Three years after David Jones reached the capital of Madagascar a church was built.  In those days it was taboo to disturb the earth to make bricks: every house therefore, including the royal ‘palace’, was built of wood, and so the church, too, had to be of wood.  This building, put up to hold a thousand people, was soon overcrowded.  A few months after its erection David Jones preached for the first time in the speech of the people.  The Sunday services began at six in the morning and went on till sundown.  From six until eight o’clock Sunday School was held for the children; from half-past ten till half-past eleven a preaching service was conducted for grown-ups; then from twelve till two-thirty the children were again taught (the children including youths of twenty years of age).  The afternoon service was held at four-thirty, when instead of a fresh address being given, the service was very wisely given up to catechizing the congregation on what they had heard and understood of the morning’s discourse.  The large building proved too small to hold the congregation of eager hearers and at each service small crowds stood at the doorways.


Amongst that eager throng was a young girl named Rasalama.  Rasalama came of pagan stock, but had been eager to learn to read.  The new faith soon won her heart, and when, after the missionaries had laboured incessantly for seven years, the first little band of converts, numbering only twenty, was baptized in 1831, Rasalama was one of them.


After the death of King Radama, one of his wives, Ranovalona, a cruel, bloodthirsty, superstitious woman, who by cunning and murder had eliminated all her rivals, wrested the throne from the rightful heir, young Prince Rakotobe, and occupied it herself.  The young Prince, who had been the first scholar in David Jones’ school in 1820, was captured and conveyed to a village not far from the capital, and later removed to another some twenty miles distant.  He was conscious of his probable fate and pleaded for his life, but in vain.  His guards were his executioners.  They merely allowed him time to pray before spearing him into his newly dug grave.  He died, not without having for some time given encouraging evidence that he had sincerely embraced the religion of Jesus Christ.  How different a story might have been written had he succeeded his uncle Radama!


Persecution now began to rage.  Those too unfortunate to escape were hailed to prison and clamped in irons.  It was on the 22nd of July, 1837, that Rasalama, together with nine others, was arrested and imprisoned; a few days later they were deprived of all their possessions and their freedom, and sold as slaves.  Rasalama was sold to a high official who was also a relative, a man of savage character.  She was cruelly beaten and put in irons in the hope that the utmost severity might bring her to her senses.  But all through she remained calm and steadfast.  Neither threats nor chains could move her.  Daring to remonstrate with her captor on one occasion, when he was charging her with disloyalty, she asked, ‘If so much is due to an earthly sovereign, is no obedience to be paid to the authority of the supreme Lord of all?’  This was reported to the Queen, who was so incensed that she at once ordered her to be put to death.


She was now taken from the house of Ramiandrivola and that afternoon put in irons of a peculiarly cruel construction called Omby fohy intended for agonizing punishment.  The irons consisted of rings and bars and were fastened around the feet, hands, knees and neck, so as to confine the whole body in an excruciating painful position, forcing the extremities together as if the sufferer were packed into a small case.  After spending the night in this exquisite agony, Rasalama was next morning led out to execution.  The crowds that watched her going were amazed at her joy-lit countenance, for she sang hymns as she went.  They attributed her firmness to the influence of some secret witchcraft which they believed must have been employed by the missionaries.


Passing the chapel where she had been baptized she exclaimed joyfully, ‘there I heard the words of the Saviour!’  She was led on past the residence of the Prime Minister and the Queen’s Palace, for about a mile, to the brow of a hill at the very northern extremity of the city, which overlooks a great panorama of villages, rich fields, and, in the far distance, mountain ranges.  The spot where the execution took place was bare, exposed, and deserted, the haunt of wild dogs, a place shunned and feared.  On reaching it she asked leave to kneel down and pray.  Her request was granted, she calmly knelt and committed her spirit into the hands of her Lord, praying too for those who despitefully used her; and in that attitude of prayer she was speared to death, the executioners, three or four in number, standing behind and by the side of her and striking her through the ribs to the heart.


Just before her martyrdom she wrote a brave letter to one of the missionaries who had taught her, in which she said: ‘This is what I beg most earnestly from God - that I may have the strength to follow the words of Jesus which say: "If any one would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me." Therefore I do not count my life as a thing worth mentioning that I may finish my course, that is, the service which I have received from the Lord Jesus.  Don’t you missionaries think that your hard work here in Madagascar for the Lord has been, or will be, of no avail.  No! that is not, and cannot be the case; for through the blessing of God your work must be successful.’  Then in closing she called to mind the words of Scripture:-Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.


Only one young man, named Rafaralalry, dared to accompany her on the last sad journey to the spot where she was put to death.  He was deeply affected with the scene.  Seeing her amazing calmness he exclaimed: ‘If I might die so tranquil and happy a death, I would not be unwilling to die for the Saviour too.’  It was not long after that he did give his life, and on this self-same spot.  Permission to be allowed to bury Rasalama’s body was refused by the Queen; instead it was left to be devoured by the wild dogs on that lonely hillside. The  name Rasalama means ‘peace, health, happiness’ and truly she realized it to the very end and then entered into the ‘peace which passeth understanding’.


At the recent centenary celebrations of the death of Rasalama great mass meetings (Ambompotsy) were held at those places in or near the capital connected with her life and sufferings.  The first took place in her native village of Manjakaray, and opposite to the house in which she lived and where she was arrested; the second at the spot where she was imprisoned and confined in irons; the last near the place of her death.  Special permission was granted by the Government to hold these meetings in the open air.*  Tribunes were erected at each gathering and loud-speakers fitted up so that all in those vast gatherings might hear.  Simultaneous meetings, too, were held in practically every part of the island.  These celebrations have created a deep impression and we trust will result in a deepening of the faith and religious life of the whole Christian community.  Truly ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church’!  To-day, one hundred years after the martyrdom of Rasalama, there are in Madagascar seven Evangelical missions, ministering to a great Christian community worshipping in over four thousand buildings consecrated to the service of Jesus Christ, and every year the boundaries of the Kingdom are being extended 


[* By law all religious gatherings must be held in authorized church buildings.]


- World Dominion.



Prayer for our enemies, especially our murderers, has never been discovered outside the Bible, and those whom the Bible has changed; and it has been repeated down the ages.  In 1546 when Wishart was led to the fire, with a rope about his neck and a chain of iron about his middle, he sank on his knees, saying, "O thou Saviour of the world, have mercy on me.  Father of heaven, I commend my spirit into Thy holy hands."  His hangman fell upon his knees and said, "Sir, I pray you forgive me, for I am not guilty of your death." Wishart answered, "Come to me"; and he kissed his cheek, saying, "Lo, here is a token that I forgive thee.  Do thy office."  He was then hanged and burnt to powder.