“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Romans 8:35-37
The month of November is set aside in many Christian circles as a time of focus and prayer for the persecuted church. Many churches hold a special service on a Sunday in November that is designated each year as the “International Day of Prayer” for the persecuted church. Christians in more than 130 countries stand in prayer and solidarity with those who suffer for their faith.
Today around the world more than 200 million are suffering for their Christian faith – it’s an appalling figure. The persecution comes in the form of harassment, arrests, beatings, imprisonment and even executions. In fact, I have read that there have been more Christians martyred in the last 100-150 years than the amount combined in all of the years previous. The perpetrators of this persecution come primarily from two sources – countries that are Communist states and countries that are controlled by extremist Muslims – and while that may be unpopular to say, it is undeniable. And yet many are unaware of this ongoing tragedy because it generally goes unreported in the western media. I don’t have an answer for that, but apparently the widespread persecution and murders of Christians’ worldwide is not newsworthy enough.
Persecution is nothing new for Christians – it began shortly after the death of Christ with the stoning of Stephen, and Jesus even told us to expect it. History is stained with the blood of martyrs who died simply because of their faith, and it continues to be on the rise worldwide. The current issue of the magazine put out by an organization called “The Voice of Martyrs” contains the story of a woman whose young husband was beheaded along with 21 Christian men on a beach in Libya in February 2015 by the group ISIS. Of course, the murders were not enough; they had to post the graphic videos on the internet. After unspeakable grief, she chose to watch the final minutes of her husband’s life. As the camera focused on the faces of the men, they were unmistakably mouthing the words, “Lord Jesus Christ.” This young widow found great comfort in knowing her husband’s final words were fixed on Christ and that he did not deny his faith. Jesus taught his followers to love their enemies, and this courageous woman is seeking to do just that by praying for the perpetrators of this horrific act. This act of love makes her more than a conqueror.
So what can we do about this injustice? “Pray for us...” is the cry of persecuted Christians around the world. Incredibly, they do not ask for the persecution to be removed, but that they would have the courage to remain faithful and not deny their faith in Christ. You can also support various organizations that minister to the persecuted church. Will you join me in prayer, especially during the month of November, in remembering those who are suffering today simply for their faith?