Friday, March 4, 2016

I am N, by The Voice of the Martyrs

Around the world, Christians are being targeted for persecution by their Muslim neighbors.  In I Am N, the Voice of the Martyrs organization has gathered some of their stories.  With the rise of ISIS, we began to hear more about the persecution of Christians in the Muslim world.  ISIS has targeted Christians, giving the an ultimatum: "convert to Islam, pay an outlandishly high tax, or be killed."  In some areas, they mark the homes and businesses of Christians with an N for Nazarene, marking them as followers of Isa (Jesus) the Nazarene.

The stories are arranged around several themes: sacrifice, courage, joy, perseverance, forgiveness, and faithfulness.  I am forced to ask myself, would I be willing to sacrifice under persecution?  Can I rely on Jesus for my joy in spite of circumstances?  Could I truly forgive those who have persecuted me, even taking the lives of my family?  I honestly don't know.

Many of these persecuted individuals spoke of the support they received from other Christians.  But I was surprised by a few who were turned away.  One new Christian, a former Muslim, had a hard time finding a pastor to baptize her.  Pastors she asked feared retribution.  Another fleeing family was turned away by their friends, who feared that they, too, would be targeted.  At the same time, there were some who received help from Muslim neighbors, demonstrating that there are some Muslims who are truly peace-loving and able to coexist with Christians.  I wish the authors had explored this nuance more.  As a Christian living in the U.S., I find it difficult to discern among Muslim groups.  I don't fear the Muslim family across the street in my Texas neighborhood.  But who, among their associates and fellow Muslims, should I be leery of, if any?

The most shocking stories, to me, are the Christians who are tortured and beaten by their own family.  Who would torture his own daughter because she became a Christian?  Who would poison his own wife because she assisted their Christian child?  How about the Christian housekeeper who was beaten by her Muslim boss:  "Fatima [a wealthy Muslim woman] called for her two daughters and husband to join her in beating Parveen [their Christian maid].  They accepted her invitation without hesitation." What kind of people live like this?  Evil people.  These are stories of evil.

Every one of the stories in I Am N falls way, way outside of my experience as an American Christian.  I have never been called on to give up home, family, security, wealth, or my life because of my faith, nor do I ever expect to in the United States.  These stories remind me that in some parts of the world, following Jesus has a high cost.  I pray with the Voice of the Martyrs that Jesus will continue to strengthen Christians under persecution and reward them for their faithfulness.

You can commit to join with The Voice of the Martyrs in prayer for the persecuted church here:

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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