What is True Martyrdom?

I found an insightful story from Forbes.com on the true meaning of martyrdom.  The article looks at the very different religious commitments of a Muslim and a Christian.  Here is an excerpt:

This past Christmas Day brought us the stories of two young men, both willing to martyr themselves for their beliefs, but in ways and for visions so utterly different that their tales might serve as a parable for the defining struggles of our time.

One, as you surely know, was the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a wealthy young Muslim from a prominent Nigerian family. Following his embrace of radical Islam, he tried to sacrifice himself–allegedly–in a botched attempt to sow terror and death by blowing up an American airliner packed with 289 other people, en route to Detroit. Having entered American air space decked out as a suicide bomber, he is now availing himself of U.S. constitutional rights, granted to him by the Obama Administration, to plead not guilty to criminal charges.

The other martyr, in stark contrast, was a 28-year-old Christian missionary, Robert Park. An American of Korean descent, Park offered himself up peacefully, on Christmas Day, for the cause of life and liberty for others. He went to northeast China, and from there walked across the frozen Tumen River into North Korea. Witnesses told reporters that as he went, he called out, in Korean, messages of God’s love, as well as “I am an American citizen.” He took with him a letter to North Korean tyrant Kim Jong-il, asking Kim to open his country and shut down his prison camps.

…Before he crossed that frozen river, he [Park] gave an interview to Reuters, asking that it be held until he was in North Korea. In that interview, which Reuters released shortly after he had crossed over, Park spelled out “I do not want to be released. I don’t want President Obama to come and pay to get me out.” What he wanted, he said, is for “the North Korean people to be free. Until the concentration camps are liberated, I do not want to come out. If I have to die with them, I will.”

Two men wholly committed to their faith.  Thanks to the Wintery Knight for bringing this story to my attention.

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4 Responses to What is True Martyrdom?

  1. Wow. What an extra ordinary testimony. God is looking for men who are willing to die…if so be, for their faith. Few are such in our midst. This story is a challenge.



  2. Little Frog says:

    This provokes thought but I’m not sure the implications. Martyrdom means someone takes your life from you. I am not sure either story qualifies. It sounds a bit more, perhaps, like running out in front of a truck. I am sure I am just not “getting it.” I’m not trying to provoke anyone, it just seems a bit senseless? Christ is not called a martyr but a savior. He gave up his life, but the first martyr in Acts is Stephen. They stoned him, he didn’t stone himself. You are all very deep, and I am not so deep. However, I’m just not sure about this…..

  3. Tim Farley says:

    Little Frog: You are right that “martyrdom” means “someone takes your life from you”. In fact, Random House Dictionary defines martydom as follows:

    “1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
    2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause”

    So, it seems that suicide bombers are not true martyrs since they cause their own death and the death of others. The example of Robert Park above would qualify as a martyr since it was not Park’s goal to die or be imprisoned. His goal was the releaes of others who are wrongfully detained, as well as the opening of North Korea’s borders. While it is true that Park knew that his actions would likely lead to imprisonment or death at the hands of the North Koreans, it was not his goal.

    The same could be said of Stephen in the book of Acts. Stephen knew that his words were likely going to result in severe punishment for him. He spoke anyway. He could have kept his mouth shut and lived, but he did what he believed was right and died at the hands of others.

    True martyrs do not take their own lives or the lives of others. They stand up for what they believe, even if doing so may result in others killing them for it.

  4. Little Frog says:

    Having read the recent news about Robert Park, what is one to think?

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