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Mar 31, 2018
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Jesus
Most of us want to think that if ever faced with the choice, we would choose to proclaim our faith in Christ and be willing to die for it, like Rachel Scott at Columbine High School, who was mocked for her faith moments before she was shot and killed.
Most of us think very little about the many martyrs of the 20th and 21st Century, those who have given their lives for their faith: The Muslims who had dreams of Jesus, and who decided to leave Islam to follow Christ, who were disowned and even lost their lives because of it. Those Coptic Christians in Egypt who joyfully proclaimed Jesus as Lord as they were systematically beheaded by terrorists. The Syrian Christians who fled their homeland because of religious persecution, some who willingly gave their lives to stand for Christ.
We know little of present-day martyrdom in our part of the world, but it can strengthen our faith to hear of the long history of Christian martyrs who took seriously the call to follow in the steps of Christ.
Pope Francis declared, during a mass in honor of Christian martyrs, "There are many martyrs today, in the Church, many persecuted Christians. There are more witnesses, more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries." (Christian Post, July 2014)
The word we use today for someone who is killed for their beliefs, martyr, is the basic Greek word used in the New Testament which is translated “witness.” So when Jesus said, “ye shall be witnesses unto me” in Acts 1:8, the meaning of that word held more power than we imagined. Not every follower of Christ will be killed for their faith, but because the witness of the early church followers lead to their martyrdom, we use the word today to mean someone who dies for their faith.
Read more about martyrs here.
So we can put a face to some of the stories in our world today, here are some 21st Century martyrs:
Mark painted, "The Martyr", honoring the brave men and women who are counted among the great martyrs from the first century after Christ's resurrection. May we continue to remember them and tell their stories to inspire our faith.
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