Bearing Witness to Persecution (First Witness)
In recent days, I have found myself thinking deeply about seemingly disparate topics in our common life and have found that in various ways they connect to the ancient Greek word, μάρτυρ, witness. In our Christian context, the most common use of this word is to bear witness by giving one’s life for one’s faith. Thus, the Greek word, martyr, almost always has that meaning.
In a way that I hope is helpful to us as a community of prayer and action, I offer four reflections over the coming weeks on the persecution for faith in Iraq and Syria, Ebola, and marriage, and the culture of violence in our time. In varied ways, they touch on the martyr’s tradition in our Christian life. This week, I begin in lands known to Abram, Paul, and the exiles of Judah.
In the land of Antioch, Babylon, and Ur, news comes across miles, seas and an ocean, shaking us to the core. Our president and other national and world leaders try to make sense of the seemingly sudden emergence of the Islamic State. We have seen journalists beheaded and staggering numbers of Christians have been brutalized and murdered simply for because of their faith. In the last few days, our Anglican vicar in Bagdad, Andrew White, is forced to flee. While these events are visceral and dramatic, the reality is that Christians today face persecution of varing levels as close as Columbia as well as across Africa, the Middle East, into India, China and Asia.
As the map above, recently published in Episcopal Journal shows, persecution of Christians for their faith is a global crisis. To be sure, Christians are not alone in being persecuted. Indeed, in our history, we have tragically been perpetrators of our own violence in the name of faith.
While we should be persistent in naming our own failings and speaking out for all persecuted, we cannot be silent when our own sisters and brothers are sore oppressed. Today, around the planet, too many are being martyred for their faith. Their witness with life and blood demands our attention and a response.
I encourage you at the very least to be sure to hold these martyred ones in your prayers in the days ahead. Let us pray for a restoration of goodwill and sanity. Let us pray for peace. Let us also pray that the leaders of nations, including ours, who have the means to bring justice and peace, may act wisely and in a way that brings life.
Let us simply do what we are always supposed to do, remember Jesus in the breaking of the bread and remember the yesterday, today, and tomorrow’s martyrs. Let us not forget these who suffer for our Lord and with our Lord.
May the peace of God be upon our wounded world and all who suffer.
Photo from www.worldwatchlist.us