Christians around the world will observe the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) either this Sunday or on Nov. 10, but those being persecuted for their faith want other believers to not just pray for them, but pray with them.
Jerry Dykstra, director of media relations for Open Doors USA, told The Christian Post that prayer is the "number one request" of believers in persecuted nations, and even those who are among the persecuted are praying for Christians in other nations.
Christians in Nigeria, for example, pray for other persecuted believers in the Middle East, said Dykstra. A century ago about 20 percent of the population in North Africa and the Middle East was Christian, according to Open Doors, but Christ-followers now make up only four percent of the population there due to persecution.
"The point is that in some of our lifetimes we could see almost no Christians in the Middle East," said Dykstra. "It's possible...Are we going to let this happen on our watch?"
Gospel for Asia (GFA) reports that more than 14,000 people around the world are martyred for their faith each year, though that number only includes reported cases. Christians who aren't killed are sometimes beaten, deprived of food or imprisoned. Believing children are sometimes rejected by their families or turned away from their schools. In other cases, the homes of believers are burned down by their persecutors.
"Jesus promised his church that there would be persecution and tribulations," GFA Founder and President K.P. Yohannan said in a statement. "Tens of thousands of believers, missionaries and pastors are experiencing the reality of persecution on a daily basis. Yet they recognize the honor it is to suffer for his sake. May the Lord lead us with his burden to intercede for these brothers and sisters."
More than half a million churches in 150 nations participate in the IDOP each year, according to the event's website.
Some organizations are encouraging believers to observe the day of prayer on Nov. 3 and others on Nov. 10, but Dykstra says Christians need to also make an effort to pray for persecuted believers year-round. American believers can also offer their support, he says, by speaking up about persecution to their representatives in Washington, by getting involved with campaigns by Open Doors and other like-minded organizations and by becoming more mindful of the global church.
"Become a global Christian…Be informed about the status of Christians wherever they are. When you read, watch or listen to the world news, think about how believers are being attacked," said Dykstra.
Each year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted for their faith. North Korea has held the top spot on the list for the last 11 years, as Christians there are often arrested, tortured, forced into labor camps or executed under the Communist regime.
Other nations in the World Watch List's top 10 are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.