Christians worldwide prayed for over 200 million suffering believers on Sunday, Nov. 14, during one of the largest prayer events in the world. Since its inception in 1996, the International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church has heightened awareness of the Persecuted Church.
"The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church presents a tremendous opportunity for millions of people to make a difference in the lives of those being persecuted for their faith in countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Laos, Iraq and many more," said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller prior to the event. "Those persecuted believers have asked us who live in freedom to pray for them - always their number one request¡±
On Sunday, many churches across America held special services to remember those who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.
In Morganton, North Carolina, people raised their voices and bowed their heads at Liberty Middle School during joint worship and prayer services held by Burke Community Bible Church, New Day Christian Church and New Life Church of God.
¡°It's a part of what's happening not just here in the United States, but around the world," David Doster, pastor of Burke Community Bible Church, told the Morganton-based News Herald. "More Christians have been martyred in the 20th Century than any other century combined."
George Logan, pastor of New Day Christian Church, told those gathered at the event, ¡°Jesus prayed that we might be one; united.¡±
Logan added that unity and solidarity is important in fighting persecution. He said the Bible says that those who live Godly lives will suffer persecution.
¡°This is a great opportunity for us to bridge,¡± Logan said.
Amy Lineberger and Beth Davidson, two friends who attended the prayer and worship service expressed their thoughts and feelings on unity and prayer.
¡°I think it¡¯s important because this is what God wants,¡± Davidson told the News Herald. ¡°He doesn¡¯t want any separation in the body of Christ.¡±
¡°God is all powerful and almighty,¡± said Lineberger. ¡°Prayer is a powerful thing. If you pray in a spiritual language, the devil can¡¯t interfere with that.¡±
Concerned Women for America (CWA), another group that joined Christians around the world for IDOP, encouraged its 500,000 members to pray specifically for North Korea and the Darfur region of Sudan on Sunday.
"North Korea and Darfur are two areas where Christians are suffering horrible persecution that is tragic and far too often fatal," said Dr. Janice Crouse, senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, CWA's think tank, and a CWA representative on two national task forces for religious freedom.
"Over 400,000 North Koreans are reported to have perished in the gulags where unspeakable cruelty and horrific conditions are an international disgrace," said Crouse. "The situation in North Korea has been described as the worst human rights abuse in the world; persecuted people are executed routinely and the depravity is systemic."
CWA urged Christians to pray for the human rights groups who are investigating the situation and for those who are trying to intervene.
Meanwhile, in Dafur, ¡°The bloody ethnic cleansing in the Darfur region of the Sudan has displaced hundreds of thousands and virtually destroyed a whole region," said Crouse.
"Famine, unbelievable abuses and the humanitarian crisis in Darfur are a human rights catastrophe," she added.
CWA asked its members to pray for Darfur, not just on Sunday but to commit to fervent prayer until the situation is reversed.
¡°In our world, the name of Jesus Christ causes division and, all too often, suffering,¡± wrote Janet Chismar, Senior Editor for Religion Today. ¡°From Vietnam and Laos to North Korea and Saudi Arabia, Christians are jailed, isolated, beaten and even murdered for their faith.¡±
Elizabeth Kendal, a spokeswoman for the WEA Religious Liberty Commission, commented, ¡°In some places there is 'active persecution,' where authorities are involved and persecution is systematic, operating in accordance with discriminatory and oppressive laws. In other places there is 'passive persecution,' where persecution occurs at the community level. The extent of the persecution depends on the nature of the political system."
Christians in some countries are protected from severe persecution by good government and the rule of law, Kendal added. "In countries where human rights are not respected, Christians lack protection and persecutors appear to have unofficial permission to act with impunity."
According to International Christian Concern (ICC), a non-denominational human rights organization based in the Washington, D.C., area, it is estimated that more than 200 million Christians live in places where they are being persecuted. Of these, 60 percent are children.
Even after the conclusion of IDOP, organizations such as ICC encourage all Christians to ¡®Get Informed¡¯, ¡®Support¡¯, ¡®Pray¡¯, and ¡®Get Involved¡¯ for the Persecuted Church and to "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:3).