“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” Acts 26:17-18
These words of Jesus were spoken to Saul of Tarsus en route to Damascus at the time of his conversion. Saul—later Paul—is now sharing them with King Agrippa as a personal testimony. Though God would rescue Paul, he still suffered many things for the sake of the gospel.
One of the biggest challenges to remaining faithful under persecution is the need to stay free from bitterness. Some forms of persecution are particularly hard to forgive.
Elina’s father is a pastor near Dhaka, Bangladesh. Extremists have been trying to drive him and his family away. Elina shares her story:
“One night, I woke up because I had an exam the next morning and I needed to study. When I had to go to the bathroom, there was no one with me. Some boys came and they just moved onto me. They touched me and then they took me away, but I couldn’t scream because they held my mouth.
One of those two boys raped me while the other sat there. Then I tried to run away, but I couldn’t because they caught me again. Then the other boy raped me. The boys said, ‘If you tell somebody about this, we will kill you.’” When she arrived home, Elina shouted for her dad. The two of them brought her case to the police, but they were told she had no proof. Elina and her father believe the boys paid off the police, and they’re still awaiting justice despite a medical report confirming her story.
Elina says, “They did this because we are Christians. They don’t want us here; they want us to be Muslims. They are trying to drive us out. It was difficult for me in those days. I just wanted to fly away or commit suicide, but my dad comforted me. He told me, ‘Pray more and more, so God will give you more patience and strength.’ It really helped me work it out…I have forgiven them; I have nothing against them in my heart.”
Through the prayer and support of her family, Elina is finding God’s strength amidst her pain. As a testimony to her Savior’s redemptive power, Elina has extended His grace to the boys who violated her. Still, her journey to healing is far from over; a poignant reminder of the need to pray and send encouragement to our Christian sisters facing this heinous form of persecution.
In their response to persecution, Bengali Christians like Elina send a message to us in the west: a message of faith, hope and love—even for their oppressors so they might respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ and receive His forgiveness.
RESPONSE: Today I too will pray for patience and strength to be a witness even to my enemies.
PRAYER: Pray for young Christian girls like Elina who face great personal challenges to be a witness.