International (MNN) — Pope Benedict XVI is calling on governments
around the world to protect Christians against violence and discrimination.
It's not his first address on the
global stage on this topic. However, a
recent spate of attacks against Christians in Egypt highlighted the plight of
believers in places like Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria and some places in Europe.
As explained by several other
stories we've covered, this is likely a trend on the rise. "More people are on edge for supposedly
religious reasons than we have sensed in some time."
Shibley with Global Advance. He goes on to say, "Some
reputable sources suggest that up to 700-million believers are at some level of
persecution. That would be about one-third of all of those who name the name of
Threats, harassment and
oppression can be disruptive to pastors and church planters. Often, these people find themselves isolated
because those they would minister to are giving a wide berth, or because they answered
a call to an unreached area. Loneliness
and stress can produce discouragement.
Discouragement can kill a
ministry. Shibley explains, "That makes
it more important than ever that those
who are being persecuted for their commitment to Christ know that they are not
alone, that they are being remembered, that they're being prayed for, and if
possible, for us to go to them and
Shibley goes on to say, "Our
whole premise at Global Advance has been that there could be a time when Westerners literally would not be allowed
into certain areas of the world. We're beginning to see this now. We have had
one team of trainers that has been turned back. That's why we've been training
If the local believers catch the
vision for evangelism, church planting and discipleship, they will need more
believers to keep that work growing. With
Global Advance's help, they're raising up the next generation of church
leaders. "Through a network of
tremendous pastoral leaders and other godly leaders of the church around the
world, they are going under our auspices and with our help, into areas
where we simply cannot go."
Shibley says sometimes they can't
go into a creative access country. They've
been refused entry in some places, and in others they've had their partners
brought out to a more neutral site for encouragement and instruction.
Global Advance is standing in the gap
between the Gospel and oppression with these leaders. Because of Christ, there is always hope. "Persecution typically tends to strengthen
and augment and even grow the church. But it certainly carries with it a tremendous emotional challenge for believers
in those areas, a spiritual challenge, and even threats to their own physical
Prayer is needed. It's the first line of defense for these Frontline
Shepherds. "[Pray] first of all for believers who live in those areas, and
particularly those pastors who are literally targeted. We need to pray that they will preach
fearlessly. And please pray for the protection of our Global Advance teams."