Christians are martyred for their faith in many countries of the world today. Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and India are regularly in the headlines — if you know where to watch headlines. In other places, such as North Korea, acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said, “Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.”
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — observed Nov. 4 by many congregations, as well as on other dates — is set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Godfrey Yogarajah writes at idop.org:
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 13:3 to ‘remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering’.
Can we today pause our busy lives and think of those who are enduring persecution for the sake of the Gospel? Let us remember those who have not eaten for days because they are given nothing to eat … those languishing in prison … Christian families who have watched their homes burn to the ground … pastors who are beaten and tortured for their faith and enduring physical pain … Christian families and children living in constant fear of violence … those who have lost their loved ones … those who are facing death, even right at this moment, for refusing to denounce Christ…
If you or I were in such a situation, what would you ask your wider church family to do for you?
Every time I ask a persecuted Christian what we can do for them, the answer is always the same: ‘please pray for us’.
On a visit to India, I met several widows of Christian leaders who were killed in the Orissa violence in the summer of 2008. They had lost everything: their homes, their possessions and their husbands. ‘We have lost everything except our faith,’ one told me, clutching her baby. ‘Pray that we stay strong and bring up our children in the faith for which their fathers gave their lives.’
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) gives us the privilege of joining together with over half a million churches in 150 countries to pray for the suffering church. It plays a vital role in encouraging and strengthening the persecuted church and also awakening churches in places where there is no persecution.
Let us unite in prayer in 2012 for the persecuted church, in the spirit of oneness that Christ commanded: ‘For, if one suffers, we all suffer.’
Godfrey Yogarajah is executive director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.
Resources to help your congregation or group participate in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church are available from idop.org and the website of International Christian Concern, persecution.org.
Persecution news is available from Compass Direct, a service of the Open Doors with Brother Andrew ministry.