Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Bible Power


Astonishing twist
For those who have heard stories about persecuted Christians in Africa, it might be surprising to learn that nearly 50% of all Africans are Christians. And for those used to reading about religious freedom violations, it might also seem peculiar that—in many cases—government officials have nothing to do with suffering Christians on this continent.

Nevertheless, the torment for countless African Christians is extreme. And the suffering they endure is no less real than that of Christians in any other persecuted region.

A religious fault line
An invisible—but easily identifiable—line extends across the continent of Africa. Beginning on the west coast of Sierra Leone, and moving straight eastward to the Indian Ocean, is where the bulk of persecution takes place. The vast majority of African Christians reside south of this line. On the other hand, the northern population is almost entirely Muslim.

Where these two religions meet is nothing short of a full-scale collision. And Christians in countries like Nigeria, Sudan, and Ethiopia face the brunt of this conflict on a daily basis.

A different kind of pain
When a northern African acknowledges faith in Jesus Christ, he is viewed as a traitor to his family, his neighbors, and his culture. And choosing to accept this status does not come without its consequences. African Christians often forfeit their burial rights, their standing within the community, and the love of their family.

In addition, African culture does not view child custody in the same light as most Westerners. The dowry given for a marriage often dictates to whom a child belongs. As a result, many Muslim families have taken children away from their parents when the mother or father converted to Christianity.

Violence persists
In several instances, the persecution of African Christians has also included violence. Even in recent days, religious extremists have struck out with horrendous acts of torture.

Compass reports that a Nigerian pastor and 48 members of his congregation were among 200 killed February 2004. Religious militants had attacked the church in a rampage within the predominantly Christian village. In addition, they went through the village killing Christians and burning down their houses.

Compass goes on to report that, the day after the pastor’s funeral, a group of bandits burned down two additional church sanctuaries.

Power through prayer
In the midst of such extreme pain and violence, Africans are still turning to Jesus Christ. Lift up these Christians in your prayers. Ask God to provide them protection as well as the strength to live out their faith on a daily basis.

Pray also for those who are committing the crimes against Christianity. Pray that they, like the Apostle Paul, will turn away from their wickedness and come to fully understand the grace of our loving God.

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