What big numbers hide

A call to remember, and pray for, the persecuted

May 8, 2017 by

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The numbers betray the humanity within them, because they are simply too big. Some 4,000 members of 30 congregations in Communautês Mennonite au Congo (Mennonite Communion of Congo) are hiding in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Kasaï-Central region.

Another 1,000 members of Communauté Evangélique Mennonite (Evangelical Mennonite Church) congregations are also in hiding. Government and militia violence — which took the life of Mennonite United Nations investigator Michael J. Sharp in March — has even affected pastors training at Kalonda Bible Institute.

These thousands are only the Anabaptists. In one region. Of one country.

Often, violence’s perceived magnitude and tragedy diminish as the scope increases. Solitary radicals in London and Paris grab headlines, while horrific actions sustained over decades in the developing world shatter more lives but fade easily. Do we remember the Nigerian girls kidnapped in 2014?

Mennonite World Conference shared the most recent DRC concerns — along with laments of Latin American floods, war in the Middle East, political polarization and economic and refugee crises — in the MWC Prayer Network’s April summary of prayers for gratitude and intercession. Tucked near the end were a few sentences on another topic.

“We pray for five Mennonite pastors who are currently known to be imprisoned for their faith in another country in Africa. Separated from family, they are not separated from the love of God, which compels them to share the gospel.”

May God inspire the pastors’ release and give comfort to their families. It is a relief to know supplication to the Lord never requires a street address.

The many definitions of religious persecution and martyrdom make quantifying these concepts difficult. Estimates vary widely. Christianity Today reports The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary estimates 90,000 Christians died “prematurely, acting out their faith” last year. More conservative estimates, such as one by the persecuted church advocate Open Doors, suggest 1,207 believers were killed for faith-related reasons in that span.

Be they one United Nations investigator, five pastors, 1,207 or even 90,000 people, ultimate solutions to violence will come not from hostility but with listening, love and prayer.

“There is nothing so broken that God cannot fix it,” says the MWC Prayer Network. “May God use our global church as a means toward restoration and reconstruction in the midst of so many afflictions. May we embody the hope of the resurrection for our world today by being a global community who supports each other and transcends our economic, denominational, cultural and political differences.”

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