Fatu was 25 years old when her father and his two sons burned her to death. Her crime was converting to Christianity in a Muslim land. When Fatu's father first discovered that his daughter had become a Christian -- in order to save face -- he married Fatu off to a local imam. The imam believed that Fatu had been bewitched by Christian "sorcery" and that he could "heal" her. His way of "healing" her was to torture her for two weeks, force her to recite the Quran, while blaspheming Jesus to her face. Her testimony remained firm as she continued to say to her husband, "Jesus is my Savior. In Him only I believe. He is the way and the truth."
Fatu escaped from her "husband" only to be found later by her father and his two sons (in case you're wondering, the sons are from a different wife). They beat her, burned her veil on her, and though some tried to intervene, the father declared, "She's a dog. She's a Christian that has strayed from our religion." After Fatu's father and his sons left, her friend found her naked and the fire put out. He took her to the hospital where they did the best they could to save her but to no avail. She died three weeks later. Because her father is a respected religious man, nobody has dared to accuse him of the murder. Even the central government is powerless to override local customs.
When I came across this story, it definitely put some things in perspective for me. For the past few years I've cautiously become more and more identified with the progressive faith community, often finding myself caught between the two worlds of "progressive" and "evangelical." The "progressive" side of me sees some serious flaws with the fundamentalist approach to Scripture, wants to promote peace and tolerance between Christians and Muslims, and is troubled by the militant nature of right wing Christianity, especially in America. The "evangelical" side of me clings ferociously to the truth that it's through Christ's crucifixion and resurrection that sinners are saved, and every believer is mandated to share this gospel through their life and witness.
If you'll humor me for a moment, I'll let you listen in on "evangelical" Aaron giving a lecture to "progressive" Aaron.
Progressive Aaron. I know that you don't want to perpetuate negative stereotypes against Muslims. I know how you've seen these stereotypes abused by right wing preachers that use stories like these to promote hatred and mindless war-mongering. But you out of all people should know that this isn't an isolated incident, rather it's the norm of what happens when Muslims go public with their faith in Christ.
I also know that you're struggling to formulate a more inclusive theology that doesn't divide the world between 'us' versus 'them' precisely because you've studied Church history and seen the nasty fruit of where that thinking leads. But please, please don't forget that there are people around the world that are suffering and dying for their faith, and the reason why they're willing to suffer is because they're seeking a homeland that's not of this world. While you may sit in your air-conditioned office and wonder if fundamentalists have misinterpreted 'I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through Me', people are dying in horrific ways with this testimony on their lips. If you abandon them, you've abandoned a part of yourself.
Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Have mercy on me, a sinner!
Aaron D. Taylor is the author of Alone with A Jihadist: A Biblical Response to Holy War. To learn more about Aaron's ministry, go to www.aarondtaylor.com. To follow Aaron on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/aarondtaylor. Aaron can be contacted at email@example.com.