Earlier this week, we carried a report about seven Somalis beheaded by Islamists with links to Al-Qaeda in Baidoa, Somalia. The murderers accused the seven of everything from being "spies" to leaving Islam to become "Christians."
I do not know whether these victims were indeed Christians or not. It's very hard to confirm. The families are probably not volunteering that information for fear they, too, may be killed.
What we do know is that, according to Open Doors, there are only 4,000 Christians in the predominantly Muslim country of more than 10 million. And Somalia is ranked fifth in the world by the organization for persecution against believers.
"Christian" = Criminal
Unfortunately, calling someone a Christian has become the "accusation du juor" that leads to persecution and death in many Muslim countries-whether or not the accused is indeed a Christian. It seems the term has become an easy way to make sure someone is convicted.
It's kind of like a reverse of the American "Salem Witch Trials" in the late 1600s. When many good and honest people were accused of being witches and killed by hanging. The meer accusation often led to death.
"They even called me a 'Christian!'"
When I was in the Dadaab refugee camp on the border between Somalia and Kenya, I interviewed a young Somali girl regarding the awful practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Her father, a devout Muslim holy man (imam), stood up in his mosque to denounce the practice. He refused to let his daughters be mutilated.
As I talked with the beautiful young refugee, she said she had been beaten and called vicious names, because of her father's unpopular stand against FGM.
"They even called me a Christian," the Muslim girl said with eyes downcast.
Even though this girl's family is obviously Muslim, the easiest way to persecute them without just cause is to call them Christians.
To be fair, those that beheaded the seven in Somalia do not represent the majority of Muslims. Most of the Muslims living in the neighboring countries of Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan are followers of Sufi Islam, a more contemplative "denomination," if you will.
The brand of radicals that killed these Somalis come straight from Saudi Arabia. Hard-liners that believe those who disagree with their point of view are worthy of death.
"To live is Christ, to die is gain."
Early believers were ripped to shreds by lions and persecuted beyond imagining simply because they were called "Christians." And Acts 11:26 says the term "Christian" was first used by believers in Antioch. For more than two thousand years, people have lived and died for being associated with the label.
Murdering people, Christian or Muslim, is against everything Scripture dictates. Persecution of any kind is wrong. We are told to treat others the way we want to be treated, regardless of their race, gender or creed.
However, if someone must die for being a "Christian," at least let it be one who believes in Christ. One who has promise of a better life; for whom death is considered "gain."