This coming Sunday, November 13, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The effort is billed as “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. We also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it.” This effort is meant to embody the model of suffering given by Jesus himself: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44–45 NIV)

The political acceptance of Christians has been an issue throughout the Church’s history, beginning with measured toleration by the Romans when viewed as a sect of Judaism, moving on to local and occasional intolerance, and finally the suffering of sustained empire-wide persecution.

This is to say nothing of the Church’s reception by other religious groups. The apostle Paul began his career by persecuting the Church out of a zeal for Judaism. He writes that he “was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.” (Acts 26:9–11 NIV) But Paul himself is a clear example that those who once were our bitterest of enemies can become our dearest of friends.

The one comfort that privileged Christians can offer those of our brothers and sisters who are suffering beyond intercessory prayer is a word of reassurance and hope. We are told by the Lord that along with the apostles we will suffer rejection from the world and persecution at the hands of others (Luke 21:12–19), but he says that “By standing firm you will gain life.” Indeed, we honor and pray for the sacrifice of our fellow Christians, realizing at the same time that they are storing up for themselves “treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20 NIV)

A report published last week by the US State department left a previous listing of the worst violators of religious freedom in the world unchanged: Vietnam, Myanmar, China, North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Eritrea. The failure to add Uzbekistan to the list is seen by some as political capitulation. Uzbekistan is seen by many human rights groups to infringe on religious freedom to the extent that it deserves to be seen as a “country of particular concern.”

Indeed, Forum 18 News Service reports that the last legally-sanctioned Protestant church in the northwest portion of the country is facing closure. According to the report:

“Harsh measures have been targeted at Christians,” Forum 18 News Service has been told by a Protestant in Uzbekistan, with the authorities especially targeting ethnic Uzbek church members. “Unfortunately in Uzbekistan today there is no Protestant church that doesn’t face persecution, whether registered or not,” Forum 18’s source added.

A prayer “For the Persecuted” from A Prayer Book for Sailors and Soldiers (1941):

O blessed Lord, who thyself didst undergo the pain and suffering of the Cross; Uphold, we beseech thee, with thy promised gift of strength all those of our brethren who are suffering for their faith in thee. Grant that in the midst of all persecutions they may hold fast by this faith, and that from their stedfastness thy Church may grow in grace and we ourselves in perseverance, to the honour of thy Name, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost art one God, world without end. Amen.

For more on the persecuted church:

“Our Particular Concern: Praying for the Persecuted Church,” BreakPoint Commentary, November 10, 2005

Persecution Blog

Forum 18



  • http://squach.blogspot.com/2005/11/uh-oh.html Ecce Homo

    I forgot International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church 2005 was yesterday. They say the greatest honor is to be persecuted and die a martyr, but it sure ain’t easy. That’s reason enough to pray for those who are persecuted.

    Luckily …

  • http://www.thelaniercompany.com Gary Lanier

    My name is Gary Lanier. I am a composer and arranger.

    I have a song entitled, DON’T FORGET US (The Persecuted Church). I thought you might be interested in hearing it. So, just click on the following link. The lead sheet and mp3 are free.

    http://www.ncministries.org/persecutedchurch.htm

    Blessings,
    Gary

  • http://Nil Joseph Selvaraj Stephen Narayamsamy

    Dear Brothers in Christ, 08.02.2009
    Greetings to you from Grace Foundation India. As you are aware in India Christians are tortured for Christ by RSS, Bajrangdal and fanatic Hindu Missionary movements. Recently in Orissa more than a lac of people were driven away from their home andliving the jungles and forests to safe guard their lives. Especially the Churches were burnt by them and all the belongings of the Pastors and evangelists were burnt out by fire in Kandamal District in Orissa . Our Grace foundatiion is planning to hekp the Pasttors, evangelists and Believers and Christians to come back from the forests and jungles and help them to become to live and restore their old life by helping them to Re=construct their churches and providing them euipments and livelihood projects. Kindly send your contribution to our Grace Foundation to help these persecuted churches in Orissa in our country in India.
    May God Bless you and your Ministry.
    Yours Sincerely,
    S,N.. Joseph Selvaraj,
    General Secretary,
    Grace Foundation,
    23, Jeeva Street,
    Samayapuram Post,
    Trichirapalli District,
    Tamil Nadu State,
    India 621112.
    E-Mail : grace_foundation@yahoo.com