(Photo: Reuters/Osman Orsal)
The persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA plans to launch a prayer campaign to coincide with Ramadan, the month of fasting in the Islamic calendar, next week.
"During the season of Ramadan let us first 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," said Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. "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."
Open Doors is offering a 30-day prayer calendar that will guide Christians through prayer points for persecuted Christians around the world. Day 19 on a past Ramadan Prayer Calendar read, for example, "For Takoosh, whose husband was killed by the Iranian government, Jesus' command to love her enemies was impossible. Hatred filled her heart … and then she prayed. From the depths of her heart love poured out releasing forgiveness."
Ramadan this year begins on July 20 and will last until Aug. 18. The community-wide annual fast is considered one of the five "pillars" of Islam and is a time when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual relations, and immoral activities from sunrise to sunset in order to focus on spiritual reflection.
But for Christians, Ramadan can be a difficult time, Open Doors states. Often persecution is heightened because Christians do not fast or observe the Islamic tradition. They can be targeted by their government, community and family.
"Muslims treat Ramadan with reverence," shared one Christian in an Islamic country as reported by Open Doors. "They tend to be more serious and sensitive about Islamic beliefs and practices. So during Ramadan we (Christians) need to be more careful in carrying out our church activities, especially in conducting seminars, training and other programs."
Open Doors says it offers the 30-day prayer calendar so that Christians in the West can pray for Muslim Background Believers living in countries where Christians don't have the freedom to worship. The calendar features truths from the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) while offering daily prayers for Muslims.
Nine of the top 10 countries on the Open Doors 2012 World Watch List of nations that persecute Christians have Islamic governments. Those nine countries are Afghanistan (2), Saudi Arabia (3), Somalia (4), Iran (5), Maldives (6), Uzbekistan (7), Yemen (8), Iraq (9) and Pakistan (10). North Korea tops the list.
Open Doors, which has served the persecuted church worldwide since 1955 when its founder Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into Eastern Europe for the first time, will also be sending out daily emails with stories from Muslim-dominated countries, prayer requests, and call to actions.
There are an estimated 100 million Christians worldwide that suffer from persecution in the form of interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ; millions more facing discrimination and alienation, according to Open Doors. The international organization supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers.