Please Pray for Persecuted Christians!
One Christian is killed every two hours. According to Open Doors USA that is the average for Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa. Not fined, imprisoned, or denied nourishment — all harsh examples of persecution in their own right. But killed. Murdered for being followers of Christ.
“We can document that 4,650 Nigerian Christians were killed during the previous reporting period for the 2022 World Watch List,” said Open Doors CEO David Curry earlier this year. “Those are just those we know about — and can report. They were tracked, targeted, raped, and killed… because they were Christians.”
My heart breaks writing those words. Every one of that number, which accounts for 80 percent of documented Christian killings worldwide, is a brother or sister in our spiritual family.
And the attacks continue. Just last week International Christian Concern reported that in late October Muslim Fulani militants gunned down more than 70 Christians in a central Nigerian village. Days before that a woman and her daughter were killed in an attack on a church worship service in northern Nigeria. And another three Christians were murdered by agents of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) on October 4.
Those are just a few reports from the last month. There are more. And they help show why Open Doors ranks Nigeria among the top 10 most dangerous places for Christians in its 2022 World Watch List. As Open Doors says, “Persecution in Nigeria is, simply put, brutally violent.”
Sadly, persecution is not limited to Nigeria. In recent months, I have highlighted challenges in Afghanistan, China, Iran, Kenya, and more — even Europe. And Open Doors lists countries across the globe among its World Watch List top 50.
All told, Open Doors reports that more than 360 million Christians live in places of significant persecution and discrimination. That number includes 5,898 documented cases of Christians killed for their faith and 4,765 unjustly detained or imprisoned last year. It’s also a number larger than the entire population of the United States!
Data points like that are daunting. And every one of them is a real person with family, friends, hopes, and dreams just like you and me. It can be overwhelming to think about. How can we help them?
Well, this weekend we have a special opportunity to stand with persecuted siblings in Christ in prayer. Sunday, November 6, is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, an annual rallying point for churches and ministries around the world.
Dr Thomas Schirrmacher of the World Evangelical Alliance, which launched this prayer event a quarter century ago, wrote, “While our persecuted brothers and sisters have many needs, their most urgent and basic request is for prayer.”
“In Hebrews 13:3, the Bible commands Christians to pray for those mistreated, as they themselves were mistreated,” he added. “In other words, the Bible tells us to pray for the persecuted with empathy and in a spirit of oneness. After all, if one member of the body suffers, we all suffer.”
To help churches lift up our brothers and sisters around the world in an informed way, groups like Open Doors and The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) have developed videos, bulletin inserts, and other resources to help.
In fact, VOM is actually focusing in on the crisis in Nigeria this year. In a short video freely available to churches VOM recounts the story of Rebecca, a Nigerian woman who saw her village attacked and her husband and son killed by Boko Haram. She then finds a Bible that had been a wedding present in the rubble and holds on to it as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
“This short film will inspire viewers to pray for those who trust in God’s Word as they live faithfully for Christ on the world’s most difficult and dangerous mission fields,” says VOM.
Similarly, Open Doors has many prayer points that may be used for intercession against general persecution and specific country-by-country troubles. For example, the group recently highlighted a prayer need for Nigerian pastor Daniel Umaru and his family after gunmen killed his sons, abducted his daughter, and left him and his wife in need of medical attention.
Open Doors also suggests in the World Watch List section on Nigeria, “The level of trauma among Christians is reaching crisis levels as men are killed, women are raped and abducted, and youths are left in despondency over the future. Pray for healing and hope. Pray that the Lord will continue to strengthen their faith and that Christians will continually be able to provide a reason to anyone that asks for the hope that is in them.”
On the subject of Nigeria, you might even pray about the efforts of Open Doors and others, including the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, to convince the Biden administration to return Nigeria to the State Department’s Country of Particular Concern (CPC) list for “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.” (See this IFA article titled “Christians at Risk as Nigeria Receives a Pass from U.S.” to explore this matter further.)
Whether we focus on the global epidemic of persecution against Christians or challenges in specific countries, may we be sure to take the time to pray in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ facing intense fire around the world.
And, as Open Doors writes in its resources for this day, “As we pray, we’re confident God will continue to do amazing things through His Church. Your prayers help our brothers and sisters know they’re not alone … and they’re not forgotten.”
Share your prayers and scriptures for persecuted Christians below.
Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena. Photo Credit: Canva.
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