(Photo: AP Photo / Hussein Malla)
Ramadan, the 30-day annual Islamic fast which begins next week, may expose Christians to an increased risk of persecution in Muslim-majority countries and believers in the West should pray for them, Open Doors USA said as it launched a Ramadan Prayer Calendar.
“Ramadan is a time when Christians are especially isolated in some Muslim-dominated countries,” said Open Doors USA President Dr. Carl Moeller in a statement. “This is why it is so important for us to unite in prayer for persecuted Christians throughout the world.”
To help Christians pray for the persecuted, Open Doors has prepared a Ramadan Prayer Calendar having multiple prayer points and designed to help believers pray for vulnerable Christians around the world during the 30 days.
The group, 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 send out daily emails with a story from a Muslim-dominated country, prayer requests, and a call to action. Open Doors has provided a link on its website for believers to register.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which begins August 1 this year, is the time when most Muslims fast from dawn until dusk, seeking to shed their sins through acts of restraint as they believe this is a time of purification accomplished through good deeds and self-control.
However, “the observance of Ramadan could increase pressure on believers,” Moeller said.
Ramadan brings with it violence at times. Some governments in Islamic countries forcibly enforce observance of Ramadan and extremist groups increase their vigilante activities against both non-abiding Muslims and non-Muslims, and tend to become more intolerant toward them.
During the last Ramadan, an imam in Egypt in Shimi village near Giza called for “jihad” against Christians leading to persecution of Copts, according to the Assyrian International News Agency. In 2009, an American service member in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul was shot at by an Afghan police officer for drinking water publicly during Ramadan, The Associated Press had reported.
Particularly this year, when a wave of uprisings is underway in parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the threat of increased violence is real as protests are expected to intensify. Especially in Egypt, where Copts have come under attack following the fall of the Hosni Mubarak regime in February, more violence against Christians is expected.
Pakistan has beefed up security ahead of Ramadan apprehending tensions around mosques and other places of worship, according to The Nation, a Pakistani newspaper.
Open Doors has found that Christian persecution has been most severe in Muslim-majority countries. Eight of the top 10 countries on its 2011 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians have Islamic governments: Iran (2), Afghanistan (3), Saudi Arabia (4), Somalia (5), Maldives (6), Yemen (7), Iraq (8) and Uzbekistan (9). Additionally, 38 of the top 50 on the list are Muslim-dominated societies.
Moreover, less than two weeks after the end of Ramadan, Sept. 11 will mark the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks against America.
“It is vital that we pray for Christians and Muslims during this anniversary,” said Michele Miller, director of Open Doors USA Ministries, in the statement. “Prayer has changed the hearts of millions, so it is also important to pray past the month of Ramadan.”
According to Open Doors, an estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.