Through Many Tribulations

By Hal Lindsey
One-night last month, one of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Colosseum in Rome, glowed red.  According to Vatican News, officials bathed the ancient arena in red light “as a sign of solidarity with all those who are persecuted for their faith.”
Before now, had you heard about that?  Usually, western media outlets look for stories with dramatic imagery.  The Colosseum’s famous silhouette, bathed in red against a stark, black backdrop, would seem to fit the bill.  They also love a story with a good twist.  Officials used the Colosseum, once a symbol of Christian persecution, to strike a blow against such persecution.  But despite an interesting, ready-made story, the media paid little attention.
To cover it would mean admitting that there is a story here.  And once they admit that, they will have to explain that the story is huge and ongoing — especially in Nigeria.  Giulio Meotti, writing for the Gatestone Institute, said, “The West does not seem to care about the ongoing Islamic terrorist genocide on Africa’s biggest Christian population in Nigeria.”
Terrorism usually gets the frontpage treatment.  Genocide makes this story global and historic.  But western media elites could not care less about Africa.  The reasons are more complex than simple racism, but you can’t help wondering if that’s not part of it.
In one February attack, radical Islamic terrorists went through 15 villages in Nigeria.  They murdered townspeople, burned churches, and razed the homes of known Christians.  Several sources quote a witness as saying, “Despite several calls to the governor and his deputy, and other security apparatus, the government remained silent as the atrocities continued.  The Fulani (a west African Muslim people) were able to carry out their deadly attack.  They stayed for hours in the vicinity, moving at will, unchallenged.”
Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian Nobel laureate for literature, called the Islamic terrorists a “horde.”  He said their goal is to “Islamize the nation.”  Bishop Hyacinth Egbebo, a Nigerian Catholic, said, “If Nigeria falls to Islamic extremists, all of Africa will be at risk.”
It would be a mistake to think of Nigeria as insignificant or far away.  Nigerians are as important in God’s eyes as Americans.  But even from a selfish point of view, remember that what happens there does not stay there!
Meotti wrote, “The West truly needs to care about the daily carnage suffered by this poor, black, Christian and abandoned population.  Wole Soyinka's ‘horde’ will not be confined to the Nigerian borders, but will try to strike Western Europe as well.”
Not long ago, a mob in Vietnam attacked two dozen Christians.  They were new converts from a group known as Hmong.  CBN News wrote, “Their conversion provoked the village chief who threatened to expel the believers from the community if they didn’t renounce their new-found faith.  The Hmong Christians refused to recant, prompting a mob to attack them.”
After a period of relative tolerance, Christian persecution in Vietnam is on the rise.  In fact, it’s on the rise everywhere.
In Turkey, an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, faces life in prison.  He’s accused of “terrorism.”  You’re probably wondering what act of “terrorism” this Christian minister could have been up to.  The answer is that he shared the Gospel.  That means in today’s Turkey, for a Christian minister to read John 3:16 is considered an act of terror.
Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan is playing a game of global power politics.  Many have suggested that Pastor Brunson is merely a pawn in that game.  But it’s more than that.  Erdogan could have chosen any American as a hostage.  He chose a Christian minister because he fears the Gospel.  Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (NASB)  To a despot like Erdogan, those are the scariest words in the world.
Attacks on freedom of religion and belief — especially Christian belief — are escalating around the world.  Sometimes it’s the persecution of a group, and sometimes it’s a lone individual.
Right now in Nigeria, a girl named Liah Sharibu is being held by the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram.  The terrorists abducted 110 girls in February.  After intense government negotiation, they returned 104.  Five died in captivity.  Only Liah remains in terrorist hands.
One of the returning girls explained that Boko Haram refused to release Liah because she would not renounce her faith in Christ.  “She was held back,” the released girl said.  “We were freed because we are Muslim girls and they didn’t want us to suffer.”  Another girl released by Boko Haram relayed that the terrorists said they would keep Liah “until she converted.”
Imagine how Liah’s parents feel.  How would you feel?  Her father, Nata Sharibu, told a Nigerian radio station, “I am very sad, but I am also jubilating, too, because my daughter did not denounce Christ.”
Salvation is free.  Jesus paid the whole price.  But in this world, bearing His name carries its own cost.  In Acts 14:22, Paul the great teacher of grace, gave this warning to the Christians of Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch.  “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
It reminds me of the third verse of John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”  “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home!”
That amazing grace abides with Liah Sharibu and Andrew Brunson.  It abides with millions around the world facing various levels of persecution because of their stands for Christ.  If you are His, it also abides with you.
According to the Bible, as we approach the end of the age, persecution of believers will increase.  But don’t despair.  In John 16:33, Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (NASB)
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