Deborah Samuel, a Christian student, was beaten and stoned to death in an appalling incident at a college in Sokoto State, Nigeria.
Deborah’s alleged crime was to have insulted Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, in a WhatsApp message.
There is no evidence that Deborah did as alleged, but the accusation alone was enough to seal her fate. Even if she had, her murder at the hands of a Muslim mob was not deserved.
A fellow student reports that Deborah’s last words to her attackers were, “What do you hope to achieve with this?”
This is a question that could be asked to all the Islamist groups across Nigeria – indeed, all those around the world who commit violence against Christians and persecute the Church.
What do the governments of North Korea, Iran or Eritrea hope to achieve? What do the Islamists of Pakistan, the religious extremists of India, the Buddhist nationalists of Myanmar hope to achieve? What do Boko Haram, the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) or the Taliban hope to achieve?
The answer is that they hope to rid the world of the message of Christ. Remember that the Lord told His disciples, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. […] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18,20).
But the enemies of Christ can never defeat Him or His Church, nor rid the world of His Gospel message.
If instead the question is asked of believers who faithfully endure opposition and persecution – what do you hope to achieve? – then the answer is supplied by the writer to the Hebrews.
The writer tells us of those who were tortured, those who were imprisoned, those who were killed by the sword – those who, like Deborah, were stoned to death – those who were “destitute, persecuted and ill-treated”, yet endured all in the hope of “an even better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35-38).
This was Deborah’s hope – a steadfast and certain hope that this world can never take away.