The ultimate freedom that Christ offers can threaten people who want to control others, sparking anger and hatred for Christians in some parts of the world. Whether a state-sanctioned attempt to impose a particular religion - such as Islam - or an effort to deny people the right to express any faith - such as in Communist countries - people are persecuting Christians right now for their faith.

People who are part of God's family along with you - your spiritual brothers and sisters - are suffering violence, imprisonment, starvation, extortion, ostracism and more. Simply for expressing faith in Christ, they're losing their health, relationships, jobs, and sometimes their very lives.

Even from a long distance away, there is a lot you can do to help. Here are some ways you can reach out to persecuted Christians:

  • Obtain information about specific incidents of persecution throughout the world. Find out who is suffering and where by subscribing to free newsletters from human rights organizations (there are several organizations dedicated specifically to helping persecuted Christians).

  • Pray compassionately and strategically for Christians who are suffering. Think about their experiences and allow yourself to feel some of their pain. Then intercede for them, asking God to transform their suffering into peace and even joy by strengthening them, protecting them, and using their witness to draw others into relationships with Him.

  • Commit to pray regularly for persecuted Christians, either alone or through a church prayer group dedicated to that purpose.

  • Become an advocate for persecuted Christians. Contact your representatives in government at all levels - national, state, and local - to express your concerns and ask for specific solutions through new laws. Contact members of the media through letters to the editor or press releases to help raise public awareness of the issue.

  • Communicate directly with persecuted Christians to encourage them. Obtain their addresses and guidelines for what can be expressed in letters, cards, and e-mails (you can do this through an organization dedicated to helping persecuted Christians), then write them as often as possible. You may even take a mission trip to an area of the world in which Christians are suffering.

Adapted from Hidden Sorrow, Lasting Joy: The Forgotten Women of the Persecuted Church, by Anneke Companjen, copyright 2001 by Open Doors International, Inc. Published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Ill., www.tyndale.com, 1-800-323-9400.

Anneke Companjen has traveled the world as the wife of the president of Open Doors International (www.opendoorsusa.org), seeing firsthand the tragic toll of persecution. Following the suicide of a woman she had befriended - the wife of an imprisoned Vietnamese pastor - Anneke decided she would write a book about women of the persecuted church.

What current prayer needs are you aware of among people being persecuted for their Christian faith? How does hearing the stories of persecuted people's courage help you more deeply appreciate your own freedom to practice your faith? Visit the Books Forum to respond, or read what others have to say. Just click on the link below.