As followers of Jesus, we are called to lay down our lives for Christ. For most of us, this is a metaphorical sacrifice—we do our best to put God’s will before our own. But some Christians literally sacrifice their lives through obedience to Jesus.
A Help The Persecuted Senior Field Coordinator recently reported that three people we were ministering to had been murdered because of their conversion to Christianity. This may be shocking to hear, but it’s all too common an occurrence in the Middle East and North Africa.
The threat of death is a daily reality for many of the Christians Help The Persecuted serves in this part of the world. Here are the stories of those three martyrs who lost their lives.
1 — Cyrus
Cyrus worked as a factory maintenance technician. He was married with three children. Cyrus converted from Islam to Christianity under the guidance of a local pastor. After his baptism, Cyrus began sharing the Gospel at work, which caused his colleagues to persecute him. Eventually, he was fired because of his faith.
Cyrus began receiving threats from local radicals. The threats increased in intensity and frequency so much that his family was forced to seek asylum in Turkey.
Help The Persecuted assisted Cyrus in settling into his new home. Unfortunately, he was not able to secure asylum, and he was forced to return to his home country. Almost immediately after his return, he was beaten to death.
His bruised body was delivered to his wife and children. They were shocked and devastated but did not report the murder to the police out of fear that the same thing would be done to them.
2 — Hazine
Hazine was a 33-year-old believer. When she converted to Christianity, Hazine faced persecution in her hometown, including from her own family. She was forced to seek refuge in a neighboring city.
Enraged, her family searched everywhere for her. Eventually, one of her uncles posted a reward on social media for information leading to her whereabouts. Hazine had just been referred to Help The Persecuted when someone online reported that they had seen her entering a nearby church.
Hazine’s family found her and drug her back home. There, they hung her in public as a warning to other would-be converts. Her death was considered an honor killing, where family members murder any one of their own who they believe has brought dishonor on the family.
3 – Yaron
Yaron was a young Christian. He shared the Gospel with a close friend who betrayed his trust by reporting Yaron’s new-found faith to his family.
As traditional, conservative Muslims, Yaron’s family could not tolerate his conversion. They threatened him multiple times and insisted that he return to Islam.
Despite their demands, and knowing that he might be killed, Yaron remained steadfast in his faith. He refused to deny Christ as his savior. For that, his cousins dragged him to the top of a four-story building and threw him off.
4 – Martyrs for Christ
These deaths may seem like defeat. However, take comfort in remembering that God is sovereign over all. Our Heavenly Father can use their deaths in the same way He can use our lives. All things work together for His good.
Martyrdom is not accidental. Death does not take God by surprise. For the One that knows all, these events were not unexpected.
The persecutors of Cyrus, Hazine, and Yaron attempt to use them as an example of why others shouldn’t follow Jesus. Instead, martyrs stand as an example of strength in the face of adversity.
Right until the end, not one of these martyrs denied his or her faith in Christ. They could have flinched in the face of violence. But we can be encouraged by their courage even as we grieve their deaths.
5 – The Impact On Our Team
The loss of these three martyrs (and others like them) have a much wider impact. These deaths weigh on the heart of the Help The Persecuted team, specifically our Senior Field Team Leader for this region, Tarek.
Tarek knew their stories and walked with them and those ministering to them. He dispersed critical support from Help The Persecuted. It’s not surprising then that he is burdened by their deaths. Even as he seeks God’s goodness in the situation, it’s easy to be troubled and hurt in the face of such acts.
In these difficult days, we ask that you pray for the Help The Persecuted field team members. There are many more like Tarek who risk their own lives sharing the Gospel in hostile ground.
Please pray for these three martyrs and others just like them. And, counter to our natural instinct, we also ask you to pray for their persecutors. God commands us to pray for our enemies. We can simply pray that they would encounter Jesus in a miraculous, life-changing way.
Besides prayer, the other way that you can respond to these tragedies is by financially supporting our faithful field teams. Their work is dangerous—but they do it out of obedience and are encouraged knowing the impact it has on the Kingdom. Help The Persecuted would not be able to carry out this work without the financial support of believers like you who understand the importance of this ministry.
With your help, we can continue to Rescue, Restore, and Rebuild more lives in this hostile region.