A Muslim leader who once violently persecuted Christians embraced Christ after hearing the Gospel at his daughter's wedding - and was martyred for his faith.
Christian Aid Mission shares the story of Datu, a devout Muslim man in the Philippines who harbored an overwhelming sense of hatred against Christians. In fact, after discovering his daughter was courting Efren, the son of a local Christian leader, Pastor Bagwis, he hurled stones at the pastor, his church building and his home and told his fellow Muslims he wished to kill the young man and his family.
Over time, Datu acknowledged that Efren was a good man, and accepted a hefty dowry from Pastor Bagwis. Eventually, the date of the wedding was set, with Pastor Bagwis stating they had to be married in a church because his son was Christian.
"During the marriage ceremony, Pastor Bagwis preached Jesus Christ crucified," a ministry director told CAM. "To God be the glory, Datu and his family repented, confessed Christ, believed and accepted Jesus Christ."
Datu and his oldest son were baptized a month later, and Muslim relatives began to threaten and harass them. His son was so bold in proclaiming Christ in the predominantly Muslim area that Pastor Bagwis obtained permission from Datu and the director to relocate him for his safety to a ministry center in a distant city, where he received further discipleship training.
As he learned more about Christ, Datu became increasingly bold in sharing the Gospel, angering Muslim relatives, who began persecuting him. However, Datu said he didn't mind the threats; he felt he deserved them for having previously persecuted the church, the director said.
"He suffered the same things that he had done to Pastor Bagwis," the director said. "If before he was the one who stoned the church and Pastor Bagwis, now he also suffered the same things after he became a Christian and practiced and obeyed biblical doctrine."
In the last week of December 2015, Datu's son went home to visit his family. The next week, the director received a call from him that Datu had been brutally murdered for his faith.
He was found with five stab wounds on his back, and his neck had been cut in the front and back in an apparent attempt at decapitation, "because Muslims there practice beheading if they don't like the person," the director said.
"Please pray for the man who did this horrible and brutal thing to Brother Datu," the director said. "They suspect that the one who did this is Brother Datu's uncle, because he is the right hand of the imam there. Please pray for their salvation."
"They killed him because Datu was boldly sharing the gospel in the town," he added. "I told his children that they have to remember their dad as he was before he was killed, and that the memories they have to hold dearest are the ones of when he was healthy, and especially the wonderful moments God gave of praying together and having fun together. And, best of all, that we know we will see him again in Heaven."
Datu's story calls to mind the Biblical account of the Apostle Paul, who dedicated his life to the persecution of the early disciples of Jesus Christ. However, after experiencing a dramatic encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul emerged as one of the greatest missionaries of all time, spreading the gospel throughout the Roman Empire and writing 13 books of the Bible. While the New Testament does not say when or how Paul died, it is believed he was martyred for his faith in Italy.
According to the Pew Research Center, the Philippines is Asia's most Christianized country, and is the 5th largest Christian country on earth, with about 90% of the population being adherents. However, Voice of the Martyrs notes that Christians living in areas with significant influence from Muslim and Communist organizations have routinely faced threats, kidnapping and death.
Over the Christmas holiday, 14 people were murdered by Islamic terrorism as a chapel was hit with explosives, and 200 Islamist gunman raided villages in Mindanao, leaving a further nine dead.
To learn how you can help missionaries sharing the Gospel in the Philippines, visit the Christian Aid Mission website.