Choosing to Remember -Remembrance Day 11.11.12

poppies, remembrance dayNovember 11th is Remembrance Day Sunday in Canada (and Great Britain and in several other European nations and throughout the Commonwealth). This is the day Canadians remember those who have died in conflict: in the Boer War, in the Great War and in World War 2, with US forces in Vietnam, under the United Nations in Korea, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in various peacekeeping missions around the world. Americans similarly commemorate Veterans Day. Poppies take the place of profile pictures as we remember and say thank you.

There are other ongoing conflicts around the world where hatred and violence seemingly prevail. And as I approach Remembrance Day, I have to ask aloud: Who’s remembering the victims of those conflicts? Who are the peacemakers? Who speaks out for the innocent? For those who have no voice? For those the world has forgotten?

The persecuted church remains largely undefended and forgotten.

Because of God’s grace, my dad is the survivor of one such forgotten moment of conflict. What lasted only a few minutes has changed the 75 people in attendance forever. The moment was short, but the effects continue, even up until the present.  On November 11th I ask you to join me in remembering. Let this be a token event that calls to mind countless other events happening all around the world. Let us remember.

My parents served as missionaries to Pakistan from 1979 until 2003. They lived out their lives in the tiny desert town of Layyah in the heart of the Punjab. There they raised their two children, my brother, Neil, and me. As a family we grew to love Pakistan: her culture, her food, her people. Pakistanis in return loved us. They accepted us. They welcomed us. We attended hundreds of weddings, funerals, festivals, ceremonies. We celebrated Christmas and Easter with dear Pakistani brothers and sisters, Aunts and Uncles. Even now when Neil and I go home for Christmas with our spouses and our children we sing Urdu Christmas Carols and enjoy Chicken Curry and Mutton Pulau together. Pakistan has become a part of who we are.

In March 2002 my dad was in Islamabad with a Pakistani friend, Rashid. They were there to welcome some new American colleagues who would be flying into the Islamabad International Airport. Dad and Uncle Rashid arrived in the capital city a few days early to run some errands and to take care of some business. While they were there they decided, at the last moment, to attend church on March 17th at the Protestant International Church in Islamabad. The church was located near the diplomatic enclave. It was a safe area of the city. They had no second thoughts about attending.

Midway through the service, after the children had been dismissed to attend children’s church in the basement of the church, two gunmen entered through the back of the building. They began to lob grenades into the congregation. All was suddenly chaotic and smoky. The bombs that went off were loud and horrific. There were screams and scramblings. Instinctively my dad knew to hit the ground. An undetonated grenade had landed right by his feet. Uncle Rashid, didn’t immediately fall to the ground. In the end the shrapnel from his own eyeglasses penetrated his eyes and his vision was lost.

That was a day our family will never forget. Five people died that day. Many more were injured. The nightmare still plays itself out most nights when my dad sleeps. He will likely forever suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He lost both his eardrums that day. Since then he only hears, and even then not completely, when he’s wearing hearing aids. He will always remember.

I will also always remember the story of Mahmood. Mahmood was my dad’s friend. One day he sincerely wanted a Bible to read. He took it to heart. Soon afterwards he came to visit my dad. He had begun to believe in Jesus. He was changed and full of joy and enthusiasm. It was a thrilling transformation.

Less than two months later my parents received word that Mahmood had been murdered. He was driving his vehicle and he drove over the bank and into the canal. It was later revealed that his brakes had been tampered with. His brothers and his father were most likely involved. There was too much at stake for them to have a brother and a son betray his faith. For them it seemed that if Mahmood chose Jesus he was rejecting them, their families, their faith, their traditions. They couldn’t handle the shame. They killed him.

Today I choose to remember.

I remember Mahmood, who died for his new-found faith. I remember the others like him who are persecuted and martyred for simply believing in Jesus. I remember those who died in the Protestant International Church on that fateful day in March 2002. I remember the injured.

On this Remembrance Day will you please join me in remembering those others have forgotten? There are silent victims of persecution that no one remembers. There are conflicts where the victims die quietly, buried in graves without markers. There is no bestseller written about them, often there is not even and article or obituary.

Every day there are those who die for their faith and for their convictions. Let us be the ones who remember. Let us begin today. Let us thank God for their lives. And let us remember their families who yet grieve.