International (MNN) — Governments
in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic
Republic of Congo have boosted security during the fourth week of Advent.
In all of these areas, churches
have either been threatened or attacked in years past. For several of these countries, the attacks
The brutal killings of Iraq's
Christians have led thousands to flee the country. In Egypt, Christians are under severe
pressure and siege. A church bombing in
Indonesia three weeks ago leaves believers feeling jittery.
It's a strategic time for an extremist to be
heard, says Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs. "If you were someone who
wanted to make a point against Christians, that would be a day you might decide
It's an obvious choice. Christmas is considered one of the more
important celebrations in the Christian faith, celebrating the birth of a
Savior and the beginning of an unfolding plan for reconciliation with a holy
Many believers coming together to
mark this makes a tempting target. "Christmas is a time when Christians gather for Christmas Day services
or Christmas Eve services. If you are looking for a large group of Christians
to attack, they're all gathered at one place, at one time."
The freedom to celebrate is part
of the path to peace, according to Pope Benedict XVI. He made the comments in his prepared message
for the UN's annual World Day of Peace, January 1st.
The Pope also warns of the threat of
this growing suppression of religious freedom around the world, saying it will
"stifle the growth of the authentic and lasting peace of the whole human
Nettleton says as the family of
God, those who are not living through the persecution experienced by believers
in hostile countries still have a responsibility. We need to act. "The first and most important thing is that
we pray. Secondly, though, I think we can keep our eyes open because it's
important for the government officials to know that Christians here are watching
and are aware of what's going on to make sure that it's on their radar."
More specifically, Nettleton says, "Pray
that our Christian brothers and sisters won't be intimidated by these kinds of
threats. Our job is to serve the Lord and to do the things that we're called to
do. Whatever the threats may be, we still have that call to follow Christ."