This year, in light of our recent partnership with Open Doors, we are taking some time to try and look at Easter through the eyes of the persecuted church.
At Easter we remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, that He went through so that we can have relationship with God through Him. There are Christians in many countries who are persecuted daily for their faith, they are suffering and some are being killed because they believe in what Jesus did for them. We’re not comparing the suffering of persecuted Christians today to the suffering and death that Jesus went through, because He experienced the worst suffering, and death of the most horrendous kind, but we do want to draw out some of the parallels and comparisons.
Here is a reflection Hugh Walwyn wrote for us:
Easter is always a bitter sweet time of year for all Christians as we remember both the death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is especially so for our brothers and sisters in churches around the world where they face persecution in its various forms.
Last Easter at Zion Church in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, the church was gathering to celebrate on Easter Sunday when a man wearing a backpack showed up saying that he was looking for his mother in the congregation. Two of the pastors who were on the door asked him to take his backpack off before coming into the church. He said he needed to make a phone call first and as they ushered him out into the car park he detonated the bomb in his backpack killing himself and the 2 young men who were with him. Sadly, at the same time as the bomb exploded the children from the Sunday School were coming into the car park along with their teacher. She was killed in the blast along with 14 of the children from the Sunday School.
Thankfully, the action of two pastors meant that the 200 or so people in the church escaped unharmed, but it was still a devastating blow for the church as a whole. In fact this explosion was just one of 6 that were let off in Sri Lanka last Easter Sunday in 3 churches and 3 hotels. 253 people lost their lives and over 500 were injured.
The Sunday school teacher who died was called Verlini. On the morning of Easter Sunday she had led the children in a prayer of repentance and acceptance of Christ before leading them into the car park. Both she and her husband were killed on that day leaving their 2 children behind. Her brother, who is also a member of the church, paid this tribute to his sister and to the others who perished; “They are special people, they were not killed, they were sown, they are like seeds and the blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the church”.
Events like these remind us of the cost involved in following Jesus in countries like Sri Lanka. It will be particularly hard for those left behind who have to carry on and keep the flame of the church’s witness alive when there is so much grief and possibly anger as well. In his letter to the Philippian church Paul wrote these words, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11)
Undoubtedly it is the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings that the Persecuted Church is experiencing on a daily basis whether in Sri Lanka or in the other countries where Christians are being singled out for cruel treatment. Let us pray for them that they may know the love and comfort of Christ as they face these difficulties. It is their experience that helps us to understand something of the cost as well the glory that is wrapped up in the Easter story.