Christians worldwide will be observing the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church today by joining together to intercede for those who daily suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ.
The organization Gospel for Asia (GFA) reports that 14,000 people around the world are martyred each year for their faith, but believes that actual figures could be even higher.
“Jesus promised his church that there would be persecution and tribulations,” said President GFA KP Yohannan. “Tens of thousands of believers, missionaries and pastors are experiencing the reality of persecution on a daily basis. Yet they recognize the honor it is to suffer for his sake. May the Lord lead us with his burden to intercede for these brothers and sisters.”
The organization notes that just last month, an elder for a church in Nepal was killed while praying for the sick, and the month before, Christians who were worshiping at their church in Pakistan fled for their lives as suicide bombers left 81 dead and 140 injured.
In a video presentation compiled for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, a number of Christians around the world shared their stories of facing persecution for their faith. One of the stories was from a woman named Florence from Nigeria.
“I am a Christian. That is why you are here to attack me,” she remembered stating to one of a number of Muslim men, who ended up killing three boys in her home. “He said, ‘Yes, we’ve been telling you people to convert to Islam, but you people refuse. So, the only thing is to get ride of all of you and inherit all that you have.'”
“If you women say that you will not convert to Islam and marry us, then we’ll kill all of you,” Florence recalled the man stating. “You and your children and your daughters.”
Pastor Allocious of Sri Lanka said that Buddhists burned his church to the ground to prevent him from sharing the Gospel in the country.
“When I entered the village, was I saw was the church had been burned,” he stated. “This is a Buddhist country, so because of that, you can’t preach the word of the Lord.”
A separate video presentation by GFA also tells the story of two Christians who were imprisoned for sharing their faith. One of the men, Pastor Ugyen of China, spent three years behind bars for showing a movie on the life of Christ to the public.
“It is very difficult to share the Gospel in my nation,” he said. “If they find out that I am sharing about Jesus Christ, the authorities can take severe and harsh action for sharing the Gospel.”
But he said that although it was difficult to be separated from his family for three years, he realized that Jesus faced worse persecution by those who rejected him.
“Jesus had to go through beatings, humiliation and death,” he stated. “My suffering is nothing compared to what our Savior went through.”
Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors USA, an organization that often reports on worldwide persecution, told WND that the Middle East is especially in need of prayer during this time.
“When we take a look at what is happening in the Middle East—places such as Syria , Iraq and Egypt—regarding the persecution of Christians by Muslim fanatics, we in the West need to get down on our knees in prayer,” he said. “We cannot be silent. We cannot stick our heads in the sand.”
Dykstra stated that the Middle East is predominantly Muslim, which often makes it difficult to live as a Christian.
“At stake is the future of Christians in the Middle East and North Africa,” he said. “According to the Pew Forum, Christians now only make up 4 percent of the Middle Eastern inhabitants. A century ago it was 20 percent. The Pew report also says just 0.6 percent—fewer than 13 million—of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians live in the Middle East and North Africa. The region is 93 percent Muslim.”
In this year’s “World Watch,” compiled by Open Doors USA, the top 10 most dangerous places to live as a Christian were largely Middle Eastern nations–with the exception of the first. North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea were the most dangerous locations in order of severity, followed by Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“To understand what it means to take up our cross and follow Christ, we must walk in his footsteps,” GFA’s Yohannan said. “Join Christians around the world in spending time praying and fasting in tears over a map of the world where our fellow believers are suffering for their faith.”
Additional videos and resources regarding the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church can be obtained by clicking here.