(Image: Saddleback PEACE via Christian Post)
Millions of Christians in thousands of churches around the world will be participating in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Sunday, said a spokesman for Open Doors International.
Paul Estabrooks, senior communications specialist for Open Doors International, told The Christian Post that the day is a time to focus on intercessory prayer on behalf of Christians worldwide who are experiencing an increasing amount of persecution.
Recent acts of persecution include last week’s violent attack by suspected Islamic extremists who threw a grenade into the home of the church guard of an East Africa Pentecostal Church in Kenya, killing an 8-year-old girl and another member of the church, according to news reports.
Christians in Egypt and Iran have also experienced heightened persecution in recent months. Twenty-seven protesters were killed in Cairo on Oct. 9, when Christian protesters clashed with military forces.
In Iran, despite conflicting media reports between Iranian and Western news agencies, Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani faces possible execution on charges that were first reported as apostasy and evangelizing Muslims.
IDOP is a day to remember these tragic events and other ongoing problems, organizers said.
“Our hope is that more and more people will become aware of how pervasive the problem of persecution is around the world for Christian brothers and sisters,” Estabrooks said. “There are estimated to be 100 million people that live within the parameters of some kind of persecution whether it be mild, medium, or hot. Jesus said in Luke 6:22, ‘You are blessed when men hate you and they exclude you when they insult you and reject you because of my name.’”
Estabrooks said that Open Doors works mostly in areas in the world where the most and worst forms of persecution take place. The types of persecution include imprisonment, torture, martyrdom, and family isolation and separation, he said.
“Another reason for the persecution is that the church is also growing quickly in other parts of the world. The church is growing fast in India, China, and even in places like Iran. Some of the persecution comes as the result of reaction to that growth, especially in the Muslim world,” he said.
“In those countries the first level of persecution is not governmental or society. It’s usually your own immediate family. Because of these shame-honor societies, if you change your faith you shame and dishonor your family and they will react with different levels of violence, sometimes even kill you,” he explained. “So, the family level is the first level they have to deal with and then society and governmental levels.”
Estabrooks said that the first thing Christian leaders in persecuted parts of the world ask for is prayer.
“Around the world there are many, many brothers and sisters that need our prayers because of this persecution they are going through,” he said. “Our goal with IDOP is to raise the awareness level.”
“It’s a day to focus on the persecuted church. We would be happier if people prayed for the persecuted church every day,” he added.
Open Doors USA lists North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Laos as the top 10 persecutors of 2011.
Correction: Monday, November 14, 2011:
An article on Sunday, November 13, 2011, about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church incorrectly identified Paul Estabrooks as the senior communications specialist for Open Doors USA. He is the spokesman for Open Doors International.