Christians in over 100 countries observed the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Sunday by joining together to intercede for those who daily suffer for their faith in Jesus Christ.
“Scripture affirms that the Christian life is a call to glory through suffering,” says the World Evangelical Alliance of this day. “Accordingly, on a daily basis Christians around the world face persecution in various forms, including discrimination, physical assaults, violence and even death.”
“The Bible in Hebrews 13:3 command Christians to pray for those suffering as if they themselves were suffering,” it outlines. “In other words, the Bible calls us to not only remember those who suffer but also to identify with them in their suffering.”
2016 marks the 20th year of the coordinated Day of Prayer, which was launched in 1996 following widespread interest in an initial “Day of Prayer for Iran” sparked by the murder of a Christian leader in the country.
In realizing the extent of Christian persecution around the globe, various organizations now known as the Religious Liberty Commission released a statement determining to end “our own silence in the face of the suffering of all those persecuted for their religious faith.”
Now, Christians are praying for the persecuted in nations around the world on the first and second Sundays of every November. Resources for churches have been made available for free, including prayer points, devotionals, Sunday School materials, hymn sheets and more.
Release International created a video highlighting persecution in the South Asian County of Sri Lanka.
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“Right now, we are considered almost like an underground church,” says Godfrey Yogarjah, the general secretary of the National Christian Evangelical Alliance in Sri Lanka, in the footage.
“The last few years, we’ve had churches attacked. We’ve had local government authorities closing down churches,” he explains. “We’ve had extremist groups like the Bodu Bala Sena, which is comprised of extremist Buddhist monks that have gone around attacking churches, closing churches, and sometimes the police have accompanied them.”
The organization also released a video earlier this year sharing the testimony of a persecuted pastor in Laos.
“The police screamed at me and got angry with me, and tried to force me to deny Jesus,” the pastor, only identified as Mac, shared. “In my mind, I was praying to God, ‘God, please forgive these police and please work in their hearts.’”
“The police said to me firstly, ‘Will you stop believing in Jesus?’ Secondly, ‘Do you want to die?’ Thirdly, ‘Do you want to go to jail?’ And fourthly they told me, ‘After you go back from the police offices here, you have to go to every church and tell them to stop believing in Jesus,’” he recalled.
The pastor answered resolutely that he was not afraid to go to jail or to die, and that he would not deny Jesus.
In another video released by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a church leader named Firouz in Iran urges Christians to pray for the enemies of the Church who are seeking to destroy it.
“I think and I believe that they need our prayers,” he says.
Open Doors USA also urged Christians not to just pray for the persecuted Church, but to pray with them—that when times of trials come they will stand strong for Christ, declaring even in the face of death that Jesus is Lord.