USA (MNN) — There are literally millions of Christians around the world who suffer simply because they call themselves Christians. In many countries, Christians are martyred for their faith. The world watched in horror the unbridled violence that was unleashed on Christians in Orissa state, India last year. There are other places in the world, such as North Korea, where acts of persecution take place, but we often don't see or hear the full story.
This Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
President of Open Doors USA Carl Moeller says Sunday is an important day for believers. "This is a day when the church in the free world remembers and prays for our brothers and sisters who are suffering persecution in places where Christianity is not free."
Moeller describes the type of persecution Christians are facing today. "Well over 100 million Christians face discrimination, alienation, sometimes unjust arrest and harassment, imprisonment, torture and even death."
He adds, "These 100 million Christians, our brothers and sisters, truly need our prayer so that they can stand strong in the midst of the suffering."
Open Doors is an advocate of the persecuted church around the world. It also provides resources materials and support for Christians in the underground church in countries where being a Christian is difficult, at best. The ministry keeps track of countries in which Christians are most persecuted. The top ten nations are: North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Laos, China, and Bhutan.
North Korea is the most devious. "Well over 100,000 Christians are suffering in labor camps, just like in Auschwitz or the Soviet Gulag where they literally died because they were underfed, underclothed, overworked and literally worked to death," says Moeller.
He says Iran is another high-profile country. There, two Muslim-background Christian women, Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh, have been imprisoned for months because they won't renounce their faith in Christ.
Moeller says when we pray for Christians in countries where it's illegal to have missionaries, "what we're really engaged in is strengthening the church, so it can be the church in that place. These local believers are literally taking the Gospel into the very teeth of the spiritual battle. These are the darkest places on earth, and yet Christians are there shining the light of Jesus. We need to pray for them."