With the 2013 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) being observed this coming Sunday, November 10, I’ve been ruminating about when following becomes costly, as in, risking one’s very life for faith in Christ.
Imagine being confined, tortured, left destitute, or murdered simply because of your faith. This is the daily reality for hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide.
In the book “World Christian Trends,” martyrs are defined as “believers in Christ who have lost their lives prematurely, in situations of witness, as a result of human hostility.” A martyr is also described as someone who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle.
Pastor Kyle Idleman, author of the book “Not A Fan,” explains the difference between Christian “fans” and true followers:
Fans want to be close enough to Jesus to get the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them. . . . Jesus very clearly lays it out in Luke 9:23. He says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” These words tend to separate fans from followers. Followers are to deny themselves and take up a cross.
Persecution separates the fans from the followers, the chaff from the wheat.
What persecution looks like
According to Christian Freedom International, the top 10 countries that persecute Christians are:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Check out International Christian Concern’s interactive map of persecuted countries.
- This graphic by World Watch List details the varying levels of persecution by country.
- Of the more than 250 African migrants who drowned a few weeks ago in the shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, less than one mile from European soil, many were Eritrean Christians fleeing religious persecution.
- Seven of every 10 Christians killed worldwide for their faith last year came from Nigeria, according to a report published earlier this year by the Jubilee Campaign. The very act of going to church is a leap of faith in many states in Nigeria, due to the murderous threats of Boko Haram.
- In Pakistan, Christians are often the victims of trumped up charges of desecrating the Quran, charges that often lead to execution.
- Two American Christians, Pastor Saeed Abedini and Kenneth Bae, are being held in barbaric conditions in Iran and North Korea, respectively, solely because of their faith.
What we can do to help
Pray: Amazingly, the main request from persecuted Christians is for prayer. Voice of the Martyrs has a program called iCommitToPray and prayer posters to encourage intercession for the persecuted church.
Write: Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: “Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.” I’ve written letters to Christians who have been given long prison sentences for their faith. Also, International Christian Concern often petitions Congress regarding the plight of the persecuted church.
Advocate: Tell others about the persecuted church. Many believers in the West have no concept of what is at stake. Encourage your church to be more proactive in supporting the persecuted church.
Give: Persecution severely dislocates families, not just geographically but financially and socially. To get back on their feet, they need resources.
Had you heard about IDOP before? How has learning about the persecuted church motivated you?