Shahzad and his wife, Shama, clung to each other and prayed as more than five hundred Muslims surrounded their house, shouting insults and threats. The mosque leader had accused the couple, over the loudspeaker, of burning a copy of the Koran, fueling the mob’s rage. “They have burned the Holy Koran!” they shouted. “We will teach them a lesson!” It didn’t take long for the accusation to spread. After entering their house through a hole in the couple’s thatched roof, the angry Muslims dragged them outside. Despite their pleas for mercy and Shama’s pregnancy with their fourth child, the mob beat them ruthlessly, breaking both Shahzad’s and Shama’s legs. Next, the mob tied them behind a tractor and dragged them for more than thirty minutes. Shahzad had moved to the Pakistani city of Kot Radha Kishan in 2000 with his brothers and their father, Nazar. Because of their Christian faith, they had difficulty finding work. In Pakistan, Christians are treated as second-class citizens and often must work as street cleaners or sewage workers. Shahzad and his family found work at a brick kiln. It was hard work but provided enough money for food and a place to live, even though

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

One of the unexpected shared characteristics of the biblicalrecords of Jesus’s life and the spread of the gospel is the almostpainful and sometimes humorous honesty of those recordingthe events. Mark, also known as John Mark, “signed” his gospel with anembarrassing footnote in chapter 14 when he seems to have described hisown reaction to Jesus’s arrest. “And a young man followed him, withnothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he leftthe linen cloth and ran away naked” (Mark 14:51-52). We tend to justify John Mark’s qualifications to record his gospelbased on the tradition that he based his writings on Peter’s account ofJesus’s ministry. But events like the one above and the fact that Mark’shome in Jerusalem was used as a gathering place for the early churchcertainly place this young disciple in the center of history as an eyewitness. The clipped and almost breathless format of Mark’s gospel (his favorite connecting phrase is “and then”) combines all the action of a storyteller’s style with a young man’s impatience to get the story told. Mark knew the people about whom he was writing. He may not have been part of all the events, but his personal awareness

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

Two young Scottish women were caught in the British wars of religion and executed for little more than being present at a Covenanter’s open-air revival meetings. Both women were uneducated. Marion Harvie was a servant to the wealthy, and so little is known of Isabel Alison that she is described simply as “living in Perth.” Their deaths signaled no victory for the British crown, no gain in the battle to suppress the Scottish spirit. Caught in events to which they were quiet observers, nonetheless they went to the gallows singing. The first of the Scottish covenant bands appeared in 1557, and fora century these religious dissenters preached a clear gospel, whilesimultaneously mounting a military campaign for independence fromEngland. A “killing time” followed the 1679 assassination of the king’sarchbishop, James Sharp. Charles II had restored the monarchy inEngland in 1662, and was not about to allow another rebellion like theone that severed the head of Charles I. The Covenanters must bestopped — annihilated. So in late 1680 the crown’s agents conductedraids against commoners who had any association with the likes ofDonald Cargill or Richard Cameron. Alison was taken from her home in Perth and Harvie from Borrowstounness. Each was interrogated concerning

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

Horace Pitkin was an American East Coast blueblood. He was a distant relative of Connecticut’s colonial-era attorney general and also kin to Elihu Yale, founder of the great Yale University from which Pitkin graduated in 1892, at the height of America’s Gilded Age. It was also the era of “muscular Christianity” — a mix of robust physical and spiritual development coupled with nearly unlimited optimism that the new century just ahead would be the Christian century, the fulfillment of the Gospel mandate to all the world. For Yale men like Pitkin — strong, charismatic, and gifted — the arena where all virtues would meet their test was China. Indeed, Horace organized Yale’s first Student Volunteer Band for foreign missions. He then went on to Union Seminary in New York, married Letitia Thomas, and set sail for Hunan Province in central China. Pitkin was an organizer, but not blind to the risks. He was, after all, in charge of the station in Hunan for the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. As news from Beijing arrived and the Boxers began to show restless aggression, Pitkin sent his wife and child back to the United States. On Saturday, June 30, 1900,

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

Kill a martyr; make a follower. If only England had known what the deaths of Scottish Covenanter leaders would do for the movement, and how those courageous men and women would light a fire of faith among the next generation. So it was for nineteen-year-old James Renwick, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh despite his family’s humble means. Renwick had watched Donald Cargill die, had heard his stirring last words, and had seen his head and hands strung up on Netherbow Gate. That day Renwick determined to carry the mantle, to be a Covenanter preacher. He turned out to be a very good one. He was clear, sincere, and passionate. In the meetings he held along hillside heather and valley stream, hundreds would hear him preach about a gospel centered on Christ, a church free of state control, and a destiny of joy that God had prepared for each person who trusted the Savior. Cargill would have been proud to hear him and see him evade capture time and time again. One time, Renwick traveled to Newton Stewart for a series of outdoor meetings, called conventicles. During his stay at the town’s inn, anofficer of the king’s army, also

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

In 320, Constantine, the Roman emperor of the West, pressuredLicinius, the emperor of the East, to legalize Christianity in hisregion — and Licinius conceded. Later, however, fearing treasonamong the troops, Licinius broke his alliance and decided to eliminateChristianity from his territory. He authorized Agricola, the commanderof his forces in the Armenian town of Sebaste (now Sivas, Turkey), tocarry out his evil intentions. Agricola knew of forty soldiers who were devout Christians andskilled in battle. In an attempt to force them to renounce their faith, heannounced to these men, “Either offer sacrifice to the gods and earngreat honors, or, in the event of your disobedience, be stripped of yourmilitary rank and fall into disgrace.” Then Agricola had the soldiersimprisoned to think about what he had told them. That night theyencouraged themselves by singing psalms and praying. The next morning Agricola brought out the forty men and tried topersuade them with flattery, praising them for their valor and good looks.These Christian soldiers were determined, however, not to fall prey tothe commander’s empty words. So Agricola sent them back to prison toawait the arrival of an official. While the soldiers waited, they preparedthemselves for martyrdom. When the official arrived, he again attempted to

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

John Brown was a Scottish farm lad full of passion for Christ. He came from the homeland of the Lollards, the Shire of Ayr. Reared in reformational and free-church faith, Brown was a close friend of Richard Cameron, called the Lion of the Covenant, and Alexander Peden, the Prophet of the Covenant. At Brown’s wedding in 1685, Peden told the new Mrs. Brown: “Ye have a good man to be your husband, but ye will not enjoy him long. Prize his company, and keep linen by you to be his winding sheet, for ye will need it when ye are not looking for it, and it will be a bloody one.” A speech impediment kept Brown from becoming a preacher, but inhis humble cottage he ran a Bible school where he taught youth in whatmay have been the first regular Sunday school. The year 1685 has been called the worst killing time in a terrible era.Scottish Covenanters were relentlessly pressed, harassed, and murdered,as recorded by historian Lord McCauley and author Daniel Defoe. Whentroops arrived at Brown’s door that year, they were seeking Peden, whomthey believed was nearby. They ransacked Brown’s cottage and found afew papers. They wanted to know about

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

The life change for Henry Lyman was dramatic. A fellow alumnus of Amherst College described him as “one of the worst, boldest in wickedness, defying the authority of God.” But after his conversion, “he became as ardent and bold for Christ as before he had been in opposition to all good.” After studying theology at Andover Seminary and medicine in Boston, Lyman became one of the first missionaries sent to Indonesia by theAmerican Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. Less than ayear into his service, Lyman and his companion, Samuel Munson, metsome Batak warriors near Tapahuli in northern Sumatra. Servants traveling with the missionaries reported that each was speared and then eatenby the Batak. Lyman’s intense, shortened, but dramatic life ended in violence, but work among the Batak continued. Today the Batak worship Christ and train others for missionary service in the region. This story is an excerpt from Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs. You can get your own copy free with any donation to The Voice of the Martyrs.

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning when two brothers, ages sixteen and eighteen, rode their motorcycles to the Santa Maria Catholic Church in Surabaya, Indonesia, and detonated their explosives, killing themselves and six others in the blast. Five minutes later, the boys’ father drove a car filled with explosivesinto the Surabaya Center Pentecostal Church. The bombs detonatedoutside the building, killing the driver and six churchgoers. In another part of town, the boys’ mother and two sisters, ages nine and twelve, approached the Diponegoro Indonesian Christian Church with explosives strapped to their bodies. When a security guard stoppedthem, they detonated their explosives, killing themselves and the securityguard. No church members were killed in the blast. A single family attacked three separate churches within a span of ten minutes. Twelve Christians were killed, and more than forty men andwomen were injured. Shortly after the attacks, the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the bombings. Investigators eventually learned that the family had spent time in Syria and was working with the group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah, an Indonesian militant group with close ties to ISIS. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim nation in the world. Althoughattacks against Christians there have become less

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs

Dalo arrived at the hospital with second-degree burns over most of his body. He had been left for dead by Fulani Islamic militants after one of a series of attacks that June that had killed hundreds, including his parents and siblings, while leaving thousands homeless. But eight-year-old Dalo did not despair. Though he had lost everything, the words on Dalo’s lips were not filled with anger or revenge. He was praying for those who had attacked him and his family. Life for Christians like Dalo in central Nigeria had not been considered especially dangerous relative to what believers faced in the north. Muslims in northern Nigeria have long desired to create a separate country governed by Islamic law, and the extremist group Boko Haram has served as the primary weapon in that fight, recently enlisting the help of Fulani Islamic militants. But violence from the northern states has gradually crept southward, and in late June 2018, five hundred armed Fulani Islamic militants attacked the areas of Barkin Ladi and Jos South, killing two hundred and displacing ten thousand — mostly Christians. The attacks ripped apart families and left thousands grieving. Oneyoung girl arrived home from school to find that her

Read More
Categories: Foxe: Voices of the Martyrs