International (MNN) — We’re focusing on the persecuted Church this week in preparation for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church this Sunday, November 5th. But in order to pray for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters, we have to get to know them and their stories.
Greg Musselman with Voice of the Martyrs Canada says there are resources available to connect us to persecuted believers. “I think one of the things we need to do is to know the names if we can and find out through ministries like Voice of the Martyrs Canada and US, Open Doors, etc. Find out the names and pray for them. And in many cases, you may be led to write letters to the people that are suffering.”
Open Doors reports that every month approximately 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 acts of violence* are committed against believers.
But, Musselman shares, “As we see the numbers increasing in terms of those that are being persecuted for their faith around the world, at the same time, we’re seeing unprecedented numbers of people coming to Christ.”
One way to get to know the persecuted Church is to pray for specific countries where believers are suffering. For example, North Korea is the top country on Open Doors’ World Watch List where Christian persecution is the harshest.
Musselman explains, “You have what’s called a juche system or ideology which is a worship of the Kim family. So in that particular country, you’re not allowed to have any other kinds of deities or gods that you worship. So as a result of that, Christianity is basically banned there. Believers have to be very careful, they can’t meet together…. If they are caught with Bibles or meeting with other Christians, they are put into concentration-type camps and their life is very difficult.”
Though it’s difficult to get accurate reports out of the hermit nation, most estimates say that tens of thousands of Christians are imprisoned in North Korea today.
“North Korea is the worst because they attack not only the belief in Jesus, but the brainwashing that goes on, the propaganda. We see it on the world stage all the time with Kim Jong Un and his program of developing nuclear weapons and constantly threatening South Korea and other countries.”
Other countries with extreme persecution of Christians include those Muslim majority nations with radical Muslim group presence. You have al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram from Nigeria, al-Qaeda operating from Afghanistan, and ISIS based in Iraq and Syria.
“When we’re talking about these Muslim countries, you have to understand that not all the citizens of the country go along with these groups like Taliban. But even beyond the radical militant Islamists, you have got countries … where they are predominantly Muslim, so their enforcement is Sharia law. Then for those who are coming to the Lord in these places, it’s very difficult because you have those who are leaving Islam and culturally it’s very difficult for them and certainly within their families, they have to be very, very careful.”
Yet, even in Muslim-majority nations, the Gospel is moving as these minority Christians are living ambassadors for Christ. Muslims are even having miraculous dreams and visions of Jesus.
Musselman explains, “For most of the Muslim countries — because the ordinary citizens are seeing such radical Islamic practices taking place with groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and the rest of them — some are turning away from Islam and saying, ‘Is there something else? Is this what God is all about or is there some other way?’ And many brave Christians within these countries are sharing the Gospel.”
You can also get to know the persecuted Church by reading their stories, staying informed about current persecution imprisonment and legal cases, and learning their names.
VOM Canada has resources to help you do just that, such as interviews, videos, country profiles, and a weekly Persecution and Prayer Alert. Click here to find these resources at VOM Canada’s website!
“If we understand that God has his family, he is our Father, we’re brothers and sisters in Christ and our brothers and sisters are suffering, the Bible tells us that if one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer.”
Musselman encourages, finally, as you learn the stories and names of our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in preparation for IDOP Sunday, “Pray that they would be able to be used by God even in the midst of their difficulties.”
*Acts of violence include kidnapping, beating, rape, imprisonment, and forced marriage.