The initial reports of persecution I receive are news-oriented, often only the cold hard facts: who, what, when, and how. Drill down with me on any attack to the individuals affected, their loved ones, their community, and their churches and you will see and feel the massive personal tragedy that each long prison sentence or murder represents.
n March 2015, two suicide bombers simultaneously attacked two churches in Youhanabad, Pakistan, with devastating effect. Nineteen people were killed and another 80 were seriously wounded. One of my staff was just around the corner when the bombs went off and rushed to the scene with his camera, recording the devastating impact of the attack. Frankly, it was a scene out of a horror movie. The bomb’s shrapnel did its intended job and shredded anything in its path, whether concrete or flesh.
One of his pictures haunts me. A mother was holding the body of her dying son while her spared son sat next to her. Abishey, 10, lay on the ground, his lower extremities gone. His abdomen was opened up and he was bleeding out, barely conscious and fading quickly.
His mother was holding him with her face pointed to heaven, tears streaming down her face and crying out in a grief that you or I will probably never experience. The healthy son, his face also twisted by shock and grief, covered in tears, was looking left. The pain and incomprehension expressed were undeniable and heart-wrenching.
Abishey died because he had left the church to buy candles to light during the prayer time. He was just outside the church when the bomb went off.
One of the priests from the church told us that horror was enough to drive some of his people mad.
In contrast to the horror I saw in that picture was the story of heroics, courage, and sacrifice demonstrated by two brothers from the church, Akash and Sikander. The Christian community and churches had been rocked by several suicide bombings, and these two men volunteered to act as security at the church gate to prevent any suicide bomber from entering. Another of the church security volunteers told us what these brothers had done.
“When the bomber tried to enter the church gate, Akash and Sikandar threw the metal door (of the gate) closed and it hit the bomber. He fell down, but got back up and tried to enter through the gate again, but Akash held him, holding down his arms, and pulled him away from the church.”
Akash held the bomber while Sikander slammed the heavy church gate closed again when the bomber ignited his bomb. Sikander was restraining him when the bomb went off.
The death and injury toll, while terrible, would have been incredible if the bomber had made it into the church.
Radical Islamists celebrated this suicide bomber and all the others as martyrs for sacrificially killing so many “infidels” that fateful Sunday. Parents of suicide jihadists even comfort themselves with promises that their children received a martyr’s reward in eternity.
The shock that the bombers must experience as they enter eternity often haunts me. I know they are murderers, but they are deceived and so sincere in their willingness to please Allah that they will extinguish their own lives and murder hundreds around them because their religion is telling them to oppose those who resist Islam. They didn’t just come up with this crazy idea but were taught this lie by Muhammad, Islam’s holy books, and his living adherents.
So the bomber pays the ultimate price to gain paradise but after death awakes to the reality that everything he was taught about God was a lie and that he had been obeying Satan.
Furthermore, he realizes he has killed 19 innocents and his fate is sealed. Captured by Satan, he will be in torment for eternity.
The Real Martyrs
Of course, the real martyrs are not the killers, but the victims, especially Akash and Sikander. When Akash was killed, his soul was immediately taken to heaven where he received the crown of life, an eternal reward that will never perish, spoil, or fade. Akash’s mother spoke with International Christian Concern about this sometime after the bombing.
“We [have] two feelings,” she said. “We are depressed because we have lost our son. But we are also proud of his sacrifice. He saved hundreds. I am happy that God has given him the crown of martyrdom.”
Akash wasn’t a pastor, missionary, or saint. He was like you and me. He aspired to live like Jesus but probably failed miserably on a day-to-day basis. Yet, by laying down his live for others, he became Jesus to the many in St. John’s Church who lived that day because one deceived follower of Satan couldn’t get to them. Because of Akash’s sacrifice and death, they lived.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one that this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV). While the suicide bombers died in the fire and violence of hate, Akash and the other security guard laid down their lives in one supreme act of selflessness and sacrifice.
A Flawed Strategy
There’s a lot of propaganda coming from the U.S. government and echoed by uninformed sheep that Islam is a religion of peace. Most in the leadership of our government involved in fighting Islam know this isn’t true. Muhammad wasn’t peaceful. He personally led 35 to 70 raids where many were killed. He was preaching and evangelizing for a decade with only a few followers to show for it when he said that Allah gave him a new revelation. This revelation would radically change his religion and would cause the number of his followers to explode.
What was this new revelation? He said Allah showed him that he could kill those who opposed him. He could also take their gold, their homes, their wives, and their children and do anything he wished with them. He could make them his “wives” or sell them as slaves. This was Allah’s will that had just been revealed to him.
Muhammad even had to urge his followers to attack and kill others since your average person doesn’t want to be involved in this kind of “worship.”
“Fighting is ordained for you (Muslims) though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike [something] that is good for you. Allah [knows best]” (Koran 2:216).
The conundrum our leaders face is that they fear if they tell the truth and openly condemn Islam, it will only become more violent and millions more young Muslim men around the globe will stand up to defend their religion and flow into the ranks of Islamic terror.
So they have come up with a very flawed and increasingly incongruous campaign to put a wedge between the moderates and radicals of Islam through sloganeering (“Islam is a religion of peace”).
The only problem is that they are fighting against the holy books of Islam, Muhammad, as well as the Saudi and other Gulf states that have spent 200 billion dollars or more in the last 40 years radicalizing the world’s Muslims.
When I get weary of the resulting massive flowing sewer of Islam’s victims, when the countless stories of planned mass and individual murder and violence weigh me down (and they do), I take refuge in the fact that those who died for Christ have stood before our Father and cried out to Him.
I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony about Jesus and for proclaiming the word of God (Rev. 20:4 NLT).
I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them (Rev. 6:9-11 NLT).
These are the last words of the martyrs we see in the Word. If this was the end of the story, I would take some comfort in the fact that they were heard and were to be rewarded from the ultimate source of justice but I would still be naturally left wanting.
Our souls are wired to desire justice, and we have been left wanting in our culture. One day, justice will be delivered completely and in full by our Hero. He will save the day and all evil will be defeated and judged. All tears will be wiped away and death and evil will be swallowed up (Rev. 21:4).
The most important last words for martyrs like Abishey, Akash, and Sikander, though, will not be the words they speak but rather the ones they will hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:23 NIV).
Jeff King is the president of International Christian Concern (www.persecution.org). This article is excerpted from his new book, Last Words of the Martyrs.