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SBC president calls murdered IMB workers martyrs for Christ

PLANO, Texas (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention President Jack Graham said the three International Mission Board personnel slain Dec. 30 in Yemen are “heroes and martyrs” for the cause of Christ.

“These missionaries who were killed in the line of duty demonstrated courage and commitment in the face of evil,” said Graham, president of the nation’s largest non-Catholic denomination and pastor of the Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. “The news of their deaths is shocking but it is not senseless,” he told Baptist Press. “Their deaths have a purpose because the Jesus who is worth living for is worth dying for.”

The three IMB workers were killed Dec. 30 when a lone gunman attacked a Baptist mission hospital in Jibla, Yemen.

Hospital administrator William E. Koehn, business manager Kathleen Gariety and physician Martha C. Myers were killed. Pharmacist Donald W. Caswell was injured in the early morning attack.

Initial reports indicate a Muslim extremist is responsible for the shootings. CNN reported that the suspect had shot the workers “to cleanse his religion and get closer to Allah.”

“This is a stark reminder that the war on terrorism is very real,” Graham said. “This is a war between Christians and the forces of evil, by whatever name they choose to use. The ultimate terrorist is Satan.”

“It brings the reality of sin and evil very close to home that evil forces even in the name of religion are at work in the world,” Graham said. “At the same time, evil cannot deter the message of the gospel.”

“These missionaries understood the risk to serve in a dangerous place,” he said. “It is becoming increasingly dangerous to take the message of Jesus to certain places in the world. It reminds us as Southern Baptist we need to ramp up our prayers and remember the war on evil and terror will not be won ultimately by bullets, but by the testimony of Jesus.”

Graham urged all Southern Baptists to join together in prayer for the families of the workers and “stand ready to continue in world evangelism and the courageous commitment to fulfill the Great Commission in our lifetime.”

“We know once again that evil is not a friend of the Christian faith and that persecution of Christians will continue,” Graham said. “We call upon all governments to cease and desist from the persecution of Christians.”

As for the future of humanitarian efforts in Yemen, Graham said he believes the work will continue.

“It is always worth the risk to obey God,” he said. “Certainly we want to be wise in placing our people and not putting them in immediate danger. But the world is a dangerous place and if you speak the name of Christ, you may face persecution. I don’t see this as a cause for pulling our missionaries.”

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  • Todd Starnes