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Friday, February 20, 2015

"Killing Christians" (Tom Doyle)

TITLE: Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It's Not Safe to Believe
AUTHOR: Tom Doyle
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2014, (240 pages).

Persecution of Christians is the new normal, so says Tom Doyle, missionary to the Middle East via the e3 Partners, a global church planting ministry. Also a tour guide for the state of Israel, he puts together real life stories of persecution from Africa to the Middle East. While names have been changed, the stories they represent are very true to life. With ISIS grabbing the headlines in Iraq and Syria, one can easily forget that back in the 8th Century BC, the Assyrians were doing the exact same thing on God's people. Doyle tells the stories in a way to remind us that Christians ought not be surprised at suffering and persecution due to their faith in Jesus. If it is any consolation, Doyle asserts that any persecution of Christians usually result in the spread of the gospel message. In contrast, the Church in the West which is hardly persecuted like the ones mentioned above, is hardly growing. For if suffering propels the gospel message, comfort and luxury keeps one spiritually apathetic. Doyle makes several dramatic statements:
  • "Persecuted believers are the face of genuine Christianity"
  • "Because Jesus’ message of love and reconciliation thrives in a climate where hostility, danger, and martyrdom are present."
  • "Persecution and the spread of the gospel are as inseparable as identical twins. " 
  • "Suffering propels the growth of Jesus movements around the world."

In this book, he shares eight compelling and shocking stories of how Christians are being killed because of their faith. The good news throughout all the terrible stories of persecutions and sufferings is this: The gospel message grows and shines through even more. The first story is about an ex-pirate in Somalia called Azzam, who had to endure lying under a corpse in a coffin, forgiving and making disciples of two friends who dismembered his own mother, and threats of death and persecutions because of his faith.  The second story of Farid Assad (Syria), his family and friends gives readers an inside look at what it means to be living in the Syrian warzone. Despite the taunting and merciless killings done by terrorists who accused Jesus of being a "weak," we see the strength of faith and courage to forgive their enemies. The third story comes from the eyes of a Syrian Muslim refugees fleeing the war, running away from the atrocities of the Free Syrian Army, and avoiding sex-slave buyers.They met a kind Christian named Samar who shared with them how Muslims who converted were massacred. Two girls saw Jesus in a dream and soon they believed, with full knowledge that if found out, they might end up like the corpses they saw. Story four shows how a Muslim man named Shukri stumbled into a prayer meeting in Fallujah. When reading the Bible, he noted how the Pharisees in the New Testament resembled the sheikhs and imams he had met. Upon conversion, they left for Mosul just like Jonah eventually left for Nineveh. Dangers are many, especially when Shukri's father is a ranking member of ISIS! Eventually, Shukri was caught, tortured, and martyred for his faith. The fifth story shows how Christians risk their lives sharing the gospel in Iraq where daily battles between Al-Qaeda and ISIS were common. With familiar violence and bloodshed on the streets, seeing Christian people and soldiers offering kindness and love in the name of Christ is few and totally unexpected. Tassie shares about his trip to Baghdad as he escapes Fallujah with his mother, victim of abuse from his father. Conversion to Christianity has consequences of death sentence. Those who stayed were tortured or killed. The sixth story shifts to Saudi Arabia where a woman's faith in Jesus was quickened with dreams about Jesus. What is so amazing is that the new convert is an expert and teacher in Sharia law! The problem is: How to tell her family about it? Her friend, Mina who shared the experience with her was killed by her uncle. It is a stark reminder for us that in Saudi Arabia, believing in Jesus comes at a huge personal cost. The seventh story takes place in Egypt, prior to the overthrow of Mubarak. In Egypt, Christians and Muslims are known to co-exist peacefully side by side. Two friends, Samer and Yousef, one a Muslim and the other a Christian encountered a mob that shouted "Allahu Akbar" on the one hand and sexually assaulted women at the same time. Both played their part to rescue the helpless victims and agreed that it was not religion but humans that they are protecting. Persecutions by radical groups targeted women, children, Coptic Christians, and Muslims who did not support Sharia law. From a revolution in Egypt, it seems like there is a more profound spiritual revolution between the two friends. Samer became Christian only to be martyred in Tahrir Square for his faith. Christians who were still alive had to live constantly under the threat of "convert to Islam or die." Yousef was caught and was forced to convert under the knife. Instead, he re-affirmed his conviction to worship only Jesus, to the disbelief of his captors. The eighth story is based on the Gaza strip where Hamas militants were making life difficult for infidels. With the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas alliance, it is unthinkable to even want to share the gospel with any of them. Ali was however undeterred. In a place where cattle were herded into underground tunnels carrying weapons for the terrorist organization and hatred brewing for the Jewish state of Israel, Ali felt a need to pray for both Jews and Muslims. He baptized four persons into the faith, each of whom encountered tragic circumstances. He befriended Israeli soldiers and Muslim rebels knowing that his life too is always a bullet away from death.

Each story is unique in its location but common in terms of how Christians in the Middle East are martyred for their faith. Many of the former Muslims who came to believe in Jesus have visions of Jesus or dreams about the Son of God. Their conversion comes with a huge cost: their lives. The stories are true to life but the horrors of how fellow humans can inflict pain and terror on fellow humans remains very mind boggling. Only the love of Jesus and the message of forgiveness can bring about substantial healing. When will that happen? From history, we learn that martyrdom often plants the seeds of revival. This book of eight stories gives us a snippet and inner glimpse of how seeding of the gospel is done, one death at a time. Some parts of the book are painful to read. It shows us how privileged we are in the West just to be able to freely and openly worship and pray.

Be prepared to be shocked at the high cost of following Jesus.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Thomas-Nelson and W Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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