Two days ago, on Sunday, our church participated in something that most other churches participated in two months ago. It officially
took place on November 4th of last year, but because we were away, we postponed it until now. We did it on the first Sunday of 2013. This was IDOP
IDOP is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
"Every year, churches and groups around the world take time to remember and pray for Christians who are suffering persecution globally. We, as partners, monitor occurrences of the persecution of Christians and are alarmed at the increase in incident. How much more do our brothers and sisters in Christ need our prayers?" (from IDOP.ca)
My dad preached on Revelation 12:13-17, where Satan was persecuting the saints of God (i.e. Christians, the church). You may not be aware that, according to the IDOP website, "today around the world, over 200 million Christians are being persecuted for their faith." But Muslim, Communist, and all around anti-Christian governments are working at full strength to destroy the church, a futile attempt of course.
Throughout his sermon, my dad presented a slide show (created by IDOP, modified by him) on three countries where governments are persecuting Christians - Nigeria, North Korea and Vietnam. Of course, there are dozens of other countries where brutal persecution of Christians takes place, but these were just three that IDOP selected. Here some highlights from the slide show. Just take a look at these facts and please join me in prayer, not just on IDOP, not just once a year, but all year, for the persecuted Christians.
- The capital of Nigeria is Abiju, and the population (158.2 million) is pretty evenly split between Christians (51.2%) and Muslims (45.1%). Though the country was ranked #23 in recent years on Open Doors' list of most persecuted countries, it is now up to #13 this year. That means the persecution is getting worse. Though according to the constitution, Nigeria has religious liberty, Muslim extremism keeps the country in a tight grasp. Hundreds of Christians have been killed in violent attacks, churches have been burnt down, Christians have been threatened, Muslims who have converted to Christianity are being disowned by their family, women are being divorced by their husbands, and Christian businesses are even being forced to shut down and Christians are fleeing. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
- Christians in North Korea experience the most severe suffering in the whole world. And this is North Korea's tenth consecutive year being the worst persecuted county. The capital of North Korea is Pyongyang, and the population is 23.9 million. Out of that 23.9 million, 400,000 are Christians. It is one of the most repressive governments in the world. Right now, between 50,000 and 70,000 Christians are being held in prison camps. Christianity is downright outlawed, completely illegal, and there are no churches in the country. All Christian activities are declared criminal and anti-Korean activity. If a Christian is found, he faces death, and his immediate family also faces the possibility of death. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in North Korea.
- Vietnam is a primarily Buddhist country, and Christians there face all sorts of challenges. Out of its population of 89 million, 52.4% are Buddhist, while 9.4% are Christians. It ranks #19 on the persecuted church list. The government is Communist and that brings its own problems to Christians. Buddhism is the national religion, and religious liberty has decreased greatly. Unfortunately, media censorship is beginning to increase
, so that means no freedom of speech. Intimidation, bullying, discrimination and pressure to renounce the faith also fills the country. While the church has grown nine times its size since 1975, a problem of unity has arisen, and the government has been seeking to use it for their purposes of sowing dissension and division among the different churches. Let us pray for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam.
Let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters all over the world
. Let's pray for strength for them, for endurance, for grace, for faith, for freedom, for comfort - both for them and for their family, for their churches to thrive, for souls to be saved. And then let's pray for these anti-Christian governments, for their salvation and for them to extend kindness to the Christians. But most importantly, let's pray for God to be glorified in all that happens in this world, and let's rejoice that all that happens is in His sovereign care and plan.