Bonnie Penner Witherall – Christian missionary and martyr

By Les Kinsolving

Last week, in the Lebanese city of Sidon – a city so often mentioned in the Bible – another Christian joined what the great church anthem te Deum calls “The noble army of martyrs.”

Bonnie Penner Witherall’s martyrdom was so enormously different from the Muslim so-called martyrs. They give their lives so they can kill as many of what they disparage as infidels – by the hundreds in Israel – by the thousands in New York, Washington and near a small town in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Witherall, age 31, and a strikingly beautiful young wife, was in the pre-natal clinic of her Christian Missionary and Alliance mission station. Someone at very close range fired a pistol into her head three times, killing her. The New York Times reports Lebanese authorities, who have yet to make an arrest, say they are looking at the case in the context of the anti-Americanism that is raging across Lebanon and most of the Middle East.

The Times, which on Saturday devoted one-half of the back page to her murder, on Monday morning had her funeral at the top of page 1.

The Times reported very little from the national or municipal authorities of Lebanon or Sidon – other than the fact that no one has been apprehended.

But there were many words from Sheik Maher Hammoud, one of Sidon’s Muslim religious leaders. The Times reports:

“Sheik Hammoud said Muslim religious leaders grew wary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance because its members combined computer lessons, English instruction and gift of toys and candy with Sunday school classes for hundreds of Muslim children. ‘It was upsetting to hear about this because they were trying to exploit their poverty to try to get them to change their religion’ said the sheik who began denouncing the missionary alliance last fall from the pulpit.

“After the initial outcry last year, the church agreed to stop sending its vans out to collect children from poor neighborhoods and Palestinian refugee camps for Sunday school …

“But Muslims still continue to protest. The Missionary Alliance remained the target of Friday sermons, and last spring a small but influential Muslim monthly called ‘The Pulpit of the Calling’ denounced the group as a Zionist organization.

“They destroy the fighting spirit of the children especially of the Palestinian youth by teaching them not to fight the Jews, for the Palestinians to forgive the Jews and leave them Jerusalem,” the article said.

Is there any excuse or justification for this Muslim leader and this Muslim periodical to so denounce Mrs. Witherall in his mosque and in print that someone goes into her prenatal clinic and butchers her?

Should acting Archbishop George Kuwaiter of the Catholic diocese have told the New York Times: “I think she was killed because she was preaching Christianity to Muslims.”

Is that wrong, bishop?

Or didn’t Jesus Christ command: “Go ye therefore into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature”?

Weren’t there a lot of people and authorities who lethally objected to the preaching of Jesus Christ (crucified), St. Paul (beheaded) and Peter, Bishop of Rome, who was also crucified?

The Times reported in its page-1 story:

“At the memorial service today, Garry Witherall, the victim’s British husband, expressed a sense of mission before the spill-over crowd of several hundred mourners.

“He said he understood how some people might consider his wife’s death a ‘waste’ but he said he would never see it that way because they had come to Lebanon to spread the love and hope of knowing Jesus.

“‘This is a message worth laying down our lives for,’ he said. Before dissolving into sobs that spread through the crowd.”

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength

They shall mount up with wings, as eagles

They shall run and not be weary

They shall walk and not faint

– The Prophet Isaiah