Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:6-7

During a riot against Christians in the city of Alexandria, Egypt, a mob killed several of them, including this aged deaconess. Apollonia sustained a heavy beating to her face, which knocked out her teeth. Under the threat of death, she was asked to leave her faith, but instead of denying her Lord Jesus, she chose the flames of the fire that had been lit by the mob.

These third-century rioters looted, pillaged and killed Christians. Such an incident would not be unheard of in today’s Egypt, where there are still mobs attacking the Christian minority, despite the 1800 years since Apollonia’s time.

Pardon me, O my God, That I, dust, ashes approach Thee,
Yet that which caused my tears to flow Was the remembrance of suff’ring;
The cruel death of Thy martyrs, Defenceless lambs, altogether,
Innocent, led to the water and fire, To the sword and beast’s devouring;
There to suffer and there to die For Thy name’s sake most holy;
There to suffer and there to die, For Thy name’s sake, O my God!
Patiently bear, I besought them, Without gainsaying or flinching;
Suffer the sentence of death urging them At the place of execution,
Scaffold and stake, saying to them, Fight valiantly, sisters, brethren,
The crown awaits you – and died thus with them, So great my love bound up with them,
There to suffer and there to die For Thy name’s sake most holy;
There to suffer and there to die, For Thy name’s sake, O my God!
 Anabaptist Martyrs’ Hymn 

Photo by raquel raclette on Unsplash

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.