Prisoners and Captives: Remember Them


Date:  June 13, 2018

by Elizabeth Kendal

Prisons in the West are dangerous places because they are full of violent 
criminals. Fortunately, apart from the occasional miscarriage of justice or 
irregular abuse of power, citizens are not usually incarcerated for their 
beliefs or peaceful activity. Meanwhile, in prisons all across the 
non-Western world Christian prisoners of conscience are threatened, not 
merely by criminals, but by unsanitary conditions, infectious diseases, 
untreated illness and extreme mistreatment - including torture - at the hands 
of the authorities. These human rights abuses are enabled by a worldview that 
diminishes and even negates the Christian's value as a human being. While 
thousands of Christians are prisoners of the state, thousands more are 
'captives' held by non-state actors - mainly jihadists. Along with girls 
abducted as slaves and brides, other captives are missionaries who were 
following the model of Jesus, selflessly serving others far from home when 
they were captured. In such cases the captive's life only has value as long 
as their bodies can be exploited or the prospect of ransom remains alive.  

Compounding the hardship and physical suffering is the crushing heartbreak of 
separation from family and friends; many have no Christian fellowship and are 
denied access to the Bible. How vulnerable must these believers be 
(especially young, new believers) to the devil's fiery darts as he seeks to 
crush their spirit with doubts about God's presence, faithfulness, goodness 
and love. Nothing but the shield of faith will do ... and this is where we 
come in. Christian prisoners and captives might grow exhausted and confused, 
but we will be there, fighting for them.   

If a montage of images of today's Christian prisoners and captives were to be 
assembled, it would form a snapshot of our increasingly global Church. It 
would be evidence not merely of persecution, but of faith; expressing both 
the reality of Matthew 10 and John 15:18 - 16:4, and the promise of Genesis 
12:3b and Habakkuk 2:14. For today's prisoners and captives are men and 
women, young and old, Pakistani, Chinese, Indonesian, Nigerian, American, 
Indian, Colombian, European, Central Asian, Australian, Vietnamese, Iranian, 
Eritrean, Laotian, Burkinabe, North Korean and more. They are high profile 
human rights lawyers like Gao Zhisheng (China), humble labourers like Asia 
Bibi (Pakistan), students like Leah Sharibu (15, a captive of Boko Haram, 
Nigeria) and foreign nationals like Rev. Andrew Brunson (an American pastor 
imprisoned in Turkey), Sister Gloria Cecilia Narvaez (a Colombian missionary 
nun taken captive in Mali) and Dr Ken Elliot (an 83 year-old Australian 
missionary doctor taken captive in Burkina Faso). There are far too many to 
name; but praise God, he knows and loves each one and in faithfulness, never 
ever leaves them. (Matthew 28:20)  

We thank God for the confirmation on 4 June that Jeff Woodke - an American 
missionary taken captive in Niger - is alive and being held captive in the 
Malian desert. We thank God for the 7 June release into exile of Vietnamese 
human rights lawyer Nguyen van Dai. We lament with believers whose appeals 
have been rejected, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (Iran) who returns to 
prison after his 10-year sentence was upheld on 2 May; and Pastor Nguyen 
Trung Ton (Vietnam) whose 12-year sentence was upheld on 4 June. We lament 
over the catechist Mathieu Sawadogo, and his wife Alizeta. Jihadists abducted 
the couple from their home in Soum Province, northern Burkina Faso, at 4am on 
20 May and presumably they have been taken into the Malian desert.  Imagine 
yourself in their shoes - and pray! 'Remember those who are in prison, as 
though in prison with them ...' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).  


* the Spirit of God will powerfully sustain all Christians who are this day 
prisoners of hostile regimes, or captives of non-state actors. [Captors might 
be able to control the environment but they cannot control the Spirit of 
God!] May prisoners and captives find their strength renewed and spirits 
lifted as if on eagles' wings (Isaiah 40:31); may the Lord intervene for them 
to provide ministering angels at every turn.  [Imagine yourself 'in their 
shoes' -'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them ...' 
(Hebrews 13:3 ESV) - and pray!]  

* the God of justice and righteousness will intervene to deliver justice for 
his people. 'But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an 
ever-flowing stream.' (Amos 5:24 ESV).  

* our Lord Jesus Christ will subvert all evil and redeem all suffering so 
that ultimately all things will 'work together for good' (Romans 8:28) and to 
the glory of his holy name.

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