Imprisoned since June 2009, 37-year old Asia Bibi awaits execution in the country of Pakistan. Her crime? Proclaiming to her muslim co-workers her rejection of the Muslim faith, choosing instead to place her faith in the living Christ who died for her sins. Being detained for nearly 5 1/2 years away from her husband and young daughters has left Asia frightened and lonely. Resisting pressure from her community to renounce Christianity and accept the Muslim faith, Asia remains steadfast, even while knowing that her death sentence, if carried out, will make her the first Christian in Pakistan to be executed under their current blasphemy law.
The muslim-dominated country of Somalia boasts a population of 9.6 million people. Out of the countries ranked as being the worst persecutors of Christians across the globe, Somalia ranks second in its determination to rid its country of any resemblance to Christianity. Converts in this land know that profession of faith in Christ is an almost sure death sentence, causing these precious saints to live in constant fear. Those of the Christian faith are deliberately hunted down, and when found, they are martyred. Practicing their faith secretly, the largest known group consists of only five believers.
The tragedy of the Jewish holocaust of the 1940s is a painful reminder of our spiritual enemy's determination to annihilate God's chosen people. But in communist North Korea, Christian concentration camps are a horrific reality today. Ranked no. 1 on the World Watch list of countries facing the worst religious persecution for the twelfth year in a row, North Korea has sadly but surely deserved this distinction. Barbed wire and electric fences form the boundaries of labor camps that 40-70,000 Christians call home. But the reality is more like hell on earth. While being literally worked to death, believers are forced to labor 18-20 hours a day with little or no food, supplementing any rations they do have with snakes, rats, insects, and grass. The mountainous regions of this Asian country tell the story of these hidden camps where physical and psychological torture make up the day's routine.
So, why should the International Day of Prayer be of significance to you and me as believers in Jesus Christ? Because in John 15 Jesus didn't speak of our persecution as a mere possibility. Rather, He spoke of it as an absolute certainty. Therefore, the plight of the persecuted church in either little or well-known countries across the globe should have great personal impact on each of us. In Matthew 12, verses 46-50, while Jesus was speaking to the crowds, He was informed that His mother and brothers were waiting to speak to Him. He responded by saying, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers? For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
The people and situations you've read about today involve those who should be the most important to us: our family. At the time of our salvation, we are each adopted into the family of God and have become a part of the body of Christ. In First Corinthians 12:26, referring to the body, the Apostle Paul wrote, "If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it..."
In Ephesians 6, Paul wrapped up his instructions on spiritual warfare with a command for believers to persevere in prayer for all the saints. Hebrews 13:3 commands us to "remember those who are in prison as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."
What kinds of things should we pray for these beloved brothers and sisters? While praying for their immediate practical needs seems obvious, their spiritual needs cannot be overestimated: we must intercede on their behalf that their faith would be strengthened and enlarged, that the gospel would spread in spite of their persecution, for their protection from the enemy, and for wisdom to live courageously in the midst of their unbelieving communities. Bibles, Christian literature, and biblical training for struggling churches also tops the list of items that these believers request.
While the second Sunday of every November has been designated as the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church, may we as individuals and as a church family discipline ourselves to remain aware of and be willing to struggle in prayer for these cherished people of God regularly throughout the year.
At the end of this article, you will find several links to sites that will inform you of the plight of this suffering people. I encourage you to take time to read any or all of what’s available on these pages. And when you’re done reading, pray for our extended family and sincerely seek the Lord as to how you might be able to use the resources He has given you to reach out to our very own in their time of need.
So...who is the persecuted church? She is our brother, our sister, and our mother--those who do the will of our Father who is in heaven, by standing firm, refusing to deny His name. Will you join me in prayer each day on her behalf?
Here are some great sites to get you started: http://www.persecution.comhttp://www.be-a-voice.net/http://www.opendoorsusa.org/ http://www.persecution.org/