International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

What Should Be Our Response?

Posted by Nancy Lee on November 05, 2023

The statistics for Christian martyrs and those persecuted for their faith are alarming. According to the 2023 World Watch List put out by Open Doors, in 2022, 5,898 Christians were killed worldwide and 3,829 were abducted. Currently, 360 million Christians live in areas where they suffer “high” levels of persecution, which breaks down to 1 out of 7 Christians worldwide.

These are not simply numbers. Each statistic represents a face and a story. Here are a few:

  • A sixteen-year-old boy is severely beaten in Turkey for wearing a cross. (Voice of the Martyrs, April 2023, Vol. 57, No. 4, p. 14.)
  • A terrorist enters a Christian church in the Middle East with a bomb strapped to him with the intent of blowing up the church, but he feels the love of Christ and instead places his faith in Christ and is baptized. (Voice of the Martyrs, August 2023, Vol. 57, No. 8, p. 7.)
  • A Christian man is attacked in his church in Tanzania during an all-night prayer vigil and left for dead. After recovering, he donates his land to the church and moves to another community where he buys land and builds a church where he becomes the pastor. (Voice of the Martyrs, Vol. 57, No. 5, May 2023, p.5.)
  • A woman in Nigeria loses her husband, her son, and her land to Muslim extremists. She provides for her family by farming on borrowed land and continues to lead the women’s ministry at her church. (Voice of the Martyrs, Vol.57, no. 7, July 2023, p. 9).

When I read about these stories, I am at a loss. I am honestly not sure how I would respond if I lost loved ones, my health, my home, or my livelihood at the hands of persecutors. I am amazed at the reports of so many who are persecuted and remain strong in the faith, even forgiving the ones who cause them so much pain.

What should be our response?

Acknowledge that we are amid a worldwide spiritual war. Whether it is the war in the Middle East, the Hindus in India, Communists in North Korea or China, or any place Christians are persecuted for their faith, it is the same root. It is a war against the God of the Bible, the Truth of the Bible. Consider Ephesians 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (ESV).

This is the time to evaluate what you really believe. Are you all in? Are you going to defend the Bible despite increasing pressure to water it down and pick and choose what to believe? Or are you going to be like the church in Laodicea which was reprimanded for being lukewarm? “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16 ESV).

Realize that persecution is Biblical. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV). The persecution of Christians is nothing new. Christians were persecuted in the New Testament times through to today.

No one is exempt. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:12-13). We can’t think because we live in the West that we won’t be persecuted.

Do not grow complacent. We are bombarded by horrific images of persecution. After a while, it might become easier to tune it out or to become numb to it. If you are no longer feeling outraged or saddened by the news of those being persecuted, pray, and ask God to soften your heart.

Stay informed. Christian persecution often is not reported in the mainstream media, but there are organizations dedicated to promoting the cause of persecuted Christians. Here are two that I follow:

Voice of the Martyrs was founded by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who spent 14 years imprisoned for his Christian faith, and his wife Sabina. Their mission statement: Serving persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and leading other members of the body of Christ into fellowship with them. You can reach their website by clicking here.

Open Doors was founded by Brother Andrew, a Dutchman who distributed Bibles and offered encouragement to Christians in Eastern Europe. Mission Statement: Open Doors empowers persecuted Christians by supplying Bibles and Christian literature, training Christian leaders, facilitating social/economic projects and uniting believers in the West in prayer for Christians, who are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 70 countries. You can reach their website by clicking here.

Pray, Pray, Pray! Sometimes we feel hopeless and wonder if our prayers make a difference, especially when we are praying for people living across the globe. But testimonies from persecuted Christians mention the prayers of the body of Christ as an important source of strength for them. 

Andrew Bunson, an American who was imprisoned in Turkey on false charges for two years acknowledges the importance of prayer in his book God’s Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance. Here is what he writes:

“How can we thank our worldwide family of believers? Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox on every continent prayed, fasted, wrote letters, and prayed some more…” (Borlase, Craig and Bunson, Andrew. God's Hostage: A True Story of Persecution, Imprisonment, and Perseverance.  )

Give. If you feel led, there are many ministries that direct your donations to help persecuted Christians. Besides the two I have mentioned, here are two I recommend if you are specifically wanting to help Jewish believers living in Israel:

Chosen People Ministries

Jews for Jesus

Some closing thoughts. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 ESV). 

The plight of persecuted Christians is our plight as members of the body of Christ. We must stand up and support our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering.

*image by RosZie from Pixabay