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What does Matthew 10:34 say? Which things are forbidden according to Christianity? Can you describe the sacraments?
If these questions seem hard – even unanswerable – to you, you’re lucky not to be a Christian asylum seeker in Sweden.
Since many years back, the Swedish Migration Board tries to differentiate between “real” converts from Islam to Christianity that risk persecution in their countries of origin, and “fake” ones who only seek a cheap way to gain asylum, by asking various questions.
Sweden being a very secular country, most officials who come up with these questions are not Christians themselves. Furthermore, they don’t have much knowledge about Christianity – even though they might think so themselves. (more…)
A number of houses in Mosul, Iraq, have been marked with the letter “N”. All of these houses belongs to Christians, and “N” is the first word in the Arabic word for Christian, “Nasrani”. Together with the symbol there is often also a text stating “Property of the Islamic state”. This is what pre-genocidal persecution looks like.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), also simply known as the Islamic State, is a fundamentalist islamist movement that has been sparked first by the war in Iraq and recently by the Syrian civil war, and that has taken control over a large area in eastern Syria and western Iraq. The movement has an extreme wahhabist interpretation of Islam and uses a lot of violence. It has cooperated with al-Qaeda, but allegedly, al-Qaeda has cut its ties with ISIS because they thought that ISIS was to radical.
Over a month ago, the islamist rebels took control over Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city, which lies closely to the ruins of the biblical Nineveh. Christians have been living in this city for at least 1600 years, but now they were subject to severe persecutions. Besides the threatful “N” marks on their houses, ISIS gave them an ultimatum: convert to islam, pay the expensive jizya tax, or die. As a result, thousands of Christians have fled Mosul and are now internally displaced. Several Christians have already been killed.
As many of you know, I am glad to be a part of the MennoNerds network, an international blogging community made up by people who are nerdy about Mennonite and Anabaptist theology. The Anabaptists were the central figures in the radical reformation during the 16th century. While Luther and Calvin opposed Catholic teaching they still wanted to kill people and were opposed to freedom of religion. Anabaptists however both criticized Catholic teaching and the Catholic church model when one baptizes entire countries, gather people in cathedrals and kill those who don’t agree with you.
The Anabaptists were of course persecuted and killed both by Catholics and Protestants. However, some survived and can today be found in three main groups: the Amish who dress funny and live environmentally friendly, the Hutterites who dress funny and have everything in common, and the Mennonites who dress boringly and write blogs about Anabaptism.
- Jesus Centered– Jesus stands as the lens by which Anabaptists read the entire Bible, and the exemplary by which we engage all theology.
- Free Church of Confessing, Baptized Disciples – the Anabaptists were opposed to infant baptism partly because it wasn’t Biblical, and partly because it created a society where your nationality, not your faith, defined you church membership, and that was opposed to freedom of religion
- Agents of God’s Shalom – Anabaptists are pacifists committed to non-violence, but not only do we want an absence of war but also a presence of Shalom, justice and harmony.
We have now entered the holy week, the last step of lent in which the liturgical year remembers the passion, that is suffering, of Jesus. In my experience, it is not so common among Pentecostals and Charismatics to talk about suffering as something achievable. Rather, our emphasis on healing has often made us think that pain is always evil. And while I am convinced that we should always pray and work to alleviate involuntarily suffering, we should also be ready to suffer for Christ’s sake – and even count it as a joy! (Mt 5:11-12)
After all, we follow a crucified God who told us to take up our crosses and follow Him (Lk 14:27). He told us that we should expect persecution and turn the other cheek when attacked (Mt 5:39). We are also told in the Scriptures that we will experience spiritual trials and hardships (Jam 1:2ff.).
This may seem hard to sync with the Kingdom message of fighting suffering through healing, deliverance, poverty reduction and peacemaking. But it is one of the Kingdom paradoxes – while we should alleviate suffering, we should be ready to suffer. We should not seek suffering or be happy when others suffer, but when we are affected by suffering, which undoubtedly will happen from time to time, we should not interpret it as being abandoned by God but see it as a humiliating experience for us to identify ourselves with Christ.
Many Charismatics who experience a lot of miracles and breaktrough has also gone through deep pain. Smith Wigglesworth, the British Pentecostal healing preacher who raised several from the dead, lost his wife in the beginning of his ministry, and he himself got very sick in kidney stones. John Wimber prayed för thousands of people who got healed, but he died in a very painful fight against cancer. Heidi Baker is living in revival in Mozambique but just before the breakthrough she, her husband and her daughter were very, very sick and they had barely any money to continue.