The Middle East is on fire—or so it seems from the news reports. Starting with one country and moving on to the next, the domino effect seems to be in play as citizens take to the streets to protest one government after another. Though we don’t know exactly how it will turn out in each country, it is interesting to watch in light of end-times prophecy.
However, despite the current chaos and clamor for change in these countries, human tragedy continues, and none more so than that which is termed “honor killings.”
Sandeela left Pakistan at the age of nineteen, bound for America. Her family had arranged for her to marry her cousin, who was twice her age. Less than six years later, Sandeela was dead, strangled by her father because she filed for divorce.
Teenaged sisters Sarah and Amina were shot to death by their father because he felt they had become too “westernized.”
Palestina was stabbed to death by her father while her mother held her down because she dated someone they disapproved of and got a job at a fast-food restaurant.
Honor killings. A strange term for killing one’s own relative—unless you consider the depth of custom and belief that drives such actions. Though honor killings can be perpetrated on men as well as women, the majority (conservative estimates are 5,000 annually) are carried out against female family members. That this family-related crime is on the rise right here in the United States is evidenced by the examples above, all of which took place in America.
Honor killings occur for more than refusing a pre-arranged marriage or some form of immodesty; they are often committed against family members for conversion from Islam to another religion, particularly Christianity. During the research for my April 2011 release, People of the Book, set primarily in the Saudi Kingdom, I discovered numerous examples of people throughout the Middle East who had been killed for no reason other than becoming Christians; that those murders were committed by family members only compounds the horror.
Do we have a responsibility to respond in some way to this growing tragedy? I believe we do. Our first resource is prayer, not only for those who suffer and are even martyred for their faith, but also for those who resort to such means in an effort to preserve the “honor” and unity of their families.
We also need to become alert and educated on this and other global issues that affect the Church as well as the ongoing fulfillment of the Great Commission. Being aware of those who suffer for their faith in Christ, even writing letters on their behalf and educating others, can have a powerful effect on the treatment of these precious brothers and sisters in Christ. This very understanding drove me as I wrote People of the Book and tried to deal with a tragic topic in a healing way, though it isn’t an easy thing to bring beauty from ugliness or life from death. And yet isn’t that exactly what the Savior did when He hung naked and bloody on the Cross—and then rose again in triumph? Yes, it is. And He did it for broken people like you and me, those who deal with divorce, child abuse, splintered families—and yes, even honor killings.
There is no honor in honor killings, but neither is there honor in destroying families for personal or even political gain. As we see the family unit under attack on nearly every front around the world, it is time that we commit once again to pray and to live in such a way that family members know they can trust one another without fear of betrayal or abandonment. And we must be willing to make the commitment to stand with them—in prayer and in action, writing letters and petitioning governments and helping to make this widespread crime known—regardless of the cost. It is what Christ did for us, and what He calls us to do for others.