2000-12-22 - Persecution Today
1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act line men, be strong.
I came upon a story on the internet and I wanted to share it today as a reminder of the blessings those of us have who live in countries where we have freedom of religion. I also hope this brings home that persecution still exists today. We ought to be praying for and supporting those men and women who have given up everything, literally, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
(religiontoday.crosswalk.com) - A car wreck has turned upside down the lives of four Christians in Turkmenistan. Three of the men were traveling with an American Christian when their car overturned Nov. 22, according to Compass Direct News Service. Police investigating the accident found a box full of Christian videos dubbed in the Turkmen language, which are illegal.
Batir Nurov, Babamurat Gaebov, and Umit Koshkarov were arrested, as was their pastor, Shokhrat Piriyev, Compass reported. The men belong to a Protestant house church in Ashgabad. Linda Buckley, an American who lives in neighboring Kazahkstan and was in the car with the men, was questioned and released. The men were subjected to "repeated sessions of beatings, electric shock, and suffocation to the point of blacking out," a witness told Compass.
A judge ordered them to pay oppressive fines and they were forced to turn over the deeds to their homes and cars. Police later summoned the men back to the station for more torture and interrogation, Compass reported. "We have been promised more of the same," one said. Turkmenistan has the most repressive religious policy of any Central Asian republic, Compass reported. Only the Russian Orthodox Church and Sunni Islam are recognized by the government, and Protestants have been severely persecuted. Turkmen-language Bibles and other Christian materials are illegal.
These men, in some respects, are fortunate. They still have their lives. But they are paying the price for their faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In nations where we experience freedom of religion, there is often little price to pay for faith in Christ. 1 John 2:15 reminds us, "Do not love the world, nor the things of the world." It is so easy this time of the year to become caught up in the things of the world. There are examples, however, in history, and here even today, of those who have had to choose between the things of the world and the things of Christ. To the amazement of the world, the Christian chooses Christ over the world.
God may not be calling you to go to Turkmenistan or share the gospel in an oppressed nation, but you can be a part of the work of God there and around the world through prayer, and support of missions through giving. Our participation in missions in our home countries and in other countries, is one of the privileges we have as Christians. We may never be compared the Apostle Paul in our Christian service, but we may get a chance to aid, support, and rub shoulders with those who are following in his footsteps.
"And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus." Acts 13:2-4
Soli Deo Gloria,