Breaking the Chains Of Islam
Children in Chains...
Over twenty students were rescued from an Islamic school in Chittagong, Bangladesh, where they had been chained and subjected to barbaric torture. The students, all under age 14, apparently were not excelling in their study of the Arabic language and memorization of the Koran. One 11-year-old boy had been at the school for only two weeks before being bound to other classmates and forced to carry a section of a steel railroad tie. "I did not complete my lessons and for this I had been given punishment of fetters for at least one month," recounted Atual Haq. Although the police reported that this was an isolated incident and the principal and teacher are now in custody, there have been similar reports of children being chained at Koranic schools in Pakistan and Sudan. At many such schools, the Koran is the only subject taught, and only in Arabic a language foreign to many areas.
As more and more nations embrace pure Islamic rule, we can expect similar treatment of those who fall behind in their "studies." Children in Sudanese Islamic schools are forced to drink the water left from washing their dirty chalkboards. They are told that this will "assist them in memorizing the Koran." Only when a child is able to recite the entire Koran will he graduate from the school. This often takes up to nine years. Some who are unwilling to memorize may be held there and never graduate. Radical Islamic teachers have set out to ensure strict adherence to Islamic rule and cultivate students who will follow the Koran's teachings with unquestioning obedience. They are being trained for jihad holy war. While it is their physical bodies that may be bound, it is the souls of these children that the Muslim teachers desire. Pray for these children. Pray that their hearts would remain soft and not be hardened by jihad, that they not become the next generation of those who would persecute Christians. Pray that they would come to know the Lord Jesus Christ who "sets the captives free." Pray for Christians living in these areas, that they may be able to witness to their Muslim neighbors.
To die for the Lord
"The believers continue meeting secretly in homes, fearing public gatherings as squads have been sent out to harass, persecute, and arrest anyone who professes to be a follower of Christ. Their homes are invaded and destroyed, possessions confiscated. Many in the church are even molested. The persecution doesn't come from a small band of terrorist or fanatical religious zealots, but from the government itself. Where can the Christians go? Who will offer assistance when an entire country publicly seeks to humiliate them and even bring an end to their very existence? As the believers prepare for their Easter celebrations, word comes that one of the leaders has been taken into custody. Without a trial or even an opportunity for public appeal, he is brought into an execution cell where many a life has ceased. Perhaps he was offered freedom simply for denying Christ or signing a statement of confession and returning to his religion of birth. We have no record of his opportunity for escape but we can only imagine how the blood-stained floor and walls must have cried out...his blood mingling with the blood of others who had refused to deny their faith and courageously faced the executioner as he prepared to take another life. The believers are overwhelmed at the swiftness of the execution and the increased persecution. Even more alarming is the public acceptance of such brutality. The very souls they have been called to evangelize are pleased with the government's decision to execute their pastor. There is no tolerance for those who call themselves Christians.
Another church leader is taken into custody and promised the same fate as his co-worker. To ensure that no one comes to his rescue, two soldiers stand on guard within his small cell. Each is bound to the wrist of the prisoner. Two additional guards are ordered to stand watch outside the cell. Instead of an immediate execution like the first, he is held in custody until after the Easter celebration when he is to be executed publicly. The Christians gather on behalf of their imprisoned pastor and begin in fervent prayer, beseeching God to deliver him from such a fate. Word spreads throughout the region and within a matter of hours, thousands have committed themselves to prayer. Late into the night before his scheduled execution, the condemned man receives a visitor an angel of the Lord..."
The preceding story dramatizes the events leading up to the Apostle Peter's miraculous release from prison. Although we do not know all the details surrounding this historic event, Acts chapter 12 clearly states how the Christians committed themselves to fervent prayer for their beloved leader. And even though God had allowed James to be put to death, He chose to break Peter's chains and return him to the believers, encouraging them in their devotion during these difficult times of persecution.
The Book of Acts Continues...
On Sunday, March 30, thousands of churches throughout the free world openly celebrated Christ's resurrection. How many of these churches took a moment to remember those who have given their lives for their testimony of Jesus Christ, or prayed for our brothers and sisters who, like the Apostle Peter, are imprisoned for their faith and even awaiting execution? In Matthew 10:34,36, Jesus said that He did not come to bring peace on earth but rather a sword, and that a man's enemies shall be members of his own household.
In the Islamic nation of Iran, "Dabra" announced her conversion to Christianity only to be imprisoned within her own house and repeatedly beaten by family members. The torment continued for over a year until she was finally taken to police headquarters. While awaiting interrogation, she heard the screams of other women behind closed doors. When the officers searched Dabra, they discovered the New Testament that she had kept with her. They locked the frightened Christian in a small room where she escaped a guard's rape attempt by screaming at the top of her lungs. Dabra was finally released and returned to her family the following morning. Indifferent to her tragic situation at police headquarters, Dabra's brother beat her until she lost consciousness. The trauma of the attempted rape by those who are sworn to protect and of the beating inflicted by her brother was so great that Dabra was unable to speak for over two months. She has learned the meaning of Matthew 10:36. Unfortunately Dabra's testimony is not unique. Thousands of Christians in Iran continue to face similar situations. Some have reportedly been put to death by members of their own family. If these persecutions do not deter their faith but cause them to look to the cross, to a higher resurrection, what is our excuse for continuing in our passivity toward our brothers and sisters in Muslim nations? God forbid if our church programs and social activities do not leave enough time for Dabra and others like her who face such tragic situations.
Many of us may feel disconnected from such events taking place on the other side of the globe. However, our shortsightedness may lead to our demise. While church attendance continues to decline in America over 150,000 in the U.S. have converted to Islamic faith in 1996 alone. Iran's evangelical Christian leaders are at continued risk, even after fleeing the country. Over 60 "dissidents" have been executed outside Iran in the last two decades. The treatment that Iranian Christians can expect to receive while imprisoned is clearly stated by Special Representative Mr. Reynaldo Galindo Pohl in his report to the United Nations: "Torture of prisoners was reported to remain common throughout the country...the most frequently used methods were beatings with cables and rifle butts on the back and soles of the feet, suspension for long periods in contorted positions and burning with cigarettes." The report went on to note the "continued high number of executions, cases of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment...[and] the absence of guaranties of due process of law." Not surprisingly, the testimonies of Iranian believers under Islamic law reads much like that of Christians under Herod's rule in the Book of Acts.
"Out of Egypt Did I Call My Son"
Scripture reminds us that, when Jesus was an infant, His parents had to flee to Egypt to escape His imminent death at the hands of Herod. While Egypt was known for its idolatry, tyranny, and hatred of God's people, it had been appointed as a place of refuge for Jesus. However, Muslim militants, belonging to the Gama'a al-Islamiya, have rekindled their hatred of Christ as they seek to transform Egypt into a pure Islamic state. Members of the Islamic group stormed two churches on February 12 and 14 of this year. For the first time the terrorists boldly entered the congregations, firing at will. Many of the victims were youth who had gathered for the regular meetings. One of the survivors related the event: "We were attacked from behind as we were listening to the sermon. We tried to hide behind the benches, but they followed us even up to the altar of the church." With 15 killed and numerous others hospitalized, these attacks have resulted in the largest number of Christians martyred in the country's recent history.
Please remember to pray for the families of these young believers who have been resurrected with Christ. The names of those killed at St. George Coptic Church in Abu Qurqas are: Aiman Reda Girgis; Samuel Kanan; Magoly Basali; Joseph Nagiub; Milad Shaker; Edward Wasfi; Mina Nabil; Gamil Mousa; and Miss Olfat. The names of the other six martyrs have not been released.
Although the Egyptian government has condemned the attacks, Christians in Egypt face continued persecution at the hands of the government, especially those who convert from Islam. Educators are enforcing an unofficial policy of segregation according to religious beliefs, and reports of Christian students being beaten and labeled "devils" are not uncommon. To further segregate believers and encourage increased terrorist attacks the Egyptian government has instructed government agencies and businesses not to hire Christians. They hope this will force believers to convert to Islam in order to avoid unemployment and hunger. The government has also refused permits to repair churches burned by Muslims. Land owned by the Coptic church has been confiscated and given to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, depriving many of the income the property once provided. It is no surprise that Islamic terrorists would demonstrate such bold acts against the church when the government itself supports such persecution. Even the state-controlled media has labeled Christians as "infidels." Muslim sheiks exhort their followers to carry out jihad a holy war against Christians everywhere.
Recently Islamic leaders have called for an escalation in the holy war by stating that whoever claims the acceptability of any existing religion other than Islam such as Judaism or Christianity is a non-believer and should be asked to repent. Those who refuse must be killed as an apostate because they rejected the Koran. The support for such actions reflects the widespread acceptance of the new anti-Christian propaganda and agitation coming from Tehran and Khartoum. Over the entire Arab world, and especially in Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Pakistan, and Indonesia, attacks by Islamic mobs have been increasing. While the Muslim nations unite in a common mission to enforce Islamic rule, Christians in the western world remain relatively ignorant. However, Ephesians 6:12 clearly states that we are also in a "holy" war, a battle not "against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." Are we engaged in this battle on our knees? Perhaps we can learn from the devotion of the Muslims...
On February 5, 1997, a rumor surfaced in Pakistan alleging that Christians had destroyed a Koran and thrown its loose pages into a mosque shortly after evening prayers. Within 24 hours the Muslims had joined forces in the surrounding villages and gathered an army of 30,000 to deliver its revenge. The inflamed Muslims went on a rampage in Pakistan's Punjab Province, burning down churches and destroying the homes and shops of their Christian neighbors. A Christian leader visiting Shanti Nagar the following morning reported, "Every house is burned out, the town is looted, all the vehicles are burnt, and they have destroyed the water tanks, the electricity system, everything." Twenty Christians were hospitalized and one brother, "Feroz Masih," has since died. Two young girls are missing and believed to be held by Muslim terrorists. One thousand Christian men, women, and children were also taken out into a field to be executed. Fortunately, the Pakistani army arrived before the massacre took place. Nearly 15,000 Christians are now homeless and have lost most of their personal property. They have no food, no water, no place to sleep, and nothing to wear except the clothes they wore while watching their village burn. The reported damages exceed U.S. $2.5 million. It was later discovered that members of the Pakistani police were responsible for destroying the Koran and had falsely accused the Christians in the name of Islam.
The Muslims in Pakistan "succeeded" in this battle against their Christian neighbors. They fight their holy war with diligence and speed. Now that we have become aware of the situation, how will we fight our "holy" war? Will we take up our Sword and do battle in the heavenlies on behalf of the persecuted Christians? Will we be 30,000 strong? Will we "risk" our time and money? As we invest in God's Kingdom on this earth, remember those in bonds, suffer with those who suffer, and contribute to the needs of the saints, we can begin to break the bonds of Satan and strengthen that which remains. The testimony of the early church believers praying diligently for the Apostle Peter illustrates perfectly how we can be used by God to serve His desires and purpose.
We also need to become a witness to our Muslim neighbors, many of whom are very loving and do not subscribe to the radical teachings of their leaders in the Arab nations. Some of us may be called to find employment in an Arab nation to gain better opportunities to share the love of Christ with the followers of Islam. While thousands of missionaries are running to newly opened Soviet borders, how many are seeking opportunities to serve in the Middle East? Many Christians in Islamic nations have fled to neighboring countries more open to the gospel, but many more remain in the thick of the battle, believing that God would have them stay to do His work. These courageous saints have been granted a unique measure of grace to cope with such situations and they need our support. It is not for them to battle alone. We must pick up the "weapons of our warfare" (2 Corinthians 10:4) and devote ourselves to this service without hindrance from worldly desires and passions.
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