Today, in many parts of the world, to be a follower of Jesus can cost you your life. Just as Jesus was crucified by the Romans for his actions and beliefs, so too are Christian leaders killed by Muslims in many Islamic countries.
Nik: “In Islam… the Soviet Union… East Asia…. very few leaders of the faith die of natural causes.”
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What does it mean to witness in Christianity?
When we talk about witnessing, we are talking about sharing our faith in Jesus Christ with others. This can be done in a number of ways, such as through one-on-one conversations, testifying to what God has done in our lives, or living out our faith by our actions. Ultimately, the goal is to lead others to a personal relationship with Christ.
In the Islamic community, the cost of witnessing is death. This is because Islam teaches that there is only one god, Allah, and that Muhammad is his prophet. To become a Christian is to renounce Islam and its teachings. This puts Christians at odds with the majority of the Islamic community, which leads to persecution, torture, and death for anyone willing to challenge it.
The Illusion of Safety
When Pastor Haik was invited to speak at a meeting with other faith leaders, his 10-minute testimony turned into a 2-hour indictment. For two hours, Haik spoke about the crimes and corruption he witnessed firsthand in the Islamic world. Haik gave such detailed information that it was easy to identify the security policemen he was talking about. His passionate response left the other faith leaders speechless. It was clear that Haik had found his calling to expose the truth and fight for Christianity in the Persian-speaking world.
The leaders to his left and right started tugging at his clothing, suggesting he was saying too much.
But Pastor Haik refused. “I am in a safe place for the first time in years, and I’m just going to get these things off my heart,” he explained.
Betrayed with a Kiss
Two weeks later, Ruth informed Nik Ripken that Pastor Haik had disappeared.
“We found out, later on, that one of the persons in that room had turned Haik in to the government, to the security police. The guy who called and formed the meeting did not screen the donor properly.”
A policeman explained, “They’ve killed your pastor. They killed Pastor Haik. They’ve tortured him for weeks upon weeks, and I was able to watch when they took his body out in the wilderness, and I’ve marked the spot so I can take you to the place where they buried him so that you can bring Pastor Haik home.”
Another pastor received this phone call while standing in the waters of baptism. After receiving this news, he looked out to 35 new converts. “Your pastor is dead.” He asked if these Muslim-background believers were ready for their personal crucifixion and resurrection ahead.
All said yes, knowing the gravity of their statement.
Crucifixion and Resurrection
Nik Ripken explains that crucifixion and resurrection is still very much present in the Islamic community. Christian leaders are killed for their actions and beliefs, and the dividing line they have crossed is witnessing to others.
“These people, if they are silent in their faith and they keep Christ to themselves, they can die of old age. They can keep their jobs, they can keep their children, [and] they won’t go to jail. As leaders, they can avoid prison and torture and beatings. They can avoid being tortured to death and buried in a field where nobody knows where they are, except that policeman.”
But Nik reminds us that there will be a day of judgment.
“You can die in your sleep at an old age, but I fear for you when you stand before God.”