Today is Good Friday, and many of us will be spending a portion of the day in church or at home, thinking reflectively about the sacrifice our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ made when He gave His life for us on Calvary.
It’s something American Christians can do without worry or concern, because we live in a nation where, despite some cultural opposition, we can worship freely and without persecution.
But around the world, there are fellow believers who are risking their lives every time they meet for corporate worship – especially during holidays like Holy Week.
And today, I’m especially thinking about Christians in the Middle East.
As you know, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the two deadly Palm Sunday bombings that killed at least 49 when they targeted two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt. The situation in the country is so tense that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has declared a three-month state of emergency.
Focus on the Family has an office in Cairo, Egypt, which serves the entire Middle East region.
Sami Yacoub, who heads up our Middle East efforts, has been sharing his local perspective with us. Here’s some of what he has to say about what’s happening on-the-ground in the aftermath of the terrorist attack:
“Reactions from Christians are stunning the public. A popular non-Christian media spokesperson couldn’t believe his ears when the wife of one of those martyred at the bombings said she had forgiven and was praying for the perpetrators; that they would consider what they’re doing and repent. He kept saying, ‘Coptic Christians are made of steel! Coptic Christians have withstood so much for hundreds of years… What is all this forgiveness you have?! If your enemies knew that you really forgive them, they wouldn’t believe it! If this was my dad who was killed, I would never be able to forgive. These people have so much forgiveness based on truth, based on conviction! Christians are humans made of something else!”
What a beautiful testimony these Christians are exhibiting in Egypt, even in the midst of their terrible pain, and without repentance or apology from ISIS.
Only people who have been supernaturally transformed from the inside out could forgive that type of persecution – and that transformation is only possible because of the Cross. What was perceived to be a place of shame and weakness has become a place of victory and strength.
And so it can also be for Christians in the Middle East. Let us pray that it may be the case.
Please also pray for the team at Focus on the Family Middle East. They are working on a resource that can reach a potential 90,000 heartbroken people on Easter Sunday.
Sami asks that you pray that:
- God would comfort those who lost their loved ones.
- God would heal the injured.
- For comfort and peace for fear-filled Christian hearts.
- For divine protection over the Body of Christ in Egypt from other similar attacks.
- That the perpetrators would be found and brought to justice.
- That God would use Christians to be salt and light at such a time as this.
- That many hearts and minds would be enlightened and come to a saving knowledge of Christ though this unspeakable evil.
May the Lord bless you and your family this weekend as you worship together and think of the love and forgiveness we receive at the Cross.