The news doesn’t carry reports of Christians dying very often, but believers are facing persecution in all kinds of places. Sudan hit the news some years ago, but believers in Nigeria have also faced attack. Coptic Christians in Egypt have been targeted, and reports came out of Iraq months ago that terrorists were targeting Christians. I can only imagine that things are worse now for believers, not better.
In fact, The Catholic Herald has called upon us to provide sanction for persecuted Iraqi Christians.
One organization, Prisoner Alert, has identified 40 countries in which Christians are being persecuted:
In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share your faith Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus. (“Persecution Worldwide”)
This is not some fabrication by extremists or by an organization with an ax to grind. Media outlets as diverse as Fox News and the Huffington Post have recently reported the atrocities committed against Christians.
Perhaps the most straightforward report, however, was the recent article in the Christian Post:
For at least three reasons, the contemporary persecution of Christians demands attention: It is occurring on a massive scale, it is underreported, and in many parts of the world it is rapidly growing.
The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that Christians are suffering persecution in more places today than any other religious group; between 2006 and 2012, Pew says, they were targeted for harassment in 151 countries-three-quarters of the world’s states. Similar findings are reported by the Vatican, Newsweek, the Economist, and the 60-year-old Christian support group Open Doors.
These numbers dwarf the ones put out by Prisoner Alert, and the incidents of persecution are well-documented, though not well-known here in the West.
The question is, what are we to do once we know about how our brothers and sisters in the faith are being treated? Some advocate putting pressure on our government and the other governments of the world to censor these countries practicing religious intolerance. Others want to see the US implement economic sanctions.
I have yet to read a report that says we should pray. That, I believe, is the most powerful thing we can do, and it is the most effective and immediate. In so doing we are interceding on behalf of those who are members of our body. What’s more, we’re taking their situation to the One Who can actually do something for them:
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. (Isaiah 40:21-23, emphasis added)
Besides, Scripture can guide us to specific ways we can pray for those facing persecution. Here are just a few which I posted earlier in a comment to friend Mike Duran‘s Facebook update which spurred these thoughts:
* That Christ shall even now as always, be exalted in their body, whether by life or by death (Phil. 1:20).
* That they may be delivered from perverse men (2 Thess. 3:1).
* That they might not fear intimidation and not be troubled (1 Peter 3:14).
* For physical protection and deliverance (Rom. 15:30-31).
* That they will love their enemies (Luke 6:27ff).
* That they will be comforted (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
Here are some others:
* That they might grow in grace and the knowledge of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
* That the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified in them (2 Thess. 1:12).
* That God will protect them from the evil one (2 Thess. 3:3).
* That God will strengthen them so that they may attain steadfastness and patience (Col. 1:11).
* God will equip them in every good thing to do His will (Heb. 13:20-21).
* That they will not enter into temptation (Luke 22: 39ff).
* That they will rejoice that they are considered worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).
May God raise up a mighty army of prayer warriors to shoulder the burden of those who appear helpless to the world. They are not. God can, if He chooses, intervene with legions of angels. He can shut the mouths of lions, stop rivers, calm storms, blind the eyes of the enemy, rout thousands and thousands with a few hundred men. God is mighty to save, and for some reason, He delights in including us in His work. May we faithfully be on our knees.