In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I am not afraid. What can a mere mortal do to me? Psalm 56: 10-11 (NRSV)

Rafaralahy was an active Christian during the reign of Queen Ranavalona I on the island of Madagascar when the monarch pronounced, in 1835, that no Malagasy should profess Christianity, a religion seen as subversive. This began a period of persecution against the Christians.

Rafaralahy was troubled over whether to comply with the queen’s edict, but finally decided to continue in his Christian activities of praying, talking about Jesus and caring for others. Yet not all remained faithful to Christ, and Rafaralahy was tricked by one man, Rafiakarana, who claimed that he was still a Christian.

Once he had gained the trust of Rafaralahy he was able to discover the whereabouts and activities of the Christian community. Motivated by the fact that he owed Rafaralahy money and by his fear of the authorities, Rafiakarana informed on him. Rafaralahy was immediately seized and then tortured in an attempt to get him to reveal the names of fellow Christians.

But he stood firm and on 19 February 1838 was taken to a place called Ambohipotsy, where he was speared to death.

God, who foresaw your tribulation, has specially armed you to go through it, not without pain but without stain.

C S Lewis (1898-1963), The Problem of Pain

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