By Matt Kaufman
Christ told His followers to expect persecution, and more believers have seen His warning fulfilled in the past century than in any other. And the number of tortures, imprisonment's and executions is rising. Below is a partial world tour of martyrdom, from the human-rights group Freedom House.
Three days after his arrest on Feb. 14, 1994, Baptist Pastor Eliezar Veguilla was pushed into a dark, subterranean cell at police headquarters in Havana, only to find himself face-to-face with a live bear.
Terrified, he accepted the martyr's fate and-crouched in the corner of the cell-began to pray. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, Veguilla realized the bear was chained to the wall and could not reach him. This was yet another in a series of psychological torture tactics and death threats he would endure over 47 days in the Cuban prison system, where he remained until international pressure forced his release.
"They couldn't tolerate my leadership among the youth, the large following that I was drawing into the many casas culto (house churches) that I started," Veguilla said of the communist Castro government. "My success in rallying young people for Christ was the real reason I was arrested."
On Jan. 2, 2000, 21 Christians were killed and more than 100 Christian-owned businesses and homes destroyed after a mob of nearly 3,000 Muslims attacked the village of Al Kosheh, in southern Egypt. Police ordered believers to stay in their homes and shut their windows and doors. Reports suggest police stood idle while groups of armed Muslims were allowed to enter the Christian areas. Many victims were told to renounce their Christian faith, and when they refused they were killed execution-style with automatic weapons or knives. Others were dragged from their homes and shot in the presence of family members, and several corpses were burned.
One of the victims was Adel Ghattas Fahmy, a 22-year-old deacon at the local Coptic Orthodox Church. Adel was approached by four armed men following the Sunday Mass, dragged to a nearby field and told to convert to Islam. When Adel refused, he was forced to kneel and then shot in the back of the head. Adel's 11-year-old sister, Maysoun, was forced to lie next to her brother's dead body, and she too was shot and killed.
More than 200 people were killed in fighting in Kaduna, Nigeria, during the week of May 21, 2000. Among the 200 dead was the 26-year-old Rev. Clement Ozi Bello, a former Muslim who was ordained a Catholic priest last year. His body was found in a culvert along a road where there had been no fighting, a spokesman for the Kaduna Roman Catholic Archdiocese said. A mob attacked the priest, dragged him from his car, tied him up and gouged out his eyes. He was then killed and left along the road.
Hundreds of people have died in recent months in conflicts provoked by northern states' imposition of sharia (Islamic) law. Churches, mosques, homes and businesses have been destroyed. The Baptist Theological Seminary was destroyed, and four student evangelists were killed. According to the Anglican Media, 2,000 people have been murdered in this sectarian violence, including three parish priests, eight seminarians, 38 pastors and 148 evangelists of various churches.
Evangelist to Dinh Trung was imprisoned in Vietnam for "abusing his freedom as a citizen by propagating religion illegally." Trung was arrested in April 1995, while returning home on his bicycle after teaching a Bible lesson to 10 people. He is a worker in one of Vietnam's fastest-growing Protestant house-church movements.
Trung remained in detention without officially being charged with a crime from April until his trial on Oct. 4, 1995. On the day of his trial he told the judge he had been beaten while in custody, bound hand and foot and left to lie in the hot sun without water until he became delirious. When Trung questioned the legality of the torture he received in prison, the communist judge became angry and sentenced him to three years in prison for evangelizing. Meanwhile, Trung's wife and three children-the youngest only a year old-were left to wait for his release.
Trung's wife wrote an eight-page letter of complaint to Vietnam's prime minister, detailing how laws consistently were violated throughout her husband's arrest, pretrial incarceration, trial and imprisonment. Her efforts have been in vain, and Trung remains behind bars.
(c) 2000 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.