International (MNN) — On the heels of a direct suicide bombing attack which killed dozens of believers in Iraq comes a welcomed and critical day of prayer.
After a hard year for the persecuted church, the International Day of Prayer could not be more crucial. Since the start of 2010, the Church has suffered greatly across the globe. The following are just a few of the severe strikes against Christ-followers worldwide in the past eleven months:
Christians are on the brink of extinction in Iraq. Many believers are forced from their homes and threatened by death to leave the country. A church is invaded by al-Qaeda militants. When the Iraqi military attempts to protect the hundreds held captive, a suicide bomber sets off his vest. 58 Christians are killed, 75 are injured.
A genocide against the Karen people, a traditionally Christian group, exterminates over 500,000 people. Thousands more flee the country and end up in refugee camps in Thailand. The battle in Burma continues to go unnoticed even by many of the civilians in the country itself.
Somali militant group al Shabaab hunts Christ-followers. They desire to eradicate Christianity and create a Muslim state. Christians flee and militants chase after them, even into surrounding countries. The remnant church continues deep underground.
The Eritrean government orders an unapologetic crackdown on all Christians in the country. Dozens of believers are arrested without proper legal grounds. The country ups its number of illegally detained Christians to 3,000.
In Morocco, the government begins deporting believers left and right. By July, 128 Christians were forced to leave the country for alleged proselytism. Many are made to leave their homes within a couple of days after they are accused. Remaining Christians have no rights and continue on as unrecognized citizens.
Thousands of Uzbeks flee Kyrgyzstan in fear for their lives as ethnic violence erupts. Some of these refuges are believers. Uzbek officials irrationally fear that these and other Christians will provoke social unrest. As a result, dozens of believers are arrested and given unfair trials which convict them of crimes they never committed.
This list does not include the thousands in India, China, Nigeria, North Korea, Iran and a host of other countries, who were attacked, displaced, arrested, and even murdered for their faith in Christ.
For those of us who do not face such blatant physical persecution for our faith, it can be difficult to know how to respond. It's hard to know how to help these precious brothers and sisters in the Lord. There is one tried and true response, however: prayer.
"When we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering physically for their faith in Jesus Christ, we affirm Jesus' prayer in the upper room with His disciples that He prayed to the Father, that we would be one body, that we would be one as He and the Father are one," explains Carl Moeller with Open Doors. "It's the prayers of God's people here in the relative freedom of the United States, for our brothers and sisters who share our faith but who don't share that freedom — prayers that affirm, in a spiritual way, our unity in the body of Christ."
Open Doors has watched walls fall down as believers have humbly fallen to their knees in intercession for their suffering Christian brethren. Even the knowledge that others around the globe are begging God for their safety and freedom has given the persecuted church the strength and confidence to move forward in Christ's name.
"Even when we do something as simple as turn our hearts to prayer on this Sunday for the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church, we do something powerful in the spiritual realm. We encourage the believers to continue to stand strong and to continue to be a light in a very dark place."
Join with thousands of believers in prayer this Sunday by observing the International Day of Prayer. Your church can get free downloadable videos, sermon starters and prayer requests from the Open Doors Web site. Even if your church is not formally observing the day, set aside November 14 as a day that you or your family will dedicate to lifting up those persecuted for following the Savior and proclaiming His Gospel to the ends of the earth.