The 42 martyrs of Ammoria were all commanders in the army of the Byzantine emperor Theophilus. When Ammoria, located in modern-day Turkey, fell to invading Arab armies in 838, the Muslims killed or sold many of the Christians in the city. However, they took 42 Christian commanders as hostages to Samarra (now Iraq) and threw them in prison, where they remained for seven years.
The Muslim leaders told their prisoners, “Mohammed is the true prophet and not Christ.” The commanders replied, “If there were two men debating about a field and the one said, ‘This field is mine’ and the other, ‘It is not, it is mine,’ and nearby one of them had many witnesses saying it is his field and the other had no witnesses, but only himself, what would you say – whose field is it?”
The Muslims answered, “Indeed, to him who had many witnesses!” “You have judged correctly,” the commanders said, “That is the way with Christ and Mohammed. Christ has many witnesses: the Prophets of old, John the Forerunner, the disciples, the women, all who recognized Him and who witness to and about Him (Christ), but Mohammed witnesses only to himself that he is a prophet and does not have even one witness.”
Ashamed, the Muslims said, “Our faith is better than the Christian faith as proved by this: God gave us the victory over you and gave us the best land in the world and a kingdom much greater than Christianity.”
In reply, the commanders said, “If it were so, then the idolatry of the Egyptians, Babylonians, Romans and the fire-worship of the Persians would be the true faith for, at one time, all of these people conquered the others and ruled over them. It is evident that your victory, power and wealth do not prove the truth of your faith. We know that God, at times, gives victory to Christians and, at other times, allows torture and suffering so as to correct them and to bring them to repentance and purification of their sins.”
For seven years, these 42 commanders were tortured to embrace the Islamic faith, but they never did. They were finally beheaded in the year 845, and their bodies were thrown into the Euphrates River.
What a witness and an understanding of the theology of the cross. We pray for the Christian martyrs around the world who are suffering for the faith. Give them strength and a reminder of Your presence Lord as they sacrifice to further the Kingdom of God.