Only one year remains before the much-anticipated 2008 Summer Olympics Games in Beijing and Christians worldwide have kicked off a yearlong prayer campaign for a spiritual harvest in China.
While the Chinese government threw a huge festival on Wednesday – one year ahead of the Aug. 8, 2008 games – Christians in nations across the world were on their knees praying for persecuted Christians in China and for a spiritual revival in the country.
"The Beijing Olympics is only one year away; so we need to blanket Chinese believers right now with our prayers," urged Dr. Carl Moeller, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, in a statement one day before the official start of Open Doors' "One Minute/One Year/One Country" prayer campaign.
As part of the campaign, participants began praying Wednesday for at least one minute at 8 p.m. Beijing time (8 a.m. EDT) and will continue to do so every day until the 2008 Summer Olympics with the hope of changing the spiritual state of China, improving religious freedom and freeing imprisoned Christian leaders.
"Already there are reports of increased pressure on house church leaders and the expulsion of foreign missionaries," noted Moeller, referring to the more than 100 foreign missionaries that were expelled from China between April and June as a result of a government-sponsored campaign to prevent evangelization during the Olympics.
"And the raids and arrest are expected to increase as the start of the Olympic draws closer. China wants to weed out the potential 'troublemakers' and put its best foot forward to the world. And Christians could be caught in the crossfire," said Moeller.
Communist China has been severely criticized for its human rights and religious freedom violations, especially as it prepares to host the Olympics, which will be held Aug. 8-24, 2008.
Among the top concerns in China for Christians are the persecution of unregistered house churches and the forced return of North Korean refugees in China who face torture and even death upon repatriation.
Earlier this year, Moeller said the Beijing Olympics presents "an awesome opportunity for believers in the West to unite in prayer … not only for our fellow Christians but for the communist government of China to grant religious freedom to all worshippers, especially house church members."
"And an opportunity to pray for those dedicated Christians who are being persecuted," he added.
"I encourage you to sign up now for the One Minute/One Year/One Country campaign on our website," urged Moeller in his statement Tuesday.
"Tell others about the campaign. Together we can make a difference. And prayer is the No. 1 way," he added.
Believers who participate in the campaign will receive a monthly prayer email calendar and also a daily email brief to update them on the situation in China and offer specific prayer requests.
On the Web: Online clock with current time in Beijing, China, at www.opendoorsusa.org