Are the nuances of dying for one’s faith that nuanced?

by Mr. Sheehy

Allen also explains convincingly why, when considering outcomes, there is not a great deal of difference between believers killed because they are Christians and believers killed because their Christian callings put them directly in harm’s way.

Yet their most enduring message concerns the character of Christian faith itself. In 2011 Shortt interviewed Afghans who after converting to evangelical forms of Christianity had been forced to flee for refuge to Europe or India. One of them, who had been taught to view all non-Muslims as satanic, was eventually drawn to Christian faith. For him the attraction was “God’s self-offering in Christ, the characteristically Christian notion that victory can be won through apparent defeat, and that Christians have the status of adoptive children through the Spirit of Jesus.” Shortt reports that despite ostracism, mortal threat, and forced immigration, this Afghan believer did not regret his conversion. Instead he affirmed that “the gospel had freed his conscience and imagination … especially in its emphasis on the core principle that forgiveness precedes repentance, not vice versa.”

Similarly moving were words that Shabbaz Bhatti recorded on video only weeks before he was killed for trying to help Aasiya Bibi, and after he had received many threats against his life: “I am living for my community and for suffering people and I will die to defend their rights… . I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us. I know … the meaning of the Cross and I follow him on the Cross.”

Because of such testimonies, Christianophobia and The Global War on Christians are almost as inspiring as they are frightening. To read them is to weep. But it is also to grasp the wisdom of a slogan popularized by Catholic Action in the middle of the last century: Observe—Judge—Act.

Mark Noll, reviewing a pair of books about violence against Christians in Books and Culture.