The Christians of Mosul: Of martyrdom, lament, and inspiration

By June 28, 2024

International (MNN)—According to church tradition, June 29 marks the day of the Apostle Paul’s martyrdom.

It’s now commemorated as the Day of the Christian Martyr and recognizes and honors the sacrifice of those who died because of their faith in Christ. Not to be confused with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in November, Todd Nettleton, a spokesman with The Voice of the Martyrs, USA, explains the difference. “The Day of the Christian Martyr is different in that we are looking backward.

“We’re honoring those who have already paid the ultimate price for following Christ.”

Is it a bit macabre to celebrate martyrdom?   Nettleton says, “We do feel the heaviness of that sacrifice; we feel the weight of that. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though, to be in that grief, and be in that heaviness a little bit…but also to think about the heroism of that and to understand that those who give their lives for the cause of Christ are honored in eternity: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'” In other words, that’s the purpose of lament: to process our pain so that we can rejoice.


(Image courtesy VOM-USA)

It’s the silver lining in an otherwise ugly story. This year, The Day of the Christian Martyr tells the story of multiple people whose names and stories may be unknown. “The Christians of Mosul,” says Nettleton, “Ten years ago this month, ISIS went into the city of Mosul. They announced from the loudspeakers that, ‘Christians, you have three choices: you can convert to Islam; you can run for your life; or you can be killed.'”

Thousands fled, and ISIS killed many of those who stayed behind. Of those who survived, their boldness planted the seed that grew into a vibrant Body of Christ. Their stories also pose a challenge, adds Nettleton. “They were willing to sacrifice their lives to see the Gospel advanced where they were. What would I be willing to sacrifice to see the Gospel advanced in my neighborhood, in my city?”

“What we want to do is be inspired”

The reality is that most of us living in free nations don’t worry about being killed when we talk to our neighbors about Jesus. What we’re risking, observes Nettleton, is an awkward conversation. “Surely the risk of an awkward conversation is not too great a risk for the cause of Christ and for the sake of advancing the Gospel?”

Observing the Day of the Christian Martyr is thought-provoking and leads to questions like: What does it mean? What did these people do? How do we do that? How do we follow in their footsteps? Nettleton says, “I think that’s a great prayer request as we lead into the season of the Day of the Christian Martyr is just that we will be inspired, that we will understand the value of the Gospel and the value of the kingdom, that if we are asked to make a sacrifice, it would be worth it.

VOM-USA offers a free digital resource suite that will help families, churches, and small groups advance the Gospel. Click here for your copy.

Help us get the word out: