A recently released video appearing to show the murder of around 20 Nigerian Christians by Islamic State West Africa Province is designed to strike terror into the hearts of believers around the world.
The Islamic State (IS – also known as ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) remains a threat to our brothers and sisters in many parts of Africa, as well as in the Middle East where the Islamist group originated.
The destabilising of Afghanistan since the withdrawal of Western forces and the Taliban takeover has also aided the growth of IS groups in Afghanistan and the northern regions of Pakistan.
As well as the violence of committed terrorist groups, Christians in many lands face violence perpetrated by the followers of other religions within their own communities – often, in the case of converts, their own family and friends – or carried out by governments who wish to eradicate the faith.
As believers, we should reflect on how we can respond to violence and the threat of violence.
In the books of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings we read that Sennacherib, King of the Assyrians, invaded Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem.
The Assyrians were as fearsome an enemy as any facing the Lord’s people today: the citizens of Jerusalem would face torture, rape and death if the invaders broke into the city.
Sennacherib even engaged in a propaganda campaign, declaring to the besieged people of Jerusalem that God could not rescue them (2 Kings 18:28-35).
Yet the response of Hezekiah, King of Judah, was not to despair. Rather, he went to the temple of the Lord, crying out before God: “O LORD our God, save us, please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O LORD, are God alone” (2 Kings 19:19, ESV).
We can respond like Hezekiah. When we consider the darkness, the bad news, the forces opposed to the Church across the world, we can nevertheless turn in prayer to our sovereign, all-powerful Lord.