On Sunday, like many of you, I’ll be spending the morning the way I do most weeks — meeting with other believers and worshipping freely. But for many Christians, this simple privilege of worshipping together in public is not a reality. For some, attending a service can even cost them their lives.
That’s why this Sunday is different. The first Sunday of November is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, and I’m asking you to join me in interceding on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
It’s easy to go about our lives and forget that in places like Nigeria, Iran and North Korea being a Christian can often lead to death. After all, for the most part, persecution for our faith isn’t something most of us face.
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But the more I travel, the more I see that in many countries Christian persecution is worse than ever before.
According to Open Doors’ 2019 World Watch List, over 245 million Christians experienced high levels of persecution in 2018. That’s more than the entire population of Brazil — the sixth-most populous country in the world.
The persecution these men, women, and children face varies. Some are denied jobs, disowned by their families, or thrown out of their communities. Others face imprisonment and unspeakable physical abuse. Some are forced to literally run for their lives. And at least 4,305 Christians died last year, simply for choosing to follow Jesus.
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That means approximately 11 believers will die today. Eleven died yesterday. And 11 more, give or take, will die tomorrow.
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After studying the rise in Christian persecution, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt concluded it’s “near genocide levels.” Only with this genocide, no one is really doing anything about it. And it is getting worse.
This is not something I can ignore. I can’t forget the believers I’ve met in Iraq, China or at the North Korean border. I can’t forget their scars or their haunted eyes and horrific stories.
Most of all, I cannot forget their resilience — their steadfast belief that Jesus is worth any cost. Despite their suffering, these brave men and women stand up for their faith and boldly share the Gospel with others. They are not afraid of death, and they do not ask for the persecution to stop … only that they will have the strength to endure it.
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The truth is, I hope to be more like them. That is why, on this first Sunday of November, I ask you to join me in praying for our brothers and sisters in these spiritually dark corners of the world.
We may not be able to end their suffering, but we can pray that God allows them to feel His peace in the midst of their pain.