It happened in Pakistan. The year was 1997. After sharing Christ with her Muslim friend, Perveen, Anila was arrested, then slapped and beaten in front of her parents for over nine hours. Finally she was taken to prison. There, Anila and her pastor experienced horrible torture. She was whipped 16 times; five times would make a normal man pass out. When they were released, Anila could not sit for two months, and her pastor could barely walk from the bruises on his hips and thighs.

 

In Muslim nations, children are often severely beaten for converting to Christianity. Others are killed by their own parents or siblings for apostasy. To restore the honor of his family, Perveen's brother stabbed her to death.*

 

Many miles away, thousands of North Korean refugees are in hiding in northeast China, living in fear of deportation back to a country gripped by a grotesque dictatorship and a famine that may have claimed two million lives. The Chinese government has taken drastic action to stem the flood of desperate refugees seeking asylum in foreign embassies in Beijing.

 

According to the International Day of Prayer Web site, sensational headlines have accused overseas hostile forces, and in particular Christians, of being involved in a "conspiracy" to destabilize the North Korean regime.

 

The Chinese-language newspaper "Youth Reference" on June 19 claimed that a "South Korean body with links to the Christian church" had masterminded a recent asylum incident. The result: South Korean evangelism and discipleship ministries in China are at risk in the atmosphere of surveillance and paranoia.

 

These stories are all too common. Christians who live in countries such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and Pakistan routinely face torture, imprisonment and even death. Noted scholar and human rights monitor, Paul Marshall, estimates that roughly 200 million people around the world endure persecution such as physical abuse, family separation, incarceration and martyrdom - just for following Christ. Nearly 400 million more face discrimination and restriction as a result of their Christian faith.

 

In response to the persecution that is a harsh reality for so many, Christians around the world will be gathering this Sunday, Nov. 10, to commemorate the 7th annual International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).

 

IDOP is one of the largest prayer movements in the world, and coordinators estimate that 200,000 churches in the United States and abroad are expected to unite in prayer for those Christians suffering persecution. 

 

During the week between Nov. 10 and Nov. 17, thousands of church congregations comprising millions of Christians from all denominations all over the world will join together in prayer not only for the persecuted church, but also with the persecuted church.

 

As John Tuitele, Chairman of the Board for Prayer for the Persecuted Church, says, "We maintain that these prayers encourage those who are suffering for their faith, changing physical and spiritual climates where they live, so that they may more openly exercise religious freedom and practice their Christian faith without fear of punishment."