Voice of the Martyrs Korea, an NGO which serves persecuted Christians worldwide, unveiled a plaque on its Martyrs Timeline commemorating Chinese Christians Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng on the International Day of the Christian Martyr, Wednesday June 29. The plaque was unveiled at a press conference at its office in Seoul.
Meng and Li had been teaching at a language center in Quetta, Pakistan prior to being forced into a car at gunpoint when they were walking down the street on May 24th, 2017. The terrorist group Islamic State released video footage on June 8, 2017 showing the execution of the two by throat slitting.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea CEO Pastor Eric Foley says formal recognition of Meng and Li by Christians around the world is long overdue.
“Meng and Li are the first known Chinese martyrs on foreign soil,” says Pastor Foley. “Their story should be remembered, celebrated, told, and re-told by Christians around the world until Christ returns.”
According to Pastor Foley, Meng and Li’s story is not well- or accurately known among Christians because of international political tensions. “From the moment it happened, powerful interests wanted the story denied or distorted or covered up, each for different reasons,” says Pastor Foley. “China didn’t want other Chinese Christians to follow in the footsteps of these martyrs, and they didn’t want their economic partnership with Pakistan damaged. Pakistan didn’t want to look like a nation of Islamic extremists where terrorists killed other country’s citizens when they visited. Korea didn’t want to look like a nation of Christian extremists engaging in reckless mission activity. And the mission agencies and churches in China and Korea seemed to decide that staying silent was the best way to avoid further trouble with these governments and to keep their other workers safe.”
Pastor and Dr. Foley place a new plaque on the VOMK Martyrs Timeline commemorating Chinese Christians Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng.
As a result, says Pastor Foley, Meng and Li are being forgotten or remembered wrongly by Christians.
“Governments and their representatives have claimed Meng and Li were either students who were deceived or pressured or enticed into mission work, or that they were immature or impetuous Christians who didn’t realize the seriousness of their actions, or even that they weren’t missionaries at all,” says Pastor Foley. He says his organization’s investigation indicates otherwise.
“For the past two years, Voice of the Martyrs Korea has carefully researched and documented the story of Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng,” says Pastor Foley. “Our team and associates traveled across Korea, China, and to Pakistan itself, including to the very site of their kidnapping, to talk to eyewitnesses, to examine documents, and to record all the details of the story.”
Pastor Foley says that the real story is not about governments, mission agencies, or churches but rather a story of deep faithfulness of two young Chinese Christians.
Meng and Li had been teaching at a language center in Quetta, Pakistan prior to being forced into a car at gunpoint when they were walking down the street on May 24th, 2017.
Chinese Christian martyrs Meng Lisi and Li Xinheng.
“Our investigation confirmed that they were not brainwashed or deceived or enticed into naively going to Pakistan,” says Pastor Foley. “They knew and loved and served the Lord long before they ever thought about going on mission, and they became Christians the way most Chinese Christians do: By hearing the gospel from other Chinese believers. Meng and Li each learned the gospel from their homes, not from Korean missionaries. They each had Christian parents. They each prepared for their mission for years. They each studied for years at the university level to be equipped for their calling. Their vision came from God, not from a church or mission agency. Meng and Li knew the dangers of serving Christ. In full knowledge of the risks, they willingly chose to lay down their lives as faithful witnesses to Christ.”
According to Pastor Foley, Meng Lisi, who was 26 years old, was originally from Hubei Province while Li Xinheng, who was 24, was from Hunan Province, more than 300 kilometers away. They did not know each other until they met in Pakistan, and even then it was only as coworkers in Christ.
“Meng Lisi was actually engaged to be married back in her home province,” says Pastor Foley. “She had attended church with her mother ever since she was little. She loved children and felt a special calling to share God’s love with children from Pakistan. So she majored in preschool education at Network College of Huazhong Teachers’ University. After her graduation, she made a plan to study Urdu, the national language of Pakistan.”
Li Xinheng pictured with his mother.
A memorial service was held for these missionaries in America in 2017.
Pastor Foley says Li Xinheng graduated from Xi’an University of Electronic Science and Technology and joined a student fellowship while he was studying in university. “After graduation, Li went to Zhejiang mission seminary to study. He learned Arabic, Aramaic, and English. He learned to share the gospel in Urdu.”
Pastor Foley says that the Christian maturity of the two missionaries can be seen in the video footage of their execution released by the terrorist organization Islamic State on June 8, 2017. “That video shows the final moment of their lives,” says Pastor Foley. “They were not begging or crying or shouting like naïve students or frightened language teachers. With their last breath they showed the dignity and discipline of faithful servants of Christ.”
Pastor Foley says Voice of the Martyrs Korea has posted a short video about Meng and Li’s martyrdom at https://vomkorea.com/en/dotcm/.
“According to church tradition, June 29 marks the martyrdom of the Apostle Paul, so Christians around the world set aside that day to honor the legacy of those who have sacrificed their lives in faithful witness to the gospel,” says Pastor Foley.
Voice of the Martyrs Korea’s previous honorees on the Day of the Christian Martyr include Colombian lay evangelist Rocio Pino, who was martyred on March 6, 2011 by the Marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia; North Korean underground Christian Cha Deok Sun, who was martyred between 2005-2010; and the so-called “Unknown Martyrs of Communism”: Christians who died under communist rule from 1921 to the present, which Voice of the Martyrs Korea and other analysts estimate to be between 25 to 30 million people.