Communion in persecution?

Communion may be defined as an association, a fellowship, or an act of sharing with others. A special time of communion among followers of Jesus Christ is World Communion Sunday. It observes the universal and inclusive nature of the church the first Sunday in October each year and carries a deep significance in the hearts of many.persecuted ch

There is something special in the connection beyond sight of sharing the body and blood of Jesus Christ (Holy Communion) and to know millions around the globe are celebrating the same act of worship and fellowship; many at the exact moment. The feeling of celebration, family, and friendship is deep and satisfying.

How deep does the feeling go? Does it include sharing life’s pain as well?

Paul Greenberg poignantly tells a not uncommon story. It is the story of Gao Zhiseng. He is a nobody to most people, just the way the People’s Republic of China wants to keep it. Once a prominent lawyer, Gao defended people considered by the PRC as enemies of the state. They included the defenseless and members of various religious minorities. After “three years in a cramped cell, denied anything like reading material or human contact, and fed one (1) slice of bread and day, along with one (1) piece of cabbage”, Gao is a shell of his former self. He left the labor camp “emaciated, stooped and stumbling, toothless and almost wordless, a zombie”. What was his crime? He committed one of the thought crimes in China that can merit a prison sentence or worse; being a Christian.

The 20th Century dawned with one-fifth of the Middle East composed of Christians. Fourteen years into the 21st Century, less than one-fiftieth is. Iraq was once home to 1.5 million Christians in contrast to fewer than 400,000 today. Dana D. Kelley said, “The shrinking Christian population in the areas where the apostles and early followers trod—centuries before the arrival of Islam—is no accident or voluntary exodus.” The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is the major perpetrator.

Christians, once the majority in Lebanon, compose a third of the population today thanks to Hezbollah. A year ago Egypt witnessed a two day period during which 82 Christian churches—many dating to the Fifth Century—were destroyed, as well as monasteries, orphanages and Coptic Christian schools. Violent Christian cleansing in Syria has resulted in more than 1.3 million refugees seeking asylum.

The Voice of the Martyrs tells the story this year of Liena, a Syrian believer who chose to stay in Syria with her family despite the civil war. One day as she prayed she felt God was asking her what she was willing to give up for her faith in Jesus Christ. Was she willing to give her life, the life of her husband, even the lives of her children? After praying privately, with her husband, and with her children; she told God yes. “We trust God,” she said. “He is in control always, even during the blood, during the killing.”

This Sunday will Western Christians ignore the suffering of their faith family in Asia and the Middle East? Or, will they explore avenues to not only aid but more closely associate with their pain? Believers there trust that God is always in control, “even during the blood, during the killing”. Will believers here trust as deeply? How might the world communion of Christians benefit everyone in the fellowship of Christ followers?

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