International (MNN) — In the overload of information on the Facebook newsfeed, this one from 8thirty8 stood out:
“Passover has begun, and our Jesus was the perfect and final Lamb! We celebrate His complete victory over the Cross and the Grave this Sunday.
But for many of our brothers and sisters around the world, Resurrection Day is one that is accompanied with threats and persecution. One leader in Syria just told 8thirty8 that Muslim terrorist groups have promised to “FILL THE STREETS WITH CHRISTIAN BLOOD” this week leading up to Easter. Please join us in praying for the Body of Christ living in hostile and restricted nations during this most important week!”
Is it a credible threat? Open Doors president and CEO David Curry seems to believe it is. “This is a very critical threat. These are people who plan to carry out their threat. We know that they’ve done that, where they’ve targeted Christians, even in the midst of a civil war.” More specifically, “We know from our sources in Syria that a lot of mortars are dropping in parts of Damascus, which are historically Christian areas. People are being killed, and it’s rather random in some cases, when you’re having that sort of general bombing.”
In the last few years, it seems that Christmas and Easter are now among the most dangerous days for Christians to celebrate. Why? There’s a lot of bloody history behind it. Curry says, “People who are militant and seek to do harm can find a lot of Christians gathering at a specific time. And in many of these places, the churches and holy places are not protected.”
Syria isn’t alone, though. Observations carry extra risk in places like Iraq, Nigeria, and Algeria. In places like this, the militant ideology makes being anything but Muslim dangerous. “They see Christianity as a threat to their regime of Islamic extremist rule. We’re not even talking about the general Islamic culture. We’re talking about militants who seek to kill to enforce sharia law.”
In a recent op-ed piece run by the Christian Post, Curry noted, “In many countries around the world, Christians are an embattled minority. In fact, Christians are the largest persecuted religious group in the world today with at least 100 million Christians living in countries or regions where they are pressured, oppressed, imprisoned, or even killed because of their faith. In a recent global survey from the Pew Research Center, 74% of the world’s people live in countries with high levels of religious hostility.”
Death and mayhem is meant to disrupt Easter celebrations, and sometimes, says Curry, it’s successful. “It will have an impact. It certainly is a suppressor of people getting together. Of course, in many of these countries, Christians have been dealing with the fact that they’re gathering in homes, they’re gathering in small groups. They’re still going to worship and honor this Holy Week.”
However, Curry adds, be ready. “This is a continued pressure in Nigeria which is very concerning in the next three days. I would expect to hear of something, unfortunately, happening there.” Already this week, Boko Haram launched two vicious attacks: one on a bus station during rush hour, and the other: a mass kidnapping of over 100 school girls.
Over the next three days, churches are beefing up security and remaining on high alert. There is no way around the fact that finishing out Passion Week will be difficult in some places. What can be done? “We’re asking believers here to pray for these folks. Do what you can to support and speak out to advocate for persecuted Christians wherever they may be.”