24 April 2015
Five famous Christians who went to prison
"Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behaviour. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered." Bonhoeffer was born into middle-class comfort in 1906s Germany,and was expected to follow his father into medicine or pursue an interest in music. But Bonhoeffer opted to study theology and ministered in Harlem to become a pastor. When the Nazis took power, Bonhoeffer and other liberal churchmen formed a communion, turning down the chance to move abroad and avoid persecution. He chose to be in Germany for the duration of the war, establishing the anti-Nazi Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 and held until just 23 days before the end of the war, when he was hanged. Before his death, he wrote a great deal. Later, Letters and Papers from Prison was published from these writings – effectively his last will and testament.
Martin Luther King Jr
In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and sent to jail for protesting against the segregation of society, from businesses to churches to libraries. Blacks faced constant discrimination and the constant threat of violence. The children of Israel, King preached, "felt that if they were to get to the Promised Land they would only get there by God's power." But God had told Moses: "Go back and tell them something for me. When they cry to me, tell them to go forward. Don't sit around waiting for me to do it all by myself." With the Exodus imagery, the determination to be free was clear in King's decision to go to jail on Good Friday,12 April. He would suffer so that others could be redeemed. He had often preached: "They can put you in jail and transform you to glory", and now he was putting this into action. While in prison, King wrote a response to clergymen that criticised him for the protests. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," he wrote.
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Paul is still recognised as a great Christian theologian. After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul became one of the most recognisable Christians of his time. His letters written during his imprisonment were so important to Christian theology that they were incorporated into the New Testament. His correspondence to the Christian communities of the Colossians, the Ephesians, the Philippians and Philemon formed the basis of modern Christianity, and were later closely read by Martin Luther during his time in prison.
The Heavenly Man. Born into a life of poverty in communist China’s Henan Province, Yun became a house church leader while still in
his youth, bringing the forbidden gospel to his community. He was imprisoned and tortured for his Christian faith after refusing to join the government-controlled Christian organisation. But while in prison, he continued with his ministry and brought many of those around him to Christ – including the prison guards. While in the Zhengzhou maximum security prison Yun heard a voice telling him to walk out of the heavily guarded facility. Obeying the voice and risking death, Yun said the Holy Spirit called him to walk straight past the guards and out through the gates. He said it was as if he was invisible, and subsequently guards at the prison have lost their job due to the “embarrassing mishap”. Now in exile he evangelises across the world.
A Sudanese Christian sentenced for her faith. She was sentenced to death for her refusal to convert to Islam, but was eventually was allowed to flee Africa and seek refuge in the United States. Subjected to intense pressure to give up her Christian beliefs, she gave birth to her second child while behind bars, but says she never once considered giving in to her captor's demands. Meriam says she stayed firm on behalf of the women of Sudan and Christians who are persecuted. "There are many Meriam's in Sudan and throughout the world," she said. Charged with apostasy, she was given three days by officials in Khartoum to convert. There was international campaigning for her release when she was sentence to 100 lashes and death by hanging. Leaders such as David Cameron called for her release. The Pope granted Meriam an audience following her release.