Should Christians Flee Persecution?


In June of 1982, The Clash released (on Cassette) their only song to reach #1, the punk rock classic, “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” The song was neither toward nor about anyone in particular. Its staying power rests on its ability to speak to so many situations in general. It even speaks (in general) to a question that Christians must answer in relation to persecution: When should the persecuted stay, and when should they go?

Persecution Stay or GoIn one instance, the Apostle Paul agreed to be hidden in a basket and clandestinely lowered out of the city in order to escape the persecution awaiting him (2 Cor 11:31-33), while, in yet another instance, this same Paul refused to leave prison even after the guards told him he was being released (Acts 16:35ff).  How did he know when to stay and when to go?

This question plagues ministries today who seek to help our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. In the latest issues of Christianity Today, Kate Tracy explores this very question in relation to the work of Barnabas Fund in Sudan. Since 2012, Barnabas Fund (a non-profit ministry based in the UK which helps persecuted Christians) has committed a sizable portion of their budget to helping suffering Christians escape intense persecution in Sudan. Presently, they are working to free 3,400 Christians from Islamic Sudan.

The article notes the problem which arises through such extraction efforts. Lisa Jones, executive director of Christian Freedom International, says, “History has demonstrated that sometimes you end up creating a market for the problem.” Her point is that paying others to help Christians escape builds a market for holding Christians captive to the point that they want to escape. Christians become a commodity to be traded. While those who are redeemed obviously benefit by gaining their freedom, those not redeemed suffer a worse fate than before, as opportunists will always kidnap, torture, and oppress more Christians in the hopes of getting more money for their release. It makes for a difficult dilemma.

As The Clash note in their song,

If I go there will be trouble,

And if I stay it will be double.

There is no easy way to make the call. Should the Christians stay or should they go? Should Christian ministries help them leave or implore them to stay? The Bible gives no direct, one-size-fits-all solution. In Matthew 10:23, Jesus tells His followers to flee to the next city when they are persecuted at home. Yet, in many other contexts, He teaches that His followers must endure persecution—and are even blessed when they do so—on account of Him (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 24:9-14).  The point seems to be that a Christian may either stay (to endure as a witness) or flee (to spread the gospel, as in Acts 8), but whichever decision is made, it must be made by faith, not fear. It must be made out of love for Christ, not fear of torment.  There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Fear cannot be the motivator because cowards have no place in the kingdom of God (Rev. 21:8).

Gloriously, Christians past and present have displayed an invincible faith in the face of terrible suffering. It is not our place to judge the motives of those who flee by faith. As Todd Daniels says, “It’s not our decision as American Christians whether Christians in persecution choose to remain or flee.” Instead, we must remember both those who stay and those who flee to the next city, ministering at least through our prayers so that they will endure to the end.

The CT article closes with this powerful image from a Christian in Egypt who struggles with whether to stay or to go:

“We live in Egypt today with hearts full of peace and joy, realizing that even as we are on that boat, in the middle of the dark night in the middle of the high waves, Jesus will…show up walking on the waves.”

 

 

Reality in Kenya


[From Barnabas Fund]

Kenyan Christians abducted, tortured and raped

Six Christian missionaries have been found alive but traumatized after suffering three days of unimaginable torture in Kenya.

Three men including Mr. Y, the leader of a group of Kenyan missionaries supported by Barnabas, had travelled to Nairobi on the morning of Wednesday September 15, to help three Christian women to move out of their apartment to a safer location. The three men arrived safely, but when Mr. Y’s wife called them later that day, she could not get an answer. By 9pm she began to realize something serious must have happened. Going to Nairobi, she found the apartment door unlocked but no trace of the missionaries.

The police began an investigation and at 4am on September 18, the group were found – dumped at the side of a main road. They all had their eyes and mouths tightly sealed with tape, and their legs and arms were bound, but they were all alive. The three women had been systematically raped and were deeply traumatized; still suffering from shock, they were not even able to talk. At the hospital they were given drugs to reduce the risk of their contracting AIDS. They will remain in hospital for two weeks of comprehensive care to help them recover from the physical, psychological and emotional distress.

The three men had been tortured and their bodies were covered in bruises; one man needs treatment for a dislocated shoulder after he was thrown “like luggage” into a truck. The men will remain in hospital for five days to receive counseling. But Mr. Y’s wife said, “No matter the agony, they praised the Lord.”

Early in the ordeal, the Muslim men asked one of the women, “Who’s the savior of this world?” When she boldly answered, “Jesus Christ is the Savior,” they slapped and spat at her and shouted “You’re wrong, you prostitute, it’s Osama who’s the savior.” When the group was finally released, they were told, “You’re lucky … we’re directed to free you. We could have killed you this night. Maybe your Jesus saves you. But warning … stop leading Muslims astray with your corrupt Bible. Nobody shall be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.”

Kenya has a strong Church, yet Christians face challenging opposition, and the situation of converts and women can be particularly difficult. In July, 18 converts from Islam met on a secluded beach to be baptized by Mr. Y and his team, when they were suddenly attacked by a crowd of around 100 Muslim men who beat them with pipes and wooden clubs. Five had to be hospitalized for several days, including a woman who had been beaten unconscious and a man with a broken arm.

Barnabas Aid is covering the hospital fees of the missionaries and converts involved in both these incidents.

Please pray

  • Thank the Lord that the missionaries have been returned to their families. Continue to pray for healing and peace following this terrible trauma.
  • Pray that the perpetrators in both incidents will come to know the truth that will set them free.
  • Pray for Christians in Kenya, as they face opposition and attacks. Pray that they may have courage to continue in their Christian walk and not give up.

Give today

If you would like to donate to help our Christian brothers and sisters in Kenya please send your donation to project 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund). Please click to donate online using our secure server.

If you prefer to telephone, please call 1 866 936 2525 or 703 288 1681. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund).

If you prefer to send a check by post: Click this link for the address of our regional office. Please quote project reference 00-345 (Victims of Violence Fund).