Pray for the Persecuted Church Nov. 9 through 16
- Thursday, November 06, 2003
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering – Hebrews 13:3
More than three years ago, a Nepali man with a heart to reach his country for Christ was arrested on false murder charges and thrown into jail, leaving his wife and two children alone. Before his imprisonment, Manja Tamang – a native missionary with Gospel for Asia – courageously brought the Gospel to unreached villages in the rugged mountains of Nepal and led a congregation of 25 new believers. Even in his desolate prison cell, Manja remains steadfast in his passion to shine the light of Christ. Several prisoners have received the Lord through his witness.
Christians sharing their faith in Nepal live in constant peril due to the threat of Maoist terrorists and anti-Christian extremist groups. Each day, Gospel for Asia’s 305 Nepali missionaries wake up knowing they could face imprisonment—or even death—for spreading the Gospel. Yet, like Manja, they boldly choose to trek narrow mountain paths to reach villages with the Good News of Christ.
From Nepal to North Korea, from Sudan to China, countless followers of Christ daily face beatings, discrimination, jail and death. Because persecution is a global problem, it is only fitting that Christians around the world pray for their suffering brethren on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
“It will happen on 9 and 16 November 2003, and during the week between those two Sundays. It will be a beautiful view not only from a human point, but I truly believe that it will be something very beautiful in the eyes of God,” says Johan Candelin, Global International Day of Prayer coordinator. “As a father it touches my heart when I see my children love each other and care for each other. How much more will this beautiful event touch the heart of God who is our heavenly Father when he sees love and support for each other demonstrated by millions of his children?”
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith. The sponsoring groups also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it.
It all began in 1996 through the efforts of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) in cooperation with a variety of denominations and faith-based organizations. From a core group of approximately 7,000 churches, the IDOP has grown to be the largest prayer day event of its kind in the world. The IDOP is a rallying point for Christians and others to stand behind those who suffer for their faith by providing prayer support and appropriate advocacy.
According to Candelin, “After having seen the IDOP for the Persecuted Church from the inside for many years, I can only say, it's a miracle! It is probably the world's biggest prayer group and it is strengthening the persecuted part of the church and awakening churches where there is no persecution. This is also beautiful because the church of Jesus Christ is one. Any revival in the world is your revival and any persecution in the world is your persecution.”
According to IDOP’s Elizabeth Kendal, 70 percent of the Church is now found in the non-Western world in nations with very poor human rights records. A large proportion of Christians now live in crippling poverty, amid war, under Communist dictatorships, Islamic oppression and domination, or in nations that are embracing nationalism as they seek to shake off their colonial past. One characteristic of this post-Colonial nationalism is that the majority religion, be that Islam, Hinduism or Buddhism, becomes linked to national identity.
Misconceptions about Christianity create a climate in which persecution can take place. One commonly perceived threat is that Christian Church growth will threaten the integrity and growth prospects of the non-Christian majority religion. Another is that Christians will establish links to the Church worldwide, which some totalitarian dictatorships allege is a “threat to national security.”
Some 200 million Christians today are living with serious persecution (threat of prison, vigilante or state violence, etc.) because of their faith. A further 400 million Christians live with non-trivial restrictions on their freedom and the loss of many basic human rights, simply because they choose to love and follow Jesus Christ.
“Persecution of the Church is a huge problem,” notes Kendal. “We are all brothers and sisters, so what sort of family will we be - one that cares or one that neglects? Persecuted Christians are in a spiritual battle, often fighting for their lives and sometimes struggling in their faith. We can join them in this spiritual battle, fighting on their behalf, by praying for them and supporting them.”
Kendal reports that Islam has, to varying degrees at various times, persecuted Christians for over 1400 years. Christians living under Islamic domination generally suffer crippling discrimination and severe persecution for their allegiance to Christ. Apostates (those who choose to leave Islam) often pay with their liberty or their life. However, as Islamic fervor has increased over the past decade, both persecution of Christians and jihad (Islamic holy war) activity have increased.
In Hindu and Buddhist nations, as well as some totalitarian, dictatorial or simply politically troubled states, religious nationalism is so popular that it has become a political tool that is used for political gain. The majority religion (be that Hindu, Buddhist, or Russian Orthodox) is propped up and advanced in exchange for political support. This is happening in many nations where majority religions have great influence and the state is keen to use it. The majority religion then has leverage to enlist State power to close down and persecute 'competitors' (evangelical churches). This symbiotic relationship between the state and leaders of the majority religion has been going on since the days of the first Christians.
In Communist East Asia and other totalitarian states, Christians are persecuted and imprisoned for giving allegiance to Christ ahead of the government. Christians have faced this since early church days.
In the West, once known as Christendom, society has its roots in the Judeo-Christian ethic, yet the church in the West is also asked to choose between the 'praise from men' found by yielding to worldly standards and to secular, rationalistic, naturalistic humanism, and 'praise from God' which comes from honouring Christ and his Holy Spirit-inspired word (John 12:43).
“Jesus, who desires that we - the Church - be one (John 17:21), has called us to take up our cross and follow him through rejection, death and onto glorification,” Kendal writes. “We will do it best if we do it together.”
On Nov. 9, wrongfully imprisoned Gospel for Asia (GFA) missionary Manja learns whether he is to be released from prison or must serve the rest of his 20-year sentence. As this date is also the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, pray for Manja and his family. For the latest on Manja, visit the GFA website.
*Photo and reporting from www.idop.org
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