True Martyrs

colson2For years radical Islamists in the Philippines have been attacking Christians. In late April seven Christians were murdered on the southern Philippine island of Jolo. Regular BreakPoint listeners know that, unfortunately, this isn’t unusual. Around the world, Christians are suffering and even dying, because they are Christians. They know also that the victimizers more often than not are Islamist militants. But even by the standards of this tragic history, what happened on Jolo was an outrage. The seven, who were working road construction, were kidnapped by the group Abu Sayyaf, an al Qaeda affiliate. The group demanded more than $100,000 in ransom from the Christian community. When it wasn’t immediately paid, the seven, two of whom were teenagers working to help support their impoverished families, were beheaded. Abu Sayyaf then ordered civilians to take two of the severed heads to a military camp and left the other five at yet another camp. While the brutality sets this atrocity apart, as I said, there’s nothing unusual about Christians being targeted because they are Christians. In the past few months alone, I’ve told BreakPoint listeners about Christians being targeted in countries as different as Iraq, China and Burma. Someone who understands the scale of this persecution is Eliza Griswold, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. She has investigated “Christian martyrdom in Nigeria, Sudan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Yemen, and Iraq, among other countries.” An “undercover priest” in Mosul, Iraq showed her the “blood of the first martyr of Kurdistan,” who had been killed during an attack on a Christian bookstore. In her article, “The Believers,” which appears in the latest issue of the New Republic, Griswold compares and contrasts the Christian and Islamic use of the word “martyr.” While in both cases, the word is derived from a word meaning “witness,” the similarity ends there. For Muslims, “martyr” indicates “a willingness to kill.” For Christians, it means a “willingness to die,”—a big difference She also describes what she saw and heard at a conference held by the Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian group that seeks to raise awareness of the persecuted church. “For people who have dedicated their lives to this issue,” she writes, “if the enemy far is Islam, the enemy near is political correctness.” By “political correctness,” they mean the failure to understand or the outright denial of Islam’s attitudes and actions towards what it calls “infidels.” Getting people to care about the persecution of Christians is difficult enough, but getting them to care when they are constantly being told, “Islam is a religion of peace,” is nearly impossible. For the conference attendees, this deadly kind of political correctness is a bipartisan offense. If anything, they are angrier at those conservatives who woo evangelical voters and then do nothing about the persecution as they are with liberals who defend Islam. There always seems to be a reason not to confront those who persecute Christians, whether it’s money or a fear of alienating a potential ally on some other, “more important,” issue. That’s why we must speak out on their behalf. We must make it impossible for their suffering to be ignored or bargained away. Their willingness to die is no excuse for indifference on our part.  
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For Further Reading and Information
Eliza Griswold, “The Believers,” New Republic, 8 June 2007. “Muslim Militants Behead 7 Captives in Philippines,” Reuters, 19 April 2007. “Muslims Attack Christians Accused of Building Church,” WorldNetDaily, 14 May 2007. “4,000 Protestors Rise Up Against Christian Persecution in India,” Gospel Herald, 30 May 2007. “Abu Sayyaf Aspirants Trained in Greek-Lettered Fraternity,” American Chronicle, 23 May 2007. Doug Bandow, “Religious Persecutors Making Advances Around the World,” Taipei Times, 27 May 2007. “Christian Minorities in the Middle East,” Assyrian International News Agency, 30 May 2007. Kristin Wright, “This Chain: Speaking for the Persecuted,” BreakPoint Online, 14 March 2007. Kristin Wright, “Christ in the Muslim World: Reflections from a Week in Pakistan,” BreakPoint Online, 4 December 2006. BreakPoint Commentary No. 070509, “The Seed of the Church: Martyrdom in Turkey.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 070131, “Wiping Out Christians: Brutality in Burma.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 061221, “Avoiding the Final Betrayal: Protecting Iraqi Christians.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 050715, “The Trouble with Islam: A Call for Reform.” BreakPoint Commentary No. 060815, “One-Way Sympathy: Christians in the Muslim World.”


Chuck Colson


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