(Photo: AP Images/Alessandro Fucarini)
Open Doors USA, a persecution watchdog organization, is urging Christians to pray during this year's Ramadan, which will be observed by millions of Muslims around the world.
"During the season of Ramadan we need to lift up in prayer our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in Islamic-dominated nations; strengthening them, empowering them, comforting them and encouraging them. Also, pray for Muslims. There are millions of Muslims who have never experienced real peace and joy in knowing a loving God and having Jesus as their Savior," said Open Doors USA Director of Ministries Michele Miller in a statement Wednesday.
Ramadan, which is an annual fast and one of the five pillars, or basic acts, of Islam, runs this year from July 9 to August 7. During this period, Muslims are expected to practice humility and submissiveness to Allah by abstaining from eating, drinking, and any immoral activities from sunrise to sunset, choosing to focus on spiritual reflection instead.
Open Doors, which also called on Christians to participate during last year's Ramadan, is urging followers of Christ to pray in one of the names of Christ while using scripture on each day of the month-long period. For example, the group offered the passage in 1 John 2:1, which calls Jesus an "advocate": "But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One."
A number of countries on the persecution watchdog group's 2013 World Watch List, which features the world's most oppressive regimes and governments, happen to be Muslim-dominated nations, where Christians face danger due to their faith. During last year's Ramadan observance, Open Doors noted that those Christians often face heightened persecution because they do not fast or participate in the Islamic tradition.
"The religious atmosphere among Muslims rises dramatically, more than during any other month of the year. During Ramadan, Muslims usually read the Quran extensively, often very loudly in public places such as public transportation, at work and certainly at home. This is a holy month for Islam, so they are promised to gain more points from Allah when they do good works, hoping that some of the bad things they have done during the past year will be erased," a Christian leader in Egypt, who wasn't named, observed last summer.
"My heart is really broken for the millions of Muslims here in Egypt and around the world, who are seeking peace with God this month, trying so hard to do good works in an effort to somehow earn His favor and forgiveness. Although God is so near to those truly calling on His name, it brings tears to my eyes that most of my countrymen do not know that Jesus died and rose from the dead to give them freely, through simple faith, that peace with God they so long to have," the leader added.
Other Christian organizations, such as Mission Network News (MNN), have also launched campaigns for Christians to pray during Ramadan in the past, suggesting that many young people in Islamic countries like Iran are disillusioned with the faith and can be reached through Christ.