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14 November 2014

Compassion fatigue?

Compassion fatigue?

Image courtesy of Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Another week, another headline. Another country, another suicide bombing. Another city, another kidnapping. Yet if we call ourselves Christians, we are called to overcome the temptation of compassion fatigue – to care about suffering, and to express the love of God to a world in pain.

This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), supported by the Religious Liberty Commission – an umbrella body of organisations, including the Evangelical Alliance, who are concerned about the rising tide of Christian persecution occurring around the world. As the media rains down a seemingly endless stream of stories of the broken world we live in, thousands around the world will pray for Christians this Sunday who suffer because of what they believe.

You may have seen the headlines this week about the Pakistani Christian couple, who were beaten, stripped and burnt alive in a kiln for allegedly burning a copy of the Quran. On 4 November 2014, 26-year-old Shahzad Masih and his 24-year-old wife Shama Bibi, who was four months pregnant, were murdered while policeman reportedly looked on. The attackers were summoned over the loudspeakers of local mosques.

We also heard this week about the suicide bombing of a school in Potiskum, north-eastern Nigeria; the attack claimed the lives of at least 46 students. This is just the latest assault by Boko Haram, an Islamist terror group that has vowed to rid northern Nigeria of Christianity.

In April this year Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls from the town of Chibok in Borno State in April. Since then, the fate of the ‘Chibok girls’ has gripped communities around the world. The #BringBackOurGirls campaign has been supported by famous names including Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton and Malala Yousafzai.

A few of the Chibok girls did escape, but their freedom is bittersweet: they can’t celebrate while they live in daily fear of what has happened to their friends and sisters. In his most recent video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau dismissed talk of a ceasefire with the government, and claimed the rest of the girls had been converted to Islam and married off.

At least 75 Boko Haram militants are reported to have been killed by local hunters in Adamawa State, and more than 2,000 people, including youth vigilantes, local hunters, retired military, police and para-military operatives, artisans and petty traders have signed up to fight the insurgents.

Yet the girls have not been returned to their families, and Boko Haram – the group’s name roughly translates as ‘Western education is sin’ – continues its campaign of violence in northern and central Nigeria, targeting Christian communities.

And the public stares through the TV, glassy-eyed, as yet more death statistics are reported. The #BringBackOurGirls protests have waned in Nigeria and around the world. The headlines move on.

This Sunday, the thousands of Christians around the world marking IDOP will pray for the Chibok girls; for the Christian communities in the Middle East, vulnerable to attacks by IS; for church leaders in Cuba, under surveillance by a hostile government; for Christians in Iran whose daily lives make them targets of an increasingly repressive regime.

“Let us not become weary in doing good,” Galatians 6:9. The apostle Paul speaks as much to us as he did when he was writing to the church in Galatia. So let’s not become fatigued by the idea of compassion. Let’s refuse to give into the temptation of shoulder-shrugging hopelessness.

Let’s be counter-cultural, as Jesus was, and actively fight against our human tendency to look first or only to ourselves.

Jennifer Watkins is a writer and editor for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, writing on behalf of the Religious Liberty Commission

The British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA) is asking Christians to sign a Pakistan petition that calls on the UK and other western governments to condemn the attack and to act to ensure there can be no 'business as usual' in Pakistan in relation to the murder of Christians under the pretence of its blasphemy law.

The BPCA is also organising a rally outside 10 Downing Street on 22 November from 11am to 1pm and is calling on Christians to come out in support.