With evidence revealing that the persecution of Christians is on the rise, there’s a call for Christians to pray for those suffering for their faith.
A coalition of Christian organisations is mobilising prayer for the 23rd International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). In the UK and Ireland the date has been set for November 17, but Christians are being encouraged to set aside the whole month for prayer.
Some 80 per cent of those persecuted for their faith around the world today are Christians. And the indications are that violence against Christians is on the rise [see Notes to editor].
UK-based Release International, which supports persecuted Christians around the world, has made Pakistan its focus for prayer for 2019. Release has prepared a PowerPoint presentation for use in churches, and video resources.
Most Christians in Pakistan are poor, illiterate and vulnerable to abuse, especially young women and girls. Believers face discrimination in education, employment and the law.
Pakistan’s blasphemy laws have been used to make false allegations against Christians, often to settle personal vendettas.
Release has helped Christians who have been falsely accused of blasphemy and given support to families of prisoners like Asia Bibi, a mother who spent 10 years in jail on charges that were later thrown out by the Supreme Court.
Speaking recently from Canada, the 54-year old called on Christians everywhere to remember others behind bars.
In a YouTube video, she says: ‘I, Asia Bibi, believe in Jesus. My belief is strong. I never let my belief weaken.’
And Asia gave this a message to the world: ‘Stay true to your beliefs. Even if you have to face the sword, please hold firm to your faith. Even if you have to sacrifice everything.’
Asia was picking berries in a field when she brought water for her Muslim co-workers to drink. But they refused, calling her and her water unclean, because she was a Christian. They went on to accuse her of committing blasphemy against the prophet Mohammed.
The Supreme Court ruled the charges against Asia were false and malicious, and threw out the case – after eight years on death row. You can read more of Asia’s story here
Release has long campaigned for Pakistan’s blasphemy laws to be repealed. Just the accusation of blasphemy can incite extremists to commit murder. Release is working with partners in the country to support and care for prisoners of faith.
‘Yet despite the persecution in Pakistan, the church remains strong in faith and hope,’ says Release CEO Paul Robinson. ‘Will your church support them in that? Release is calling on the church in the UK and Ireland to pray on November 17 or, even better, to commit the whole month to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.’
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted church (IDOP) began in 1996, when a coalition of Christian organisations recognised that more Christians had died for their faith in the 20thcentury than in all the centuries combined since the Church began. They decided that the global Church must no longer be silent about the increasing persecution of Christians.
Release has produced video, PowerPoint and other resources as a focus for prayer for IDOP on November 17, which can be downloaded here
Through its international network of missions Release International is active in more than 30 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.