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On Monday night, Pastor Andrew Brunson, who was imprisoned for his faith in Turkey, spoke at the Southern Baptist Convention and warned pastors that he believes the next generation is going to experience more intense Christian persecution and fears they’re not prepared. Persecution is on the move around the world — and gradually moving into American life — but God is at work in the midst of it, according to a panel who spoke on the topic during the Monday evening session. (BP) (watch video coverage below)
During a roundtable discussion at the Southern Baptist Convention 2019, moderated by Timothy George, founding dean of Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, highlighted three stories of facing persecution. George interviewed Andrew Brunson, a pastor imprisoned for two years in Turkey, and his wife, Norine; Nik and Ruth Ripken, retiring missionaries; and Jack Phillips, a lawsuit-riddled Colorado cake shop owner, along with legal counsel Jim Campbell with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
Sermon by Pastor Brunson begins at minute marker 15:55
Roundtable discussion on persecution with Andrew and Norine Brunson, Nik and Ruth Ripken, Jack Phillips
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA (BosNewsLife)– The senior pastor of a Sri Lankan evangelical congregation says he has forgiven the suspected Islamic militants who bombed his church on Easter Sunday, killing dozens of people. Pastor Roshan Mahesan of the Zion Church in Sri Lanka’s eastern city of Batticaloa also thanked those offering prayer and support.
“We are hurt. We are angry also, but still, as the senior pastor of Zion Church Batticaloa, the whole congregation and every family affected, we say to the suicide bomber, and also to the group that sent the suicide bomber, that we love you and we forgive you,” he said in a video message obtained by BosNewsLife.
The explosion at Zion Church reportedly occurred during the Easter morning service, leaving 28 people dead and more than 70 seriously injured. It was one of eight attacks, some of which targeted three hotels and two other churches in the Asian nation, killing hundreds of people. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, but Sri Lankan authorities are still investigating who was responsible.
However, “No matter what you have done to us, we love you, because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Pastor Mahesan added. “Jesus Christ on the Cross, he said: ‘Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’ We also, who follow the footsteps of Jesus Christ, we say, for the Lord: ‘forgive these people.”
The pastor spoke before news emerged Saturday, April 27, that militants linked to Easter suicide bombings in Sri Lanka opened fire and set off explosives during a raid by local security forces on a house in the country’s east, leaving behind a grisly discovery: 15 bodies, including six children.
ISLAMIST GROUPS BANNED
As part of the security operation, Sri Lanka’s president banned two Islamist groups suspected of involvement in the suicide bombings on churches and hotels that left more than 250 people dead, many of them devoted Christians.
The National Thawheedh Jamaath and Jamathei Millathu Ibrahim groups were banned under his emergency powers, President Maithripala Sirisena said in published remarks. Both are believed to be inspired by organizations such as Islamic State who seek to establish states based on strict Islamic law.
Amid the bloodshed, Pastor Mahesen said in his video message that he wanted to “take this opportunity to thank every church around the world, every believer, every person is known to me and unknown to me who has contacted me, calling me, sending messages of condolences, and then words of encouragement.”
In the video shared by Sri Lankan Christian group ‘The Life’ he pledged that his congregation would “stand and continue what the Lord has purposed in our life and we are ready, and we will continue to fulfill the mission the Lord has given us.”
Pastor Chrishanthy Sathiyaraj, who leads a Sri Lankan church uniting Tamil and Sinhalese Christians and founded ‘The Life’ group, spoke with Pastor Mahesan earlier this week while he was visiting Britain.
SHOCKING THE WORLD
“These atrocious attacks have shocked the world, the violence has impacted my friends and family, and many in the Sri Lankan community in the UK know people who have died,” she said in remarks sent to BosNewsLife.
“If only we can hear Pastor Roshan Mahesan’s words and respond with forgiveness instead of hate. Jesus Christ calls us to love even those who persecute us, and what is more powerful than to choose to love in the circumstances such as these. Let’s forgive, stand together and build the kingdom of God. Don’t give up.”
The Evangelical Alliance, which represents millions of evangelical Christians, agrees. Its director, Steve Clifford, told BosNewsLife in a statement that he had joined a Sri Lankan prayer gathering earlier this week following the attacks. “I am mourning with my Sri Lankan brothers and sisters in Christ as they bury loved ones, as church communities are shaken by the violence inflicted on them and as others live in fear that the same might strike them.”
Yet, he remained hopeful. “Pastor Roshan offers love and forgiveness that can only come from knowing that we are forgiven by Jesus. I will continue to pray for him and all the believers in Sri Lanka, that they will know hope in Jesus that overcomes all fear.”
Sri Lanka’s worst attack against Christians in years shattered the tense calm that the Buddhist-majority country has seen since a 26-year civil war with mainly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended a decade ago. Authorities have already warned of more attacks against churches and other religious centers, prompting Catholic churches to postpone Mass.
President Sirisena and the government of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have faced intense criticism after it emerged that India had repeatedly given warnings of the possibility of attacks. Both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe have said intelligence was not shared with them. Commentators say those remarks underscore rifts at the top of the government and raised questions about its ability to deal with the security crisis.
CHRISTIANS INCREASINGLY TARGETED
The political turmoil added to concerns among Christians who make up over 7 percent of the country’s 23 million people.
Besides the latest bombings, there were already 86 verified incidents of discrimination, threats and violence against minority Christians, said the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL), which represents more than 200 churches and other Christian groups.
In 2019, the NCEASL so far recorded 26 such incidents, including one in which Buddhist monks allegedly attempted to disrupt a Sunday worship service, with the last one reported on March 25.
The attacks were linked to extremists of Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic communities
Christian advocacy and relief group Open Doors says persecution of Christians impacts especially those from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds. They are treated “as second-class citizens and can face slander and attacks,” the group noted.
“Believers from Buddhist or Hindu backgrounds face harassment and discrimination from their families and communities. They are pressured to recant their new faith, as a conversion is regarded as a betrayal of their ethnicity.”
Additionally, most state schools do not teach Christianity as a subject, “so Christian schoolchildren are forced to study Buddhism or Hinduism,” Open Doors said. Before the Easter Sunday bombings, several churches in rural areas were already attacked or closed, and Christians were assaulted, the group added. Rights activists and the Christian community now fear more attacks in Sri Lanka.
Note from our Prayer Director, Blaine Scogin and the Persecution Watch/VOP Prayer warrior team
My Brothers and Sisters, the greatest Injustice ever done to a man was done to the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men nailed him to the cross for no crime he had ever committed. And yet the most powerful words that Jesus ever uttered from the cross were Father forgive them for they know not what they do. ( Lk. 23:34 ).
Jesus exemplified what he taught in The Sermon on the Mount. In his discourse, Jesus said love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you ( Mat. 5:44 ). Obviously such a love for enemies cannot be manifested in the flesh. When in our anger we cry out retribution against those who have wronged us. The Spirit inside of us says forgive them. Only he can work out that transformational love that comes out of a fruit born through Christ living in us.
Where Jihad teaches hate and Islam says kill the infidel, Jesus teaches love your enemy.
In the next few days Ramadan will start where Muslims will seek their god through prayer and fasting. Let us pray that during this time of Ramadan that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who bore their sin, will appear, even in dreams and visions, and direct Muslims to the true and living God. Let us pray that Muslims will receive him who is love. That they will welcome Christ to live in their hearts who will show them a much better way than Jihad would teach. Pray their eyes will be opened that Jesus came to love them and to die for their sins and bring the fruit of the Spirit. That which we would know as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; would flow out of their hearts.
Indeed let that be true of us who know Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, that the fruit of his Spirit would flow from our own hearts by the presence of our Lord through his Holy Spirit in us. Pray also for strengthening of every believers faith, come what may, that we will continue to remain in Christ alone.
(Voice of the Persecuted) Many have not heard the story that brought Jesus to his crucifixion. Some are asking, “If he was so good, why did so many hate him?” Maybe you are wondering what he truly suffered and why he would willing give himself over to his enemies when he was completely innocent. These are good questions. Medically speaking, it was a horrific torturous death. David Terasaka, M.D. shares some of the Illegal aspects of the trial of Jesus and the Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ here.
Matthew 27 explains to us,
Judas’s Remorse 1 Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; 2 and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
3 Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself. 6 The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the temple treasury, since it is the price of blood.” 7 And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. 8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; 10 AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER’S FIELD, AS THE LORD DIRECTED ME.”
Jesus before Pilate 11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.” 12 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not answer. 13 Then Pilate *said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?” 14 And He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge, so the governor was quite amazed.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 At that time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17 So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that because of envy they had handed Him over.
19 While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 But the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate *said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all *said, “Crucify Him!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” But they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”
24 When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
Jesus Is Mocked 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.
32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.
The Crucifixion 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink.
35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37 And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
38 At that time two robbers *were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words.
45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
55 Many women were there looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while ministering to Him. 56 Among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
Jesus Is Buried 57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the grave.
62 Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’ 64 Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” 66 And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone.
For those searching for the ‘Word of God’ and want to develop a deeper understanding of what it means for their lives. Whether you’re just getting started, or have been studying the Scriptures for many years, making it a part of your daily life will bless you greatly and help you grow in faith and understanding. Reading the Bible will help you develop a personal relationship with the One who created you and knew you before you were ever born. So what are you waiting for? The Lord is waiting at the door! We’ve gathered some great resources for you LEARN MORE HERE
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
In the darkness of night, Christ was born to bring hope and light into the world. He did what no other could accomplish; salvation to all who believe, love and follow Him. Joy to the world, no other gift can compare!
This Christmas, let us reflect not on the trials, but on all God’s blessings in our lives. Let us thank the Lord for His faithfulness to bring hope to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. We thank God for comforting all who mourn, giving them strength and peace. For the ability to praise in the midst of trials, He goes with us in every storm.
As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, please take a moment to remember and pray for those who are suffering for their faith in Jesus. All over the world, persecuted believers are worshiping God for the greatest gift ever given to mankind, salvation through Christ alone. They’re counting their suffering as worthy to be in Him as part of the Body of Christ.
To all our persecuted brothers and sisters, our advocates and workers in the field, supporters and friends of Voice of the Persecuted, Rejoice! In the name of the Lord, Rejoice! Christ is King and Savior of the world. May Peace be your gift at Christmas and your blessing all through the year. We thank you for standing with us in the ministry!
God bless you,
From the Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) Team
Inspiring Bible Verses for Thanksgiving
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
Scripture Quotes on Being Thankful
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me?
They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
What the Bible Says About Giving Thanks
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
What is your favorite Bible verse for Thanksgiving? Share it in the comments below and encourage others in our community!
To all our brothers and sisters, we thank God for you! May the Lord provide all your needs, strengthen, bless and keep you.
The Voice of the Persecuted (VOP) and Persecution Watch Teams
(Voice of the Persecuted) Speaking at a church during a prayer service for Asia Bibi in the Netherlands, her lawyer, Saif-ul-Mulook, described his last visit with her at the Multan women’s prison on Oct. 10th, 2018. Pakistan’s Supreme Court had just heard her death sentence appeal but the judges delayed the announcement of ruling in Bibi’s case. Saif-ul-Malook said he was amazed by her wonderful mood, how happy she was and that she showed no signs of depression. Asia shared with him about a dream she had two days earlier (Oct. 8th), the same day the court hearing was taking place.
“Sir, I saw in the dream that all the prison doors were opened and I worried the if the jail superintendent comes, then she’ll be very furious. Sir from my dream, I’m very, very certain that my appeal is going to be accepted and I’m going to be free. I have such a firm faith in God that I have strong feeling that nobody can hurt me.”
Then she told him not to worry for he too would be provided the same protection.
He announced at the church service, “I have never seen a stronger woman in my life, or read in any book story. Who is behind the bars for more than 9 nine years leaving behind two daughters, one [with mental disabilities] and still, to be so strong. I tell her many times, if I was in prison in your place, I could have broken in 6 months and might have decided to commit suicide.”
Mulook, who is also a Muslim, could also be called one of the bravest of Pakistani men. Prior to taking Asia’s case, Mulook’s was targeted when he was the special prosecutor in the high-profile murder case of Punjab governor Salman Taseer. The governor was shot and killed by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, in 2011. Qadri killed Taseer over his call for blasphemy law reform and his support of Asia Bibi. Islamists called Qadri a hero. Mulook was the only lawyer willing to prosecute the former police bodyguard who was convicted and sentenced to death by execution. Tens of thousands called for Bibi’s death when Qadri was sentenced, then again after his execution. Many were to fearful to take Asia as their client. When Mulook chose to defend her, other attorney’s told him, “You have hammered the last nail into your coffin”. His colleagues and even friends shunned him. “We don’t go out to meet relatives or friends. They don’t come here to meet us.”he told the AFP.
Already condemned when he successfully prosecuted Qadri, he thought it cowardly to give up on Asia. “I said to myself, look, you have already done the damage. It is time to stand up for this poor woman.”
Due to recent death threats, Saif-ul-Malook fled to the Netherlands. The Dutch Foreign Ministry made an official offer to him to join a special program for the human rights activists under pressure in their home countries. Reports claim the Pakistani attorney has not yet filed an asylum application to stay permanently in the country.
Asia and her family were taken to an undisclosed location and under the protection of police and Pakistan’s military. Multiple countries have offered asylum to Asia. However, her husband had requested for asylum in Canada, the U.K. or the USA.
Today, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed to the AFP that his government was in discussions with Pakistan about granting her asylum and bringing her to Canada.
“There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country,” Trudeau said.
Canada’s opposition Conservative Party supports this decision and has urged Mr Trudeau to “use every mechanism at his disposal to offer the Bibi family asylum”.
It was a joy to hear this news as we prayed for Trudeau and his government on yesterday’s Prayer Conference Call event. We also prayed for the continuation of persecuted Christians to be granted asylum in the country. We’d like to recognize Canada for welcoming many of these Christians in the last decade, and to acknowledge the Canadian churches along with their members who have stepped up to sponsor these families. May the Lord continue to bless them.
Video of Saif-ul-Malook at prayer service shared on the social media service Facebook.