Persecution – suffering and dying for what you believe in – is something that Christians have faced from the start – from the days of being thrown to the lions! Today, Christians in Northern Iraq have abandoned their homes and fled for their lives, or they have been captured and killed by ISIS.
Nik and Ruth Ripken have set out to uncover why people hold on to their faith in places where they face suffering and death. They’ve travelled to over 70 countries and spoken with more than 600 Christians to ask them why they don’t just give up.
But there’s a deeply personal element to their story. Nik and Ruth worked in war-torn Somalia in the ’90s, and what they saw there shook their confidence in what they believed:
“They killed four of my best friends in one day, and they threw their bodies away somewhere in the trash or toilet. Extremists stole their bodies and took them away, so we didn’t have a way of telling their story when they died, and we had no way of going to a place where they were buried so we could tell our children’s children about them,” Nik says. “I had to go find out [why Christians kept their faith in the face of persecution], because I couldn’t say any longer, ‘Greater is he who is in me, than he who is in the world’ – because it wasn’t true in Somalia.”
Whether or not you’re a religious person, religious freedom and persecution are human rights issues that all of us have a stake in. And Nik and Ruth’s story – of personal pain and loss, and of learning profound lessons about love and forgiveness from the unlikeliest people – will leave you amazed, moved, and certainly not dry-eyed.