7th November, 2011
STEFAN J. BOS
Churches in Britain and Ireland participated in the 'International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church' (IDOP) last Sunday, ahead of a similar global event this week.
"Every five minutes a Christian is martyred for (his or her) faith", Christian advocacy group Christian Freedom International (CFI) said in a presentation.
"Every five minutes a Christian is martyred for (his or her) faith."
- Christian advocacy group Christian Freedom International (CFI)
Organisers say they have been motivated to organise a worldwide IDOP on 13th November by Bible verses such as Hebrews 13: 3 - "Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering," - and Psalm 10: 17 - "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry."
At least 100 million Christians face persecution around the world, said Open Doors, a group supporting Christians in dozens of "restrictive countries" such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, China and Colombia.
"Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison,” said Open Doors founder Anne van der Bijl, also known as 'Brother Andrew'.
The IDOP, which was first organised in 1996, has evolved into one of the largest worldwide prayer events in existence today, according to CFI estimates.
"For the past 15 years, thousands of churches and organisations, as well as individuals and families, have participated in the tradition of setting aside one Sunday each November to spend time in intercessory prayer for the millions of Christians around the world who are persecuted, oppressed, and even martyred for their faith each year," the group explained.
Persecuted Christians "place intercessory prayer at the top of their list of needs," CFI said.
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says persecution has become especially prevalent in countries such as India and Iraq, while countries "of particular concern" that have been known for "consistent religious and human rights violations" reportedly include North Korea, China, and Sudan.
"But the United States government is not alone in its monitoring of the crisis. Many Christian ministries and nonprofit organisations have made it their mission to advocate and provide humanitarian support for those in the persecuted church, most of whom suffer a range of abuses from societal or even family ostracism, physical abuse, kidnapping, or false imprisonment on an almost daily basis," CFI added.
US-based CFI provides humanitarian, medical and other aid to "persecuted Christians" in countries like Burma, Pakistan, and Egypt where it claims "Christian persecution is steadily on the rise." CFI says it also encourages churches and individuals throughout the US to remember the persecuted and participate in the IDOP.