Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Prayer for the Persecuted

Asia Bibi, a Pakistani wife and mother of five, used these words to defend her faith against mocking co-workers who tried to make her convert to Islam: "Our Christ sacrificed His life on the cross for our sins....Our Christ is alive.” She was later convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death, which she currently awaits in prison (as of May 27, 2014, her appeal has been postponed for the fifth time). Asia has given up everything for her faith: her family, her freedom, and her potentially her life. She has been in prison since 2009.

Once-in-a-while, when I lay in bed at nighthome and safe with my familyI think of her. I confess that, often, too much time passes by when I forget to think of her. Life gets busy, I get preoccupied. And then, all of a sudden, I remember her. And I'm struck by how much has happened in my life since the last time I thought of her. But she's still there, waiting on death row. So, then, with a heavy-heart, I pray for her. Sometimes, the prayers seem pointless. It has been so long since she was imprisoned and our prayers seem to be going unanswered. But this is to look at Asia's plight through earthly eyes.

Asia once shared this story with a Christian ministry worker who was able to visit her in prison:

"There is a beautiful thing that happens every day in my cell. Two days after they announced my death penalty, I was brought into [death row]. Every morning around 3:30 or 4, a brown bird with a long beak appears and sits on the boundary wall. This bird also comes every evening around 5. He sits there for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Later on he became my friend. I talk to him and he also talks to me."

I pray that the bird still visits her. I pray that Asia is not in despair. I pray that seeing the bird reminds her of Jesus' words, "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" (Matt 6:26). Asia Bibi is so very precious to our great God. She has not been forgotten by the One who loves her, who created her, and gave His life for her. I pray that in the midst of her long-term suffering that she remains encouraged and that she's continually filled with peace that passes understanding and hope that's rooted in Christ.

The Muslim governor of Asia Bibi's home province who fought for her and her family, was brutally murdered by Islamists. Her family lives in fear for their lives and are in hiding. 

Sadly Asia's story is not uncommon. There currently are many Christians being ruthlessly persecuted all over the world. 

In Sudan, a Christian mother and practicing medical doctor, Meriam Yahia Ibrahim (age 27), was recently arbitrarily detained, charged with adultery and apostasy by a Sudanese Public Order Court. She has subsequently been sentenced to death. Because she was born in Sudan, she is considered a Muslim by default, making her marriage to her non-Muslim husband illegal in the eyes of Sudan's Public Order Criminal Code. Adultery and apostasy are each punishable by 100 lashes and death. UPDATE BELOW.

Meriam was heavily pregnant with her second child at the time of her arrest. She gave birth (in a prison clinic with her legs chained) to a baby girl named Maya on May 27, 2014. Her execution has been upheld by the court in Khartoum after she refused to recant her Christian faith, but it will not be carried out until Maya is two-years-old.

The trials of our faithful sisters Asia and Meriam should not be forgotten. Paul urges us to remember those who are in prison as if we ourselves are in prison (Heb 13:3). 

I pray for the release of Asia and Meriam. I pray that they and their families will not lose heart but will be encouraged and have hope. I pray that in their hearts and minds they would echo the words of the Apostle Paul: "We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies." (2 Cor 4:8-10). I pray that they will hold on to the truth that "this light momentary affliction is preparing for [them] an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as [they] look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Cor 4:16-18).

Jesus said, "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 5:10). And He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! (Rev 22:20).

Sign the petition for Meriam's release here. UPDATE 5/31/14: Due to diplomatic pressure to halt her execution, Sudanese officials announced that they expect to release Meriam soon. Praise God and keep praying!
UPDATE 6/2/14: Now, Sudan is retracting that statement, saying instead that it will wait for a court to rule on her appeal. There is no doubt Sudan is trying to stop the growing wave of international pressure. As her attorneys in Sudan said, "It's a statement to silence the international media. This is what the government does."

International Christian Concern is a great resource to find out how to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters.

1 comment:

Glennardo said...

Thank you for this post. I signed the petition. I take seriously the imperative to reach out in love and care to those who are in prison. My church is in the early stages of considering a prison ministry. The USA has a staggering amount of people in prison, many in profit-making private operations.