I was a white face in a sea of dark faces, many with tears streaming. They were crying for the slain, for the raped, for the pillaged, for the imprisoned. They weren’t distant peace-nics or sympathetic Africans. They weren’t there out of some guilt. They were living this tragedy. It seemed everyone there knew someone affected. I met a cousin, and an uncle, and a friend — all who have had a loved one impacted.
Ethiopia. I can’t even find it on a map. I can’t tell you a single thing about the country except they had a terrible drought two decades ago. Or was it three? What am I doing here? All I know is that an Invisible Hand nudged me to the Colorado Capitol where hundreds gathered — representing a local Ethiopian community of 30,000 — to cry, to ask for support, to offer prayers.
I am with you.
It didn’t take long to hear the plight of the speakers. In France, a vile cartoonist was gunned down by ISIS and hashtags sprang up, advocates for free speech sounded the alarm, and the world rightly was aghast. But 30 poor Ethiopians, looking for work, are taken hostage — and either gunned down or beheaded. 80 more are currently imprisoned. And the world is silent.
Not now. Not here. Not me.
The Ethiopian martyrs were given the opportunity to renounce their faith. They did not and they paid the ultimate price. A Muslim man, Jamaal Raham who was a friend to one of the Ethiopian Christians, stood with his friend in solidarity — and lost his life too. Jamal offers a beautiful glimpse into what the world should do.
There is a growing problem across the globe with Christians who are being persecuted for their faith. Many of the details are shocking and I’ll save many of those for another post. But what we need to do now is to pray for the church and stand with them in whatever way possible.
I had one man tell me online that “Christians deserve this … that they brought it on themselves because of the way they are so hateful.” I was shocked. Regardless of the cross that hangs around their neck; Regardless of the color of their skin; Regardless of the continent they live, these are humans who are being brutalized. And as fellow citizens of this world — black, white, Atheist, Jew — we should be outraged.
Can we get past “jihad” and talk about humans?
I believe that many are afraid to speak up for the martyrs because they are being killed by those who are doing so under the guise of a faith in Allah. And we are afraid to be called “Muslim haters” or “racists” or intolerant. I understand. Language can spell the end of a reputation and we are all so guarded. While it is true that ISIS crawls under the protection of a faith to perpetrate their hate, we cannot succumb to the temptation of condemning an entire people for the sin of a few. We bristle when others paint our faith because of a few crazies. And the fact remains that I have met so many Muslims over the last two weeks and not one of them is in agreement with what is happening. I do not believe for a moment that this is mainstream Islamic faith. So let’s just set aside the religion question and simply stand with our fellow brothers and sisters.
“We must do what Jesus asked us to do — and that is love our enemies, regardless of what some are doing to us.”
“It’s beyond Christianity. It’s an attack on humanity.” I interviewed a man named Jehesal at the rally who spoke with great passion. “We must do what Jesus asked us to do — and that is love our enemies, regardless of what some are doing to us.”
I asked, “Are you here out of revenge?”
“Absolutely not,” said Jehesel. “We are not here for revenge. If we seek revenge, we are against Jesus message.”
One woman I spoke to simply told me that her only response is to pray for her enemies. “I pray every day, because that’s what God wants me to do.”
So, here I am. My neck red from years of misunderstanding. But now I’m ready to stand up for my brothers and sisters, to extend love to the enemy, and to pray for peace. I’ll do it alone, or you can can you stand with me. It does not matter.