God is our refuge and strength:
A very present help in trouble,
A faithful protector of his people.
Remember those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Heb 13:3).
Today we learn about and pray for persecuted Christians around the world. In partnership with churches worldwide, we do so in humble response to the explicit command from the Book of Hebrews quoted above. The writer asks his generation to “remember” sisters and brothers who were being mistreated for their faith. If that was the case during his time, how much more so now! More than ever, Christians face hardship, imprisonment, injustice, violence, and abuse for owning the name of Christ. Here are some grim statistics taken from a January 2014 report by Open Doors, a nondenominational group supporting persecuted Christians worldwide:
- Christianity faces restrictions and hostility in 111 countries, ahead of the 90 countries limiting or harassing the second-largest faith, Islam.
- Reported cases of people who died prematurely simply because they are Christians doubled in 2013 from the year before.
- In Syria alone, there were 1,213 deaths in 2013. Syria was followed by Nigeria with 612 cases last year (compare to 791 in 2012). Pakistan was third with 88 (15 in 2012). Egypt ranked fourth with 83 deaths (19 in 2013).
- In North Korea, Christians face "the highest imaginable pressure" and some 50,000 to 70,000 of our brothers and sisters live in political prison camps.
- The Open Doors report estimates that some 100 million Christians worldwide suffered persecution for their faith in 2013.
Such statistics tell a story. But as one blogger put it, their story is part of a bigger one: it is imperative that we not lose sight of the fact that there are faces behind the figures and stories behind the statistics. Charts and maps cannot chronicle the horror of knowing that one's daughter is being broken and abused in a Vietnamese mental hospital because of her faith in Jesus.
My dear friends, let us pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Let us pray not just this morning but throughout this week. Let us pray and pray and, when we have prayed, pray again.
PS: If you would like more information, visit the display in the Atrium. You can also go online to Voice of the Martyrs at www.persecution.com.