(Photo: REUTERS / David McNew)
The persecution of Christians in the 10/40 Window has increased by 400 percent over the last 10 years, which is why Gospel for Asia (GFA) is calling on Christians to spend an entire day, not just a few minutes, fasting and praying for the persecuted church.
"Americans who have not experienced persecution do not fully understand what it means to have their lives threatened, homes destroyed, rights violated and loved ones imprisoned, all because of embracing faith in Jesus Christ," said K. P. Yohannan, GFA founder and president, in a statement. "In the 14 countries we serve, persecution of this sort has become a normal way of life, especially for those directly involved in mission work."
The 10/40 Window is a section of the world – between 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator – that encompasses those nations that have been least reached with the Gospel message. These nations include China, India, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Sudan and Nigeria, just to name a few.
This Sunday, Nov. 4, churches across the U.S. will take time to pray for persecuted believers around the world as a part of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), but GFA says a simple "nod" toward the problem isn't enough.
The organization hopes churches will do more than say a brief prayer as a part of their morning worship services on Sunday. Instead, GFA wants them to intercede for their Christian brothers and sisters for the entire length of their services. The organization is also encouraging those who are physically able to fast for the persecuted church, and, if possible, take a day off from work to spend time in prayer.
"Suffering is forced upon our brothers and sisters. To those of us not experiencing the normality of persecution, Jesus is asking that we participate willingly in their suffering and chains," said Yohannan. "Through our prayers, we can be agents of God's divine healing, hope and help."
More than 500,000 churches in 150 countries will likely participate in the prayer effort, according to an article written by Godfrey Yogaraja, executive director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, on the IDOP website.
"Every time I ask a persecuted Christian what we can do for them, the answer is always the same: 'please pray for us,'" writes Yogaraja.
This year has been a challenge for many Christians around the globe who live under the constant threat of persecution. On Easter Sunday, dozens of people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives just outside a Nigerian church. In China, house churches have continued to face government persecution and Christians have been arrested and abused for worshiping. In other countries, some believers have been killed or had their houses burned down.
But despite the many heartbreaking stories, positive reports have also come out of some of the most volatile nations.
A Christian leader in Egypt who was putting together a massive evangelistic festival that was expected to draw 50,000 people, for example, recently told Open Doors USA about the blessings and struggle his nation has faced. Despite the increased levels of Christian persecution in his country since a Muslim Brotherhood president was elected to office several months ago, the leader still seems optimistic.
"These are, indeed, difficult times we live in today. With all the political, social, economic and religious challenges we have faced here in the last few months, all Egyptians are left with many uncertainties and concerns about the present and future," the leader said.
"But we Christians of Egypt are realizing more and more every day that God is visiting our country with a powerful divine presence, and that the things He is going to do in our country are beyond imagination. This is what we pray for and this is what we are waiting in faith to see happening."
Although the IDOP event is scheduled for Sunday, GFA has emphasized that those who cannot participate on Nov. 4 are invited to do so any other day they are available.