He was the innocent Lamb slaughtered not for His own salvation. He, of all people, had a right to demand justice.
Jesus satisfied the wrath of God, which was directed toward sinful man, by completing justice’s demands. But His action also displayed the most magnificent array of mercy as He took our deserved punishment. His sacrifice established a foundation for forgiveness, a policy of mercy for those who would accept His offer of life.
What astounds me when I read about persecuted believers is that through them God works to spread news of His forgiveness. He has paid the price to justify us and made forgiveness possible. He also enables us to be like Him, vessels of God’s mercy to share the light of His goodness with those in darkness.
J G Spires
It was difficult to know what to expect as we met with the family of Yklas Kabduakasov, a Christian convert from Islam who is serving two years in a prison labour camp in Kazakhstan for sharing his Christian faith with Muslims. I hoped to both find out how his wife, Karlygash, and their children have been coping in his absence and to convey God’s love and our support.
Karlygash welcomed us into her pristine home, and I was impressed by her hospitality and warm spirit. This is the home where she and Yklas are raising their four youngest children. A teenage son and daughter greeted us, led us up the elevator to the family’s apartment, and then say their goodbyes as they left for school. The couple’s youngest daughter played in a playpen nearby, and their infant son sat in his high chair.
Yklas’ adult son, Alibek, a lawyer who is representing his father, also joined us. Yklas was arrested 14 August 2015 after secret police began secretly recording his conversations with several people who claimed to be seekers. Karlygash told us, “They had spies in the people who were talking with him.”
After his arrest, secret police came to seize all literature in the family’s home, even if it had nothing to do with Christian teachings. Karlygash was eight months pregnant with their youngest son, and the search lasted for several hours.
As the secret police continued their investigation, they held Yklas in a detention cell for twelve weeks. During this time, numerous reports about Yklas were broadcast on television. Alibek said, “There were a lot of inaccurate scenes basically portraying him as an evil doer. The way they handled this information on TV, they really tried to generate this negative attitude.” This was the hardest moment for the family, especially Yklas’ teenage daughter and son.
As his father’s public defender, Alibek was allowed to watch hours of the videos used to charge his father with “inciting religious hatred.” Though convinced of his dad’s innocence, it wasn’t until he watched the videos that he stopped trying to push his dad to take a plea deal. He was certain that the videos would prove that his father never spoke negatively about Islam or Muslims.
Yklas was eventually found guilty and sentenced to seven years’ house arrest. Upon appeal in December 2015, where the prosecution pushed for a seven-year prison sentence, the judge imposed a harsher sentence than the original. Yklas would spend the next two years in a labour camp.
The judge had given the lowest possible sentence in consideration of Yklas’ young children, but the family was discouraged to have him taken away. Situated 450 kilometres away, the prison labour camp allows one visit every two months, and a special 48-hour visit can be arranged once every six months. For the shorter visits, only two adults and one child can visit, making it impossible for the entire family to see him at the same time.
Yklas’ family has chosen not to pursue another appeal. They fear that his two-year sentence could become longer if they go to the Supreme Court. Once he reaches the mid-point of his sentence in October 2016, he could be eligible for early release based on behaviour.
Karlygash tells us that while it has been hard on her, Yklas’ absence has been especially difficult for their teenage son and daughter. Her son has become quiet, and she believes that he is trying to protect her from being hurt. Her daughter developed a skin rash soon after her father’s imprisonment, which seems related to stress. The positive thing, however, is that both of them seem to have maintained their friendships and have not been ostracised.
It was an encouragement to hear that the family has found support. The church pastor along with a local Christian friend frequently visit and continue to offer guidance and emotional support.
They ask that we pray that Yklas would return soon and stay in good health.
You can write Yklas an encouraging letter here.
Ann Kay is a writer for VOM USA
Image from http://www.persecutionblog.com/2016/07/yklas-family-hopes-for-early-release.html
Authorities in Laos arrested two Hmong Christians seeking permission to share the Gospel message. One of the two men, Visay, spoke to VOM workers shortly after his release, while his friend remained in prison.
Visay is passionate about sharing his faith with others. In order to learn more about his faith, he decided to attend Bible school. There he learned “to have strong and deep faith,” and says the support he found at Bible school helped him endure the unexpected arrest.
Part of his graduation requirements were to complete a ministry project. As an enthusiastic young believer, Visay decided to visit 11 Hmong villages in Laos. He intended to ask villagers a series of survey questions in hope that it would give him an opportunity to share his faith in Jesus. His friend, David, a fellow student, agreed to help with the ministry project.
Before visiting the first village, Visay sought permission to visit from the leader. Outsiders are generally not welcome in rural tribal villages, and he wanted to ensure he did things properly. When he called the leader, the village head told him he needed to come in person. At the last minute, Visay couldn’t go, so he asked David to go on his behalf.
Police sent to arrest him
When David arrived, the village leader vaguely told him to start the survey with some village members. It was a ruse. Within 30 minutes, four policemen came to arrest him. They took David to the police station in the nearest city.
The next day, Visay went to try to convince them to let David go. Instead, police arrested Visay. Prison conditions were difficult. Prisoners had a bed and a fan, but there were few windows in the concrete structure. The only food was a small bowl of rice delivered twice a day.
Fortunately, Visay spent only two days in prison. His brother paid the fine so that Visay could be released. David, however, received a longer prison sentence, in part because he shared his plans during a police interview. “He said that after he graduates from Bible school, he will come and set up a Christian conference for 5,000 Hmong in Laos,” Visay said.
The police were highly concerned that if Christians organised events among the Hmong, the tribal people might all convert to Christianity and refuse to submit to communist dictates, so they kept David in prison for several months.
According to the VOM field worker for the region, believers who grow up in a district or province where persecution isn’t as severe can be unaware of what the situation is like for other believers elsewhere. So the believers may make decisions that seem unwise because they don’t know what is happening in other areas. “However,” said the field worker, “it’s the poor and simple of this world who are often so strong in their faith.”
A strong testimony
Visay and David’s strong faith carried them through, and neither were deterred by the adversity they faced. Both Visay and David graduated from Bible school and are now actively sharing the Gospel in Laos. Visay says that the experience “gave me more boldness and understanding how to do ministry in this country.”
Continue to pray for the believers in Laos living under these conditions. Pray for spiritual growth and wisdom, along with boldness.
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Have you ever received an encouraging note while you were going through a difficult time? It is refreshing to know that someone cares enough to send a card.
You can write directly to families of Christian imprisoned for their faith to let them know they are not alone. Add your personal note to VOM’s templates, which include words of encouragement in the prisoner’s own language. You can send your letter directly to the prisoner or return it to VOM to deliver on your behalf.
It’s a great project for a small group or even an entire church. Let families of persecuted believers know they are not alone.
Go to www.vom.com.au/write-prisoners/ to get started today.