Deadly friendship

Daily Reading for June 18 • Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Marytr in Rhodesia, 1896

The word “friend” recurs frequently in the story of Bernard Mizeki’s life, ministry, and martyrdom. Fleeing oppression in Portuguese East Africa, Mizeki was befriended by Anglican missionaries and became a Christian. He, in turn, befriended the people of Central Africa, and they likewise came to Christianity. In Mashonaland he was caught in conflict between the natives and the Europeans who lived there—both of whom he loved as friends—and was killed. Bernard’s experience is a story of deadly friendship. . . .

Even when they are not fatal, friendships can be life-changing, introducing death in another guise. Friendship can change us, profoundly convert us, challenge and confront us. Friendship can bring death to old ideas, set us in opposition to prevailing norms, bind us in loyalty to the undesirable or despised. Deadly friendships can cost us our jobs, our securities, our lives. White students from Princeton Seminary were felled by bullets in the South because they befriended blacks; physicians and nurses have lost their own lives caring for persons with AIDS and other deadly diseases; congregations have died because they befriended the unlovely, the untouchable, the unfortunate. Bernard Mizeki reminds us that the measure of ministry is sometimes taken in friendships—deadly friendships.

From Brightest and Best: A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts by Sam Portaro (Cowley, 2001).

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