The exodus of Christians from their ancient home in the Middle East continues. Can you blame them?
On Palm Sunday Islamist terrorists destroyed two Christian churches in Egypt. More than forty people were killed. ISIS claimed responsibility. Middle East observer Perry Chiaramonte wrote recently that 200,000 Egyptian Christians have fled the country, no longer sure that Egypt’s government is able (or even willing) to protect them, even though Coptic Christians are at least 10% of Egypt’s population. Syria’s ancient Christian population is caught in the middle of a vicious civil war. Perhaps the worst damage is in Iraq, where a once-thriving community of 1.4 million Christians has shrunk to 275,000. The city of Mosul is now partly liberated from ISIS thugs, but at great cost to the human infrastructure of the city. That part of Iraq was home to a significant population of Chaldean, Assyrian, and Syriac Christians. Possibly not anymore.
I sit here in my comfortable office, preparing for joyful (and comfortable) worship in my church. But I am grieving right now for my fellow believers who are being driven from their churches and homes. In my younger years, I would read about the persecution of the Christian church and quietly sigh in relief that those days were over. Well, they aren’t.
Will you join me today in praying for the safety of the families who are fleeing? That they find new homes, either temporary or permanent, and even more important that their faith holds up under the terrible pressure? Perhaps they will be able to return home one day and continue their witness to those ancient lands. Or maybe God will use these wanderers to bless new communities. The only comfort I find in these troubled days is from God’s Word, where he promises that ultimate authority is always his and that even violent persecution cannot take away people’s dearest possession, their relationship with him through Christ our Savior. St. Paul’s stirring words sustained the Christian communities in the horrible persecutions of the first three centuries, and they are just as powerful today:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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