Sunday, November 1 was designated the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church by the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) and other groups dedicated to bringing awareness of worldwide persecution of Christians, providing resources for involvement in structured activities to come to their aid and focusing on intercessory prayer and support for these modern day martyrs.
Anti-Christian persecution is on the rise, according to two reports released this month. The U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom (IRF) report stated that “Non-state actors, including rebel and terrorist organizations … committed by far some of the most egregious human rights abuses and caused significant damage to the global status of respect for religious freedom.”
“Persecuted and Forgotten?” a report by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) also found that, “The Church’s survival in parts of Africa and the Middle East is threatened by religiously motivated ethnic cleansing by extremist Islamist groups. The Church is being driven out of its ancient biblical heartland thanks to a massive exodus, and Christianity is on course to disappear from Iraq potentially within five years.”
The following are examples of persecution that specifically targets Christians in various regions, from the International Day of Prayer website at www.idop.org.
“Christians are one of the primary civilian targets of the Islamic State terror group, which has threatened to eradicate minorities from within the territories it controls and beyond, even as the Christian population in the Middle East has been on a steep decline.” This is due to the refugee crisis in Europe as thousands are fleeing Syria and other countries to avoid the genocide that is taking place as the world sits by and watches on video.
The Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS or ISIL, vowed to slaughter Christian Arabs in Jerusalem, saying its militants will “clean this country and the Muslim Quarter from these Christians during this holy Ramadan.” Although the Sunni terror group doesn’t have a known official branch in Israel, the threat issued points to its agenda, ambition and targets.
“On August 31, 2015, while the pastor of the New Blessing Church in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, his family and one other Christian were walking home following a visit to a Christian neighbor, a group of eight masked men accosted the Christians and assaulted them with wooden poles studded with nails and iron rods. The pastor, who received a blow to his hip with a wooden pole, was injured in the incident. The pastor’s wife, their 12 year-old daughter, 15-year-old son and the other Christian were also brutally beaten up by the mob.”
The pastor’s wife, their two children and the other Christian were hospitalized following the incident. According to reports by the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka, 77 incidents of persecution have been recorded against Christians in 2014 in Sri Lanka.
“A court in Bhutan recently sentenced Pastor Tandin Wangyal to three years, 11 months in prison for receiving funds for ministry activities from a Christian organization. The verdict from the court in Dorokha, Samtse District asserts the pastor received US $11,864 in funding from a foreign Christian organization to conduct trainings and spread Christianity in the Buddhist country, sources said. Another pastor, M.B. Thapa (known as Lobzang) was sentenced to two years and four months for taking Wangyal to a village for a gathering for which he had not obtained prior permission, but he was entitled to pay a fine of US $1,678 ‘in lieu’ of prison that enabled him to remain free.” The pastor was convicted under Article 71 of the Civil Society Organization Act of Bhutan, which outlaws raising funds for activities “in contravention of the laws of the country” and without prior permission.
According to an NBC News report on October 13, Roberta Edwards, a missionary from Henderson, NC was killed on October 10, 2015 when gunmen attacked the vehicle she was driving near her home in the Haitian city of Port-au-Prince. A four-year-old foster child was traveling with her and has not been located since the attack and is presumed to have been kidnapped. Edwards was director of SonLight Children’s Home, a foster home and nutrition center that provided full time care to 20 children and served another 160 children two meals a day.
These are but a few of the testimonies of persecution to Christians around the world that can be found on www.idop.org and on the daily news.
How you can pray
While it may be difficult to know how we can help those who are suffering so far away, Voice of the Martyrs recommends the following ten ways to pray for the Persecuted Family of God.
- Pray that persecuted believers will sense God’s presence (Heb. 13:5).
- Pray that they will feel connected to the greater Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:20, 26).
- Pray that they will be comforted by God when their family members are killed, injured or imprisoned for their witness (2 Cor. 1: 3-5).
- Pray that they will have more opportunities to share the gospel (Col. 4:3).
- Pray for their boldness to make Christ known (Phil. 1:14).
- Pray that they will forgive and love their persecutors (Matt. 5:44).
- Pray that their ministry activities will remain undetected by authorities or others who wish to silence them (Acts 9:25).
- Pray that they will rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41).
- Pray that they will be refreshed through God’s Word and grow in their faith (Eph. 6:17).
- Pray that they will be strengthened through the prayers of fellow believers (Jude 20-25).
®Find out more at www.icommittopray.com
Hands-on ways to get involved
A local supporter of VOM who attends the Calvary Chapel Plantation Campus, Tess Lupo, shared some innovative ideas about ways to help the persecuted church. Tess said, “In previous years my home-schooled children and I made small parachutes that were used to drop solar-powered radios and Christian leaflets into closed countries with volunteer pilots with private planes, sometimes being fired upon.”
Olive Swan of IDOP, said that Action Packs are also available whereby plastic bags are filled with basic articles needed to survive and delivered to refugee camps in Syria and other war-torn nations.
There are resources available such as Operation World whereby Christians can learn about world missions and Christian persecution worldwide and pray for the persecuted church. We can support missionaries and indigenous Christian workers who are in the forefront of this spiritual battle against the forces of darkness. We can all be involved in some way; no method is more important than another as we learn to work together as the Body of Christ to advance the Kingdom of God.
Further information is available at www.vom-usa.org, www.operationworld.org, www.persecution.com, and www.idop.org.
Bob Woods has worked as an engineer at AECOM Technical Services and WGI, and is a published Christian author. He can be reached at [email protected].