International (MNN) — For some Christians around the world, Ramadan represents an opportunity to talk about Christ while Muslims are seeking truth, but for believers in mostly-Muslim nations, this Islamic holy month is a time to lay low.
"Last year during Ramadan, there was an upsurge against Christians in the Muslim world," says Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors, USA. Dykstra says that although persecution did not increase in every Muslim nation, it did increase significantly in many of them, Egypt being one of the worst.
During Ramadan last year in Egypt, a church was burned to the ground. At least 155 Egyptian Christians were arrested for not participating in Ramadan. Last September, Rody Rodeheaver with I.N. Network explained that Ramadan "is a time when Muslims who are moderate often become much more aggressive about their faith, and they [see it] as a time to be aggressive as they deal with Christians." Rodeheaver also noted that many people are somewhat psychologically distraught by a lack of food since Muslims are required to fast during Ramadan.
This year, with tension rising after Muslim attacks on Christians in Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and other nations just before Ramadan, prospects don't look much better. The potential for a swell in persecution in the next 28 days is high.
Ramadan–August 11 to September–is especially daunting for Muslim converts to Christianity. Many more Muslims are coming to faith in Christ each year, but that means that this year many more converts have entered the 30 days of Ramadan with no intention of observing it for the first time in their lives.
"During this time of Ramadan, for Muslim-background believers who have come to Christ from their Islam background, there's extra pressure on them to return to Islam," explains Dykstra. "These new converts from Islam have tremendous pressure on them from their families. In fact, they get death threats, and many of them have to leave their homes and their families."
In light of the fact that Christians in general–and especially Muslim converts to the faith–may be in danger until Ramadan concludes in September, Open Doors has released a 30-day prayer calendar. The calendar focuses on a different Muslim nation each day with requests specific to the Christians there. To download or print the Ramadan prayer calendar, click here.
Eight out of the top ten country's on Open Doors' World Watch List for the persecuted church are Muslim nations, most of which have Muslim populations of 99% or higher. Believers are already in the minority–a fact which is highlighted during Ramadan. Pray for believers to have opportunities to share Christ with their Muslim friends during Ramadan, particularly when Muslims have dreams or visions of Jesus. Pay especially for believers who will be persecuted for boldly proclaiming Christ.