This year marks the most violence against the Christian community leading up to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church within the past seven years, said an advocate for persecuted Christians.
"I would say candidly that in my whole tenure at Open Doors this is a year when more is taking place on the weekend of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church than at any other time," said Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA.
This Sunday marks the 15th year of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church – one of the largest prayer events in the world. Half a million churches in 150 countries are expected to participate in the event.
In particular, Moeller highlighted that Iraq is "gripped by terrorism against the Christian community." On Wednesday, a series of roadside bombs exploded in Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad, killing five people. The attack followed a massacre at a Catholic church in downtown Baghdad less than two weeks earlier. The church rampage killed 56 believers, making it the deadliest attack against the Iraqi Assyrian Christian community since Islamic extremists began targeting them in 2003.
"This is the time for us to be on our knees and pray that God would intervene and protect despite the weakness of the government of Iraq," remarked Moeller, "for God to use the government to protect the Christian community there."
IDOP is an initiative that seeks to encourage and strengthen the persecuted Church and also awaken churches in places where there is no persecution. The Bible verses for IDOP are: "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering" (Hebrews 13:3) and "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry" (Psalm 10:1).
"Despite some threats and cause for concern, Christians in America still enjoy a degree of religious freedom that is unknown in many parts of the world," commented Galen Carey, the director of government affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals. "We need to give thanks for our blessings, pray for our suffering sisters and brothers in other countries, and use our influence to protect the persecuted and promote religious freedom for all people."
According to Open Doors, the number one request by persecuted Christians is prayers for their safety and the stability of their country. Moeller shared that he spoke to Open Doors co-workers in an Asian country that cannot be identified because of intense persecution against Christian there. The co-worker said even though the Christians in that country are completely isolated from Christians in the rest of the world, they know that this Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church and that millions of Christians will be specifically be naming their country in prayers.
"The prayer that they pray is that the prayers of God's people around the world will bring down their totalitarian regime and bring real freedom to their country," said Moeller.
This year's Top Ten World Watch List, which ranks countries with the worst Christian persecution, is:
1. North Korea
3. Saudi Arabia
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