The novel Silence by Shusaku Endo is set in seventeenth century Japan. It is about two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan in order to spread the Christian faith and also to find their mentor, Father Ferreira. News had come to the Church in Rome that under severe torture Father Ferreira had apostatized from following Jesus. Fathers Rodrigues and Garrpe, who had been mentored by Ferreira in Portugal, could not believe this rumor about the man who had such a formative influence on their lives. So, being well aware that they themselves could face imprisonment and torture, Rodrigues and Garrpe set out for Japan. The threat of persecution hangs over the storyline of Silence like a thundercloud. From the moment that they set foot on the shore of Japan, Rodrigues and Garrpe are in constant danger, for the authorities in Japan were seeking to eliminate the existence of Christianity from their country. One of the questions which attends this constant tension is what the believers will do when facing torture. Did Father Ferreira renounce his faith or not? Will the Japanese Christians remain faithful through great suffering? If the priests are captured and tortured, will they endure, or will they turn aside from the way of Christ?
For many, many Christians in our world these are not fictional questions. Rather, they are dilemmas which are all-too-real. In countries such as North Korea, Afghanistan, China, India, and many others, Christians must decide whether or not to continue to follow Jesus in the face of threats to their jobs, their property, their families, their fellow believers, and their own health and safety. Christians in the United States have difficulty even imagining themselves in such harrowing situations. As members of the universal body of Christ, however, it is our calling to stand side-by-side with our persecuted brothers and sisters. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says of the body of Christ, “If one member suffers, all suffer together…”
This year the first two Sundays in November – the 4th and 11th – are International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Buchanan Christian Church will spend time in our worship service on each of these Sundays praying for our suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. In addition, we encourage everyone to take time to fast and pray for the persecuted church during the week of November 4th – 10th. Tony Anderson, leader of BCC’s Prayer Ministry, has prepared an excellent guide for praying for some of the countries of the world where persecution of Christians is most severe. So, in order to support the persecuted church, commit to setting aside time each day during this week to specifically pray for God’s help, strength, and deliverance. God is not silent. He hears the cries of his suffering children, and he will hear our prayers on their behalf.