“..Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.” John 16.2

Five years ago, the whole world shook when a video was released by ISIS entitled “A Message Signed in Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” showing the beheading of the 21 Egyptian Christian men. Most of the men were seen mouthing the words “Lord Jesus Christ” moments before their death. They would rather die than denounce Jesus and turn to Islam.

Never before have we been able to see what kind of courage and valiance it takes to kneel down while someone declares that he views you and your God as filth, all the while waiting for the edge of the sword to come upon you.

The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar. The names of the martyrs will be inserted into the Coptic Synaxarium, the Oriental Church’s equivalent to the Roman Martyrology. The commemoration falls on the feast day of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

“ISIS thought the killing of our relatives would destroy us. It did not. It revived us.”

The wife of 29-year-old martyr Samuel Abraham announced only a week after learning her husband was one of the 21 men.

In another interview with Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC Beshir Kamel, brother of two of the Coptic martyrs, thanked the Islamic State for including their declaration of faith in the videos before killing them.

“ISIS gave us more than we asked for when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith,” he said. Beshir said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy and Samuel, saying that their martyrdom was “a badge of honor to Christianity.”

The 21: A Journey Into the Land of Coptic Martyrs, by German novelist and poet Martin Mosebach includes interviews with families of the men who were killed. Reportedly, what he found was “a completely different point of view of martyrdom.”

“No lamentation, no mourning, no pity, but, instead, pride and happiness. The killings were not seen as an injustice or an incident that should not have happened. On the contrary, mothers, widows, brothers, and fathers all spoke the same language.”

In the Middle East we firmly believe that,

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Tim 3.12

Martyrdom and persecution are not an incident in the Middle East; they are a way of life. We live it and breathe it from the day our religion is written on our birth certificates and our ID. We do not cringe from it. On the contrary, we welcome it.

Just like those 21 Egyptians left Egypt for Lybia, yearning to send money for their impoverished families to have the most basic needs: food and shelter.

Many in the West have left their country, their family, their continent, their past yearning for a better life. But in the blink of an eye, the world of those 21 men changed: kidnapped, possibly tortured, belittled, berated, mocked, trampled upon, and finally, beheaded. For what? For Jesus.

Are we not being murdered as well? Not with the edge of the sword, but with the slow-acting poison of secularism, relativism, and atheism. Every day we are being asked to deny Jesus. If we refuse, we are hated, persecuted, mocked, jeered, ostracised, called weird, queer, haters, bigots, close-minded, selfish, ignorant – you name it.

What is your response? Will you kneel and say, “Oh, my Lord Jesus,” or will you give in for fear of being called politically incorrect?

The writer of Hebrews says, “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Heb. 12:4) But these men have.

Today, the church in the Middle East is growing like never before. We see mass conversions in closed countries.

As the second-century Christian author, Tertullian tells us, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Rev 12:11

Are you willing to pay the price of following Jesus?

Bashar- Previous Druz- Syria

My name is Bashar Konttar from Syria. I am 54 years old. I live in Syria, married, and have two sons. My family is Druz. My father was a religious man (uqqal), so I was used to be around religious Druz, and I became religious at an early age.

The Druze religion began one thousand years ago and is an off shoot of Islam, with a mixture of Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and other gnostic ideas. They consider Jethro, the father in law of Moses, to be their primary prophet. Other Druze prophets are Muhammad, Plato, Aristotle, Moses, John the Baptist and Jesus. The Druze are a very secretive and closed community and faith and they do not accept converts or try to persuade anyone to follow their beliefs.

The Druze are an Arabic-speaking esoteric ethno-religious group originating in Western Asia who self-identify as Al-Muwaḥḥidūn (the unitarians) . Jethro of Midian is considered an ancestor of Druze, who revere him as their spiritual founder and chief prophet. The Druze numbered more than 1,000,000 in the early 21st century and live mostly in Syria (600,000), Israel (143,000) and Lebanon (250,000).

The Druze still do not permit conversion, either away from or to their religion. Marriage outside the Druze faith is rare and is strongly discouraged. Many Druze religious practices are kept secret, even from the community as a whole. Only an elite of initiates, known as ʿuqqāl (“knowers”), participate fully in their religious services and have access to the secret teachings of the scriptures, Al-Ḥikmah al-Sharīfah.

You cannot read the Durzi books unless you are a religious man (uqqal). I started studying the scriptures (Al Hikmah al Sharifah) and found that they are different than what I thought. After studying Durzi religion for five years, I had so many questions that no one could answer. So I left the Druz religion and turned to Islam. I studied the Quran for six years and decided at the end that this too is not the Truth. I decided there was no God. I became an atheist. I got so depressed that I tried to commit suicide several times.

I did not know or believe in the Cross as a Druz or a Muslim.

Some time after I became an atheist, my wife suffered a prolapsed disc. She was in so much pain that I hated going back home because I could not do anything to alleviate her pain. I felt so disabled and useless

God planned that my wife would not perform the surgery. I knew nothing about Jesus. One day in February 2001 , I returned home. I opened the door only to find my wife was on the floor pain writhing in pain.

I started crying out to God “If you really exist, prove it.

If you are there, can’t, you heal my wife?”

Amid the anger and the anguish, I felt peace. Although I was still an atheist at this point, I felt an unexplainable peace.

I heard a voice inside me tell me, “Make the sign of the Cross over your wife’s back, and she will be healed.”

When I did that, my wife said, “What did you do? I felt intense heat in my back, and now the pain is gone.”

I was startled by the instantaneous healing.

She started running to and fro, stomping her feet, telling me she had no more pain. Being a hard-hearted man, I had never shed a tear before in my life. At that moment, I could not contain my tears. They rolled down my face.

At that moment, I did not know who performed the miracle. All I knew was that my wife was healed. I had no Bible.

Three months later, I miraculously found a Bible in my home, as well as the book More than a Carpenter. I started studying the Bible.

I perceived peace; I comprehended salvation. For six years, I studied the Bible. I accepted Jesus as my Saviour through cable television. I had no idea that there were Christian channels on cable.

I watched the Jesus film.

I started attending training with CRU. Dr. Wahid knew the CRU team, and he invited me to participate with 4G3.

Although my son’s wedding is in a few days, I felt the need to attend this conference.

We lack teaching. I have read Daniel’s story many times but never heard the story in this practical, life-changing manner.

4G3 taught us that as leaders, it is our responsibility to train others. We dare not stop the ripple effect on our communities.

If we evangelize, that’s amazing, but if we fail to follow up and grow our people, that would be a big mistake. We need to mature those living around us.

Financial needs:

We have four new Discipleship Institutes starting this month: two in Sudan and two for refugees in Egypt.

Each institute costs $ 52,500 for a 15-month period. Each student costs $1500 over a fifteen month period.

When you become a monthly donor of $100 you will have sponsored one student in 15 months.

Prayer needs:

Pray for evil and terror to be overcome by the power and love of Christ and His people.

Pray for the Gospel message to break through hearts hardened by longstanding divisions and intense rivalries.

Pray for believers to courageously stand firm in their faith despite persecution and terror.

The Druze are an extremely interesting and unique people group. The Druze communities are somewhat wealthy and do not have many physical needs. Their hearts are closed to hearing about Jesus and many prayers are needed to soften and open their hearts to the Gospel.Pray for Druz to be saved.

Pray for the two new discipleship Institutes starting in Sudan in February. Pray for financial and spiritual support.

For prayers:

http://www.pray4druze.com/projects

https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/11620/SY

http://www.globalprayerdigest.org/issue/day/2010/04/20

http://www.globalprayerdigest.org/issue/day/2011/04/29