They Cry in Silence May/Jun 2005
And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure (1 Cor. 4:12).
In a strikingly significant way, this verse expresses what Indonesian Christians practiced in the aftermath of the catastrophic tsunami that struck along the Bamboo Rim in December. Stories of suffering, death, and privation flooded the news media for months. As never before in recent memory, the Western world reached out to aid survivors and their families.
Not widely reported was the heroism of Christian believers who live in the hardest hit areas, particularly in the Aceh region of the island of Sumatra, Indonesia.
The province of Aceh is nearly 100 percent Muslim. Missionaries in Indonesia say that muslims have used Aceh as a terrorist training ground for years. Whatever Christians were there suffered intense persecution, particularly after Muslim sharia law was introduced in January 2002.
As in so many other places where believers are severely persecuted, the world looked the other way; and the cries for help went unanswered. But in Aceh, amid the death and devastation, a miracle of grace took place that stunned and confused many a Muslim tormentor. The principle stated by the apostle Paul went to work: Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure.
The tsunami had struck a bewildering blow to the faith of Muhammad’s followers who so strictly adhere to the laws of Islam. They began to ask why Aceh, the most devoted of all Islamic areas in Indonesia, would become the center of the catastrophe. Was Allah angry? What had they done? To say the least, the tsunami shook Muslim theology as violently as it did the island’s landscape.
One victim reportedly lamented, “I don’t know if this is a punishment or a warning, and I don’t know if God loves us or despises us….No one knows what God is up to….This disaster has left us with nothing.”
But while the devout were wondering, they began witnessing what they never expected. The Christians whom they despised and persecuted were extending hands of help to them. The persecuted had suddenly become those who blessed their enemies. Equally stunning was the influx of Christians from Western countries; they came asking no more than to help these people recover.
When one radical muslim group came to warn tsunami victims not to accept aid from the “infidel” Christians, a number of local muslim leaders had an answer for them: “You come carrying your flag, but they [Christians] have come carrying rice, medicine, and tents, and we have been greatly helped.”
The Baptist Press reported that Kompas, Indonesia’s leading newspaper, quoted a State Islamic University instructor who expressed a similar feeling:
A number of community groups in Australia, Canada, America and other western nations are unceasingly raising funds for the tsunami victims on their own initiative. While many western nations are pouring forth dollars, sending soldiers, heavy machinery and military, we hear little about such action from rich Muslim nations.
When we find ourselves at a loss to understand or explain why believers are persecuted, these wonderful glimmers of light break out. To which we say, “And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure.”