Every week I read confidential reports from Christians who live in regions where their right to worship is restricted. These stories often include detailed accounts of abuses—both psychological and physical. People are beaten, imprisoned and sometimes even killed because of their faith in Jesus.
In most case files I read, the central figures are adults. Why? Because persecution is often targeted toward grownups for their roles in leading underground churches, distributing Bibles or evangelism.
But as I read these reports, my breath often catches at two particular words.
Father and mother.
“Neungra, 36-year-old mother of four…”
“Yebio, father of two children…”
When the persecuted person is a mother or a father, it has extra implications. Not only was this person beaten, imprisoned or killed, but now there is also a void in a family somewhere. There are children whose provider is injured and is no longer able to financially support their family. There are children whose living spaces are empty of a mother’s hum, a father’s whistle.
Children feel rejected and unwanted as they walk their community or school yard. They carry a sense of paranoia that prevents them from fully enjoying childhood experiences. Their familiar family traditions—favorite meals, customary bedtime rituals, specific lullabies—erased by tragedy.
And, unfortunately, the toll is often even more direct.
Sometimes when the reports use the terms “father” and “mother,” the accounts not only imply there are other family members, but they detail how the persecution spills over onto children directly.
Last week alone, I read the stories of three children from different countries who experienced direct persecution from classmates or the community due to their faith in Jesus.
As I read these stories, my heart aches with them, and three ideas stir in my soul.
We must remember these children.
No matter how uncomfortable these accounts are, it’s important to read their stories. We need to expand our own awareness of what is happening in other parts of the world and to share this information with others in our networks. As problems like these come into greater visibility, they are more likely to draw the attention of those who can help resolve them.
We must pray for these little ones.
For many of us living in more privileged circumstances, enjoying broader freedoms, we must remember those families who are struggling every day just to worship God in their own cities, towns and villages. We must pray God will give them strength, wisdom and support to process and heal from their experiences.
We must be inspired by them.
In the reports I read, the Christians who are physically assaulted and injured spend little time wallowing or complaining about their circumstances. There is no time or energy for “woe is me.” Instead, many of them call for peace and patience; they rally to love and forgive their enemies. Perhaps one persecuted father said it best, “We try to teach them that, in spite of hostility, they should pray, even for those who are bullying.”
Amen. And amen.
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of Open Doors USA’s Presence magazine.