Int'l Day of Prayer: Persecuted Christians Pray for Their Attackers
Christians from around the world shared their stories of persecution during the International Day of Prayer on Sunday, offering prayers for both victims and perpetrators of terrorism.
Persecution watchdog Open Doors featured several Christian witnesses on its IDOP live webcast and fielded questions from social media regarding the Christian participants.
Open Doors President David Curry said Christian persecution around the world has increased this year, with international crises ranging from the continued conquests of the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria; to Boko Haram's rampages in Nigeria; the oppression of religious minorities in North Korea, and a host of other cases.
One Christian woman, an educator from Kenya identified as Gladys, spoke of the horrific attacks at a college in Garissa back in April, where Islamic militants killed close to 150 Christian students.
Gladys, who used to live in the city, said that after the massacre "there was anger, there was fear, it caused people to move out of Garissa." She had also suffered the loss of her husband, Benjamin, who was killed in a separate attack by a Muslim mob. It is not yet known who the attackers were, but they are believed to have been linked to the al-Shabaab terror group, which killed the Christian students.
Benjamin and a Christian pastor he was walking with were attacked by the mob, hacked to death with machetes, and burned beyond recognition.
After learning what happened to her husband, Gladys revealed: "The first thing I did, I remember getting into the living room of my house, kneeling at the coffee table, and crying, 'God forgive them.' That was the first thing I said, and I kept on insisting on that — 'Forgive them, Father, forgive them.'"
She said that praying to God to forgive those who killed her husband "was tough, it was not easy."
"But one thing I had to allow myself to do, I had to allow God to deal with me in pain. The thing that I felt reaching out to me was love. And love these people who had done this. I tried very hard to think about this in my mind, but my heart was leading totally toward love," she added.
Gladys noted that there is a division between Christians and Muslims in Kenya, but said that Christians are encouraged to reach out to others, because "Christ is about love."
"If you keep quiet, people will not hear about this love," she said.
The Kenyan educator said there are many ways for Christians in the West to help during such tragedies — from donating money to causes, to writing letters of encouragement to people who are suffering. She also said some people feel called by God to become missionaries and go to help on the ground, but emphasized that prayer is needed for such a big decision.
"The first thing to do is seek the Lord, ask where He wants you to go."
As for relations between Christians and Muslims, Gladys said, "We don't need to fear Muslims. What's so different between me and a Muslim? The blood I have is the same color as the Muslim."
She added that Christians and Muslims do not believe in the same things, but said that the barrier can be broken down.
"You want a person to come and understand who Jesus is? Start praying. God breaks down those barriers that are making this person not really see. You do not need to fear a Muslim," she asserted.
Curry also spoke with a persecuted believer from Iraq, whose name wasn't shared due to safety concerns. The woman said that amid all the persecution Christians have faced due to the rise of IS, they are holding onto God, because they have nothing else left.
The woman, who is working and ministering in the region, commented on conditions for Christians in Iraq, and said that things have gotten worse since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that brought down the government of dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Before 2003, there was dictatorship, but we were living in peace. After 2013, we all became targeted there," she said.
The Christian woman explained that she now lives in fear for her life because of the Islamic State, "especially after hearing the stories of how severely they kill people, and how they kidnapped women."
She said that she is afraid of what will happen if she is threatened to become a Muslim or be beheaded. She vowed that despite her fears, she will not renounce her faith.
The webcast also put the spotlight on persecuted believers in North Korea, which has continuously ranked as the very worst country for Christians on Open Doors' World Watch List.
A North Korean believer, whose voice and face were obscured, said that persecution in the country is greater now than ever before.
Boko Haram's slaughter of Christians, and other people in Nigeria, was also discussed.
Kristin Wright, director of advocacy for Open Doors, told The Christian Post during an interview in October that she had met with 10 of the fathers of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014.
"One of the fathers, when asked, 'Where do you think your daughter might be?' he said, 'She is the hands of God.' It was a sentiment that was echoed by all of the parents that I met with. They are not going to think about any other reality," Wright told CP.
The full webcast, including other information about how Christians can get involved and help persecuted believers, is available on the Open Doors website.