Dying for the Faith: Seeing Persecution in the Headlines

I read this story on FoxNews online and it really got me thinking about persecution. Would I die for my faith? Would my life be seen as one that is radically different from heretical “faiths”? It appears that Joel Shrum’s life was easily identified as one who was a Christian, and he died as a result:

SANAA, Yemen — Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch said Thursday that it killed an American teacher because he was trying to spread Christianity in the mainly Muslim Arab nation.

Joel Shrum, a 29-year-old native of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, was gunned down on Sunday in the central city of Taiz, where he had been living with his wife and two sons. He was studying Arabic and teaching English at a language institute.

The claim of responsibility, which was posted on a militant website, comes as the terror network increasingly has sought to exploit the political turmoil in the Arab world’s most impoverished nation.

“It was God’s gift for the mujahedeen to kill the American Joel Shrum who was actively proselytizing under the cover of teaching in Taiz,” said the statement by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the terror network’s Yemen branch is formally known.

The slain teacher had worked at the International Training and Development Center, which was established in the 1970s and is one of the oldest foreign language institutes in Yemen.

A text message that circulated by mobile phone in Yemen after his killing said “holy warriors” had killed “a senior missionary” in Taiz, the country’s second most populous city after the capital Sanaa.

Shrum’s parents, who reside in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, say he went to Yemen in 2009 to learn Arabic, not to proselytize, and became passionate about teaching business skills to Yemenis.

A colleague at the language center, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, said Shrum used to encourage Yemenis to stay true to their Islamic faith and did not try to convert people to Christianity.

He said Shrum not only taught Yemenis English, but would often buy students books and assist them in learning computer skills.

Hundreds of youth activists and other protesters marched Tuesday through Taiz demanding justice for the Shrum. They carried photos of Shrum as they marched through the city’s streets, chanting, “Yemen is not a place for terrorism. We love you Joel!” Read the rest of the article at FoxNews: Al Qaeda Says it Killed American Teacher in Yemen.

Reaction from the Family of Joel Shrum:

The father of a former Mount Joy man killed Sunday in Yemen — possibly because he was a Christian — said the family plans to have a public memorial.

It could be two weeks before Joel Wesley Shrum’s body is returned to the United States, James D. Shrum said.

The funeral “will be more open. He was a pretty popular guy,” Shrum said Monday.

“As far as when or where, we’re still discussing that. I haven’t even picked a funeral director,” he said.

Shrum said the U.S. Embassy “is working on helping expedite that process. That’s literally all I know at this time.”

Shrum said the family is in shock. Relatives and friends have been visiting and paying their respects, he said.

“It’s been comforting to us for as difficult as it’s been,” he said.

Read the entire article at Lancaster Online.

He’s a Christian, I’m not denying that. But his purpose there was education and breaking down barriers,” Shrum said.

I pray that my life is seen as one that is easily identified with Christ. Even if I am doing “secular work”, I pray that the effect of the Gospel of Christ shines through. I don’t know the whole story of Joel Shrum. I am sure more information will come out about it, but this article encouraged me in my own faith. Has it encouraged and challenged you?

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