Wednesday, December 25, 2013

It’s not a Merry Christmas for the persecuted church. By Mark A. Kellner

Antonio Monteiro, Bruno Amah and Sajjad Masih, three Seventh-day Adventists wrongfully in prison

Christmas is different things to different people it seems, and that’s no surprise. For most, if recent surveys are correct, it’s just a wonderful time to reconnect with family and friends, exchange presents, and, perhaps, consume too many calories. This week, the District-based Public Religion Research Institute reported “more than one-quarter (26 percent) of Americans celebrating Christmas this year will do so largely as a non-religious holiday.”

For those who do believe, Christmas is first an occasion to commemorate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the long-promised Messiah of Israel (Isaiah 7:14) and the savior of the world. While the actual birth of Christ most likely did not take place on Dec. 25 — differing scholars have said either the spring or the early autumn — the date has become a time when the majority of Christians mark the occasion.

It won’t be a “Merry Christmas” for many Christians, however, and not solely those afflicted by poverty, ill health or other adverse circumstances. Persecution of Christians is rising globally, and the attacks are taking a higher and higher toll.

[...] At the same time, it isn’t just Islamist terror that concerns Christians.

North Korea remains the worst place in the world in terms of danger in just being a Christian, according to OpenDoors.org, a group serving the persecuted church. The group notes, “There is a system of labor camps including the renowned prison No. 15, which reportedly houses 6,000 persecuted Christians alone.” Despite this, there are believed to be 400,000 Christians in North Korea, a number said to be growing.

Then there are individual believers in places such as Iran who are also facing death for their religion. Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-born U.S. citizen, was arrested in Iran on Sept. 26, 2012, as this newspaper reported a week ago, while he was visiting the country with government permission to work on an orphanage. He’s been in jail ever since and his health is in danger. Naghmeh Abedini, his wife, testified before a House Foreign Affairs joint subcommittee last week to try and keep world attention focused on her husband’s case.

I also know of two separate cases involving Seventh-day Adventists — members of my own religious community — who are also in jail this Christmas time. Sajjad Masih, 29, is serving a life sentence in a Pakistan jail after he was convicted last July of sending blasphemous text messages to a member of a religious extremist group in 2011. The verdict came despite his accuser’s subsequent retraction and prosecutors’ failure to produce any evidence of his involvement, the Adventist News Network reported.


• Antonio Monteiro and Bruno Amah - Christmas Letters│SDA


So as you sit down to whatever holiday feast you may enjoy, spare a thought — and perhaps a prayer — for those whose lives are less concerned about what present they received, but rather whether their precious faith might cost them their lives ... ► Read the entire article by Mark A. Kellner in The Washington Times




Source: The Washington TimesPosted December 19, 2013
Author: Mark A. Kellner became news editor from Adventist World and Adventist Review and is a religion columnist for The Washington Times. He came to the Adventist Review from a business publishing unit of the Gannett Company. Prior to joining Gannett, Mark served from February, 2003, to October, 2006, as assistant director for news and information of the General Conference. In 2007, Mark celebrates 35 years of writing for publication, beginning with a stamp collecting column for his hometown weekly newspaper. He’s worked on daily newspapers, weekly trade publications, was editor-in-chief of PC Portables magazine, and has been a longtime contributor to Christianity Today. He is the author of three books, including God on the Internet, which won wide recognition as a trailblazing work on the subject. He is married to Jean Kellner, and they reside in Fulton, Maryland.


 

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