29 August, Christianity Today – Mark Woods

It’s a commonplace to say that the Islamist movement that has swept over Iraq and Syria has taken the region back into the Dark Ages. We can argue about the history, but we know what people mean. It’s a dark fundamentalism which offers no compromise, no tolerance and no mercy: you submit or you die.

The actions of Islamic State and other extremist groups have revived questions that were first addressed in the heat of persecution by the early Christians. That their story is still so relevant today is a bleak commentary on the myth of human progress, but it has much to teach us. It has recently been brilliantly retold by Marcellino D’Ambrosio (Who Were the Church Fathers?, SPCK), on which I have drawn for this account.

At its heart is Cyprian, from Carthage in North Africa, who was baptized in 246 AD and became a bishop shortly afterwards. He was a warm and generous man whose gifts were to be sorely needed.

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