The media has blasted out the breaking news of an alarmingly hostile, hateful world in the last several months.
Often it all seems to blur together. Many in the West have simply tuned out and retreated to the safety of their comfortable air-conditioned homes and summer vacations.
How should we as Christians react to the mounting mayhem, especially directed at fellow believers?
First, we need to search the scriptures to see what God says about standing in the gap with our brothers and sisters in faith during rapidly deteriorating conditions in the world's hot spots.
Acts 12:5 says: "So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him."
This is my favorite – I Cor. 12:26: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
First, let's address "if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."
Last week Meriam Ibrahim, a 27-year-old mother of two, flew to freedom from Sudan to Italy. Meriam had initially been sentenced to death by hanging by a Sudanese court after her refusal to recant her Christian faith and follow Islam. Following an international outcry, Meriam was released from prison in June. However, negotiations with the Sudanese government for her departure from Khartoum stalled. She was re-arrested. Later she was freed again and resided for more than a month in the U.S. embassy.
The daughter (Maya) of Meriam and her husband Daniel Wani was born in prison in May while Meriam was bound in chains.
Meriam is free! She likely will taste total freedom in the United States in the future. What a blessing and answer to prayer.
But wait. Where is the joy of Christians in the West? Shouldn't we be giving God the glory and rejoicing for answered prayer. I haven't seen that joy in some Christian media sources and in some churches. This is the good news people have been asking for….not the "bad news" in the media many complain about.
When we give the Lord credit for answered prayer, our non-Christian friends and family take notice. II Cor. 1:11 says it all: "He will rescue us because you are helping by praying for us. As a result, many will give thanks to God because so many people's prayers for our safety have been answered."
Now how about those Christians under the gun from all sides? Let's take a look at is what is happening in Mosul, Iraq. Narrow it down to one family. Only then can we really understand the plight of thousands from that city which is now under the rule of the Islamic State (ISIS), one of the agents of Satan on Earth.
Faiez and his wife Hawwa (names protected for security reasons) and their four young children fled Mosul July 12 after ISIS threatened to kill every Christian who refused to convert to Islam or pay a high tax. As almost all the other 3,000 Christians families, they left immediately.
The story of their escape from Mosul is horrifying, but unfortunately not an exception. Arriving at the Islamic State checkpoint leaving the city, they were forced out of their car. The car was taken by the Islamic State soldiers. The men were separated from the women and children. "My 9-year-old son was crying and shouting the whole time he didn't see me," says Faiez. "He thought he would never see me again."
Hawwa was checked by a lady veiled from head to toe. "The only thing I could see were her eyes," she says. "She treated me badly; checked all the places I could have hidden something of value." The skirt of one of Hawwa's teenage relatives was too tight, according to the woman soldier of the Islamic State. "They ripped it off her body in front of all the women. She hasn't stopped crying since."
Another female relative had difficulties getting her wedding ring off her finger. "The veiled lady asked for a metal cutter," Hawwa recalls. "Fortunately, she got it off herself before the cutter arrived; otherwise she wouldn't only have lost her ring, but also her finger."
It breaks Hawwa's heart that all of this was going on in front of their children. "They even took my son's pocket money. It came to 15 cents."
Robbed from all their belongings except their clothes, they were forced to walk away from the Mosul area. While most refugees walked throughout their flight, Faiez and Hawwa found a taxi cab driver who was willing to take them to the next village. When the family arrived there, the villagers paid for the ride.
The family has now found temporary lodging in a house owned by a village church. They are being helped by local Christian partners supported by Open Doors. Over 3,000 families are being supported by the Open Doors relief programs to the refugees in northern Iraq.
ISIS has gone on to destroy monasteries and places of worship in Mosul and surrounding areas, as well as establishing mosques which were formerly churches.
There are no more Christians left in Mosul, except a few who couldn't escape due to medical conditions.
This is a humanitarian crisis of huge proportions. The United Nations reports more than 2 million people have been displaced in Iraq.
When praying it is hard to wrap our minds around such horrific persecution going on not only in Iraq, but in the Middle East and other countries around the globe.
Perhaps a way to begin your prayers is to think of Faiez and Hawwa and their precious young sons and daughters. Image their faces; feel their pain. Walk along side them such as Jesus is doing.
There is Light in the darkness. His name is Jesus. Just like with Meriam, the prayers of His people will be answered. And we should give Him the glory!