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Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Consider the brothers

What happens to them is happening to you and me

Issue: "All-American adoption story," Nov. 21, 2009

If I am a Christian, it means that Jesus Christ communicates his life to me and actually lives in me; the same life of Jesus Christ in me exists also in my brothers. Since we then share the same life-that of Jesus Christ-my brother's life is no longer apart from mine. And that means that I must consider all that happens to my brothers as though it were happening to me. -Jean Daujat, laureate of the French Academy of the Academy of Sciences writing in The Church in Today's Catacombs (1975)

Consider this as though it were happening to you: Amina Muse Ali, an orphan and at age 30 unmarried (for in Somali culture it takes a family to arrange a marriage, sometimes before birth), went to work in 1994 for the UN as a translator. Over the next three years she converted from Islam to Christianity (a dream? a conversation? words translated which later sent her to a Bible for more?). She became an active member of the underground church in Somalia, which experts say may number 75. Two years ago she moved to Gulkayo at the invitation of a friend after the Islamic extremist group al Shabaab invaded the area where she lived near Kismayo.

But she began to receive threats there and on Oct. 4 called a church leader to say, "My life is in danger. I am warned of dire consequences if I continue to live without putting on the veil. I need prayers from the fellowship." Now 45, Ali said she felt watched by members of another Muslim group, and that they suspected she was a Christian because she refused to wear the traditional Muslim head covering for women. On Oct. 19 members of the group entered her home at 9:30 in the evening, shot and killed her.

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"We have lost a long-serving Christian," one of the Somali Christian leaders told Compass Direct News.

"Since we then share the same life-that of Jesus Christ," we indeed have lost.

Or consider that this happened to you: Pastors and churches in the Punjab province of Pakistan last month received letters from Taliban affiliates warning them to convert to Islam, submit to its rule, and pay jizya (technically a tax but a bribe)-or be killed, have their property burnt to ashes, and their women treated as sex slaves. This, in the same province where Muslim gangs in July and August torched Christian houses, in one town burning eight Christians alive and destroying more than 100 homes.

Or consider being 27-year-old Maryam Rustampoor and 30-year-old Marzieh Esmaeilabad, Iranian women held in Tehran's Evin prison since March. Both have serious health problems but, as religious liberty writer Elizabeth Kendal notes, "are boldly refusing to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ and return to Islam." Last month they were acquitted of charges of "anti-state activity" but the serious charges of "propagation of Christianity" and apostasy remain.

Consider waking up every morning in Evin Prison. The women's section is in the basement with no view of outside. Solitary confinement cells are 4 feet by 6. One former inmate said, "When Iranians think of Evin, they think of torture, confession, and fear."

If you are like me you may spend too much time considering the wrong people. Outwardly I stay busy enough with good things, but inwardly my heart is pulling like a mongrel against a leash. It yearns toward achieving the strength and confidence of a Michael Phelps, the poise of an Angelina Jolie, the talent of a Beyoncé, the accoutrements of a Barefoot Contessa. To turn back and consider the people of God, especially those enduring persecution, can be as hard as turning a great ship.

Daujat, raised a nominal Catholic, considered and acted boldly. For years after becoming a believer he longed to start a center for training young men in spiritual stamina and doctrine. He had hundreds interested until they discovered it was not a program to study doctrine only; then he had only seven. But he established his Center of Religious Studies in Paris anyway, and focused the hearts and minds of many on the church worldwide: "I must consider any need of theirs that I encounter in circumstances willed by God as a call from him that I serve that need."
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