Sri Lankan Christian bomb victims call on Barnabas for help
Yesterday morning on the beautiful island of Sri Lanka, the ugliest of violence broke out as a wave of bombings targeted Easter Sunday worship services and Easter breakfast buffets at hotels for Christians who had completed all-night vigils. At least 290 people have been killed and 500 injured, but the tallies are constantly rising. “This was a sad day for Sri Lanka and especially for the Church in Sri Lanka,” wrote Godfrey Yogarajah to Barnabas Fund within a few hours of the attacks; he is Deputy Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance and General Secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka.
|A Sri Lankan church bombed on Easter Sunday morning|
One of the churches targeted was Zion Evangelical Church in Batticaloa. Barnabas Fund has a close relationship with this congregation of over 400 people and has been helping war widows at the church for several years. Around 28 people were killed at Zion Church, including many children. Church leaders had spotted a suspicious person in the building before the service and sent someone to question him and get him out of the building. The suicide bomber exited as requested and detonated himself outside, in the grounds of the church, where the children were playing while they waited for the service to begin. Zion Church, whose congregation is mainly poor and needy, has asked Barnabas Fund to assist the bereaved families with funeral costs, and we will be sending these funds tomorrow. Help will also be needed with medical care for the injured at Zion Church and in other parts of Sri Lanka. Please pray for the suffering and grieving Christians in particular those mothers who lost their husbands and now have lost children too.
“If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also”
One Thursday evening, just before His arrest and crucifixion, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples, as they ate together, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:20). Only eleven of the Twelve were in the room, for Judas had already slipped out into the night to do his act of betrayal (John 13:30).
Violence by night
It was night too, when three radical Muslims broke into the home of a Christian in a village in Issyk-Kul, north-east Kyrgyzstan, last October. The owner, their intended victim, was out, but his Christian nephew Eldos was in the house. Cornering Eldos, 25, in the courtyard, the Islamists shouted at him that he was a kafir (infidel, a very derogatory term) and a traitor to Islam, the religion Eldos had left to follow Christ. They tried to force him to recite the Islamic creed, and thus return to Islam.
Eldos steadfastly refused to deny Christ, and was beaten by the three men into semi-consciousness. Unable to move, he had a broken nose, broken jaw, many broken teeth, and a bleeding eye as well as severe concussion. The Muslims lifted Eldos from the ground to a table, washed the blood from his face, and told him to leave the village by morning or they would come back and kill him.
Injustice by day
Despite obstructive police and unwilling medical staff, Eldos was eventually able to get treatment for his injuries and a criminal investigation began against his attackers.
But on 23 February Eldos and his lawyer, Mrs Zhanara Askar Kyzy, had to attend a meeting with his attackers and their lawyer. This type of investigative meeting, called by the criminal investigator, has been familiar since Soviet times. But the lawyer for the attackers took charge of the meeting, locking the door, physically assaulting his opposite number Zhanara, snatching her phone and deleting recordings from it. His goal was to make Eldos withdraw the charges. In his efforts to “persuade” Eldos to do this, the lawyer threatened physical violence against Eldos and Zhanara and told them he would fabricate criminal charges against them: “We are going to lock you in prison and you are going to beg me for your life.”
Like Pontius Pilate when he yielded to the angry crowd shouting “Crucify him!”, the investigator did nothing to intervene to stop the palpable injustice and violence. He allowed the meeting to continue for ten hours.
Two days later, Eldos with his uncle and aunt fled their homeland. They hope to re-settle in a safe country far away. Barnabas is assisting with the costs.
Like our Lord
At this time, we specially remember that Thursday evening, nearly 2,000 years ago, when the Lord shared with His disciples that persecution would be the norm for them, when they ran away from the security forces coming to arrest him, when Peter (unlike Eldos) denied that he knew Jesus.
We remember how our beloved Saviour was condemned in a series of illegal trials, with corrupt judiciaries and false witnesses. We recall how He was brutally flogged, injured so badly that He could not carry His cross, and then executed, before rising again in power on Sunday morning.
Helping victims of violence and injustice
Some Christians, like Eldos, are granted the special honour of great suffering for our Lord. The same disciples who had run away and even denied Christ on that Thursday were later arrested and brought before the Sanhedrin themselves, as Jesus had been. They were flogged, as He had been. But they rejoiced to be counted worthy of suffering disgrace for His Name (Acts 5:41).
We may not all have the privilege of suffering for Christ, but all of us can have the privilege of helping brothers and sisters who do suffer for Him.
Join with Barnabas Fund this Good Friday and Easter to help Eldos and other Christian victims of violence and injustice.