The widow of a Christian who was martyred by Muslims in the Gaza Strip prays for revenge, but not the usual kind, her friend Hanna Massad told participants at the New Baptist Covenant regional meeting in Oklahoma.
Rami Ayyad, manager of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore, was abducted and executed Oct. 7, 2007, as he closed his shop, explained Massad, pastor of Gaza Evangelical Church.
Massad described what it’s like for Christians living in Gaza, a narrow slice of land between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea – 30 miles long by 7 miles wide – that is home to 1.5 million people.
“We live between two fires,” he said, “Israeli occupation and Muslim militancy.”
With unemployment soaring between 50 percent and 70 percent, Massad’s church helps provide food to thousands of families, both Muslims and Christians.
Massad said Ayyad was martyred because he would not renounce his faith. When he died, he and his wife, Pauline, had two children, and she was pregnant.
“This is our faith,” Massad stressed. “There is nothing Jesus cannot overcome, because He is the one who stands and says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.'”
Sympathetic Christians from other parts of the world often ask why the Gaza Christians must endure persecution and why their faith is tested.
Massad said the answer is simple: Because of persecution, “we are able to learn in ways we could not otherwise.”
“Jesus said, ‘If you confess me in front of other people, I will confess you in front of my heavenly Father,'” Massad said. “The way Jesus loved, He gave His life for us. Are we willing to lay down our life for what we believe in?”
“Trials help people sharpen their priorities, and for Christians in Gaza that means following the ultimate example of Jesus,” he noted.
It also means practicing forgiveness toward the persecutors, he added.
“You either allow bitterness to control you or you pray to ask God to allow you to forgive,” he added.
That’s difficult, Massad conceded, especially when Ayyad’s little children come to church without their father and when Ayyad’s young son, George, asks, “Mama, where’s Daddy?”
But because of forgiveness she has found through Christ, Pauline Ayyad wishes an unconventional outcome for her husband’s executioners.
“This is my revenge,” she told Massad, “that those who murdered my husband would come to know the Lord.”
“Sooner or later, all of us will leave this world. What legacy will you leave?” Massad asked the New Baptist Covenant crowd. “The Apostle Paul fought the good fight … and finished well. Our lives ought to count for something.”
“Your brothers and sisters in the Middle East are stretching our arms to you, saying, ‘Come and help us,'” he said.
Marv Knox is editor of the Baptist Standard.