When I grumble about getting up on Sunday and getting my family to church, I need to think about my brothers and sisters in the Middle East for whom simply having a Bible study at home is a death sentence. When I complain about government policies or social norms in the US that are biased against Christians, I need to remember my brothers and sisters who are given the choice of converting to Islam or being killed. In Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe, Tom Doyle reminds us that even though being a Christian in the West is quite comfortable, the church is suffering persecution. Our family is under attack.
I read the stories in Killing Christians like a family album. I've never met these family members, but I feel like I know them now. I grieve with them in their suffering, but more than that, I am amazed and inspired by their joy and perseverance in the face of persecution. Doyle writes the stories in the style of fiction, and he acknowledges that some of the conversations have been reconstructed and some descriptions have been modified, but these are real people in real places facing real persecution and martyrdom. I personally like his decision to write in this style. Historians may object, but I'm reading a family account here, not a history text.
Doyle focuses on the region in which he works, North Africa and the Middle East, so the persecution faced in Killing Christians comes from Muslims. I know there are peaceful Muslims in parts of the world, and there are plenty of places where Christians and Muslims live in harmony. These are not those Muslims, and these are not those places. Christians here face murder, rape, disfigurement, beatings, and other forms of torture and abuse at the hands not only of strangers, but, in some cases, neighbors, friends, and even family members. It's shocking, but true, that some Muslims would kill their own spouse or child as retribution for their becoming a Christian.
Besides the stories of Christians being beaten or killed, there are also stories of miraculous salvation, where Jesus physically intervenes to stop an attack. Almost every story involves Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams, with very personal reassurances of their safety, promises for provision, or an invitation to follow him. These are the kinds of things we read about in the Bible. I've never experienced anything like it, and am so encouraged that people in these lands are experiencing Jesus in this way.
Doyle does not call for Western Christians to send financial support, to go on mission trips, or to feel sorry for our brothers and sisters in these countries. On the contrary, these believers pray for us. They have much to teach us about living faithfully for Jesus. Like Peter and John, "they have been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name." Doyle tells the stories of these believers who joyfully embrace martyrdom as a chance to be in the arms of Jesus, and asks his readers, "Are you willing to suffer for Jesus? Are you willing to die for Jesus?" I am humbled and inspired by these believers who answer without hesitation, "Yes! and Yes!"
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!