“Remember those who have sacrificed and the price they have paid.”
– Baroness Caroline Cox
In addition to being the Keynote Speaker at the New Wineskins Conference, Baroness Caroline Cox also presented one of the workshops entitled The Persecuted Church: Miracles of Protection and Provision. The following is a summary of my notes, a very rough sketch of what was presented.
It is estimated that around the globe 250 million Christians live under some form of persecution. This persecution may take the form of employment discrimination, second-class citizenship, being forbidden to build churches, systematic discrimination, imprisonment, torture, and sometimes martyrdom.
The power systems behind this persecution include Communism/Socialism; fundamentalist Hinduism; political Buddhism; and militant Islam – the fastest-growing and most severe.
In response Baroness Cox reminds us that when one part of the Body suffers, all suffer. She has formed Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART) to aid and advocate for those who are suffering, especially those neglected by international organizations. The lands in which HART serves or has served include:
Armenia – where 1.5 million people died in ethnic cleansing following the annexation of part of the country by Turkey and another part by Azerbaijan. For years the practice of the Christian faith was forbidden. The people now praise God that they are free to pray again. “There are Calvaries alongside the miracles.” Pray the current cease-fire holds.
Burma – The government-sponsored SPDC has perpetrated brutal crimes against humanity and attempted ethnic cleansing against the Chin and Karenni peoples producing at least 60,000 refugees. Livestock and food supplies have been destroyed and the people hide in the jungle or in overcrowded camps in Thailand. The need seems overwhelming but still the people say “thank God you’ve come — we thought the world had forgotten us.”
North Korea – Everyone is required to worship the Great Leader; Christians of course don’t and are subject to “re-education”, torture in labor camps, or martyrdom. The choice is often convert to the state religion or die. Yet two seminaries – one Catholic and one Protestant – remain. Pray for the seminaries and the remaining churches – these are dangerous days in North Korea.
Sudan – HART went in on airstrips that had been forbidden to outside agencies and therefore witnessed what the government was trying to hide that other outside agencies have not seen. (The Baroness has been convicted in absentia of entering the country illegally – “I am serving in absentia” she replies.) Slavery is a major issue in Sudan. There are raids and massacres of villages, with women and children taken captive. Yet there are miracles of grace and the Gospel spreads in spite of it all. The people say: “True nakedness is to be clothed without love.”
Other examples of persecution and martyrdom in India and Indonesia were mentioned as well.
The church in the West is failing because our mission and churchmanship is weak, and divisions in the church have made missions weak.
Postscript: Over the past few weeks in a number of conversations one theme seems to stand out: the great need for unity among believers. The cries of the suffering around the world simply will not wait for us to settle denominational turf wars or finish arguments over whether communion should be served with wafers and wine or shortbread and grape juice. Sadly I think often the laity grasps this more quickly and more deeply than many clergy. Lord inspire our leaders, and raise up more, with a vision of the unity of Your Body. Amen.