When Gia Chacón’s heart began to break for persecuted Christians at a young age, she knew God was calling her to be a part of the solution.
This prompted her to launch her nonprofit organization to host the first-ever march to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Church last year in California attended by hundreds.
As estimates suggest that over 340 million Christians live in areas where they face persecution for their faith, another march for the persecuted will be held this summer in Washington, D.C.
“I saw a need for [persecuted Christians] to have a voice, and I believed that if God laid it on my heart, if He broke my heart, then as part of that was the responsibility to do something,” Chacón told The Christian Post in an interview.
Chacón traveled to Egypt with her grandmother’s nonprofit as a little girl and remembers being touched by seeing the bold faith of Egyptian Christians.
When she traveled to Egypt again at age 20, she decided to devote her life to serving the persecuted Church after witnessing the faith of those who would willingly die for Christ.
“People my age and even younger were willing to lay down their lives for Christ and risk everything for the Gospel, and that impacted me so deeply,” she shared. “So actually, while in Egypt, I made the decision to give my life totally over to the service of Christ.”
Through her travels to South America, the Middle East and beyond, Chacón has heard the stories of refugees and the atrocities they face for refusing to renounce faith in Jesus Christ.
Chacón, 24, felt compelled to do something more and prayed that God would allow her to live a “new creation life.”
She quit what she believed was her dream job and a life that felt empty to immerse herself fully in service of persecuted Christians, which is a rising international crisis.
“As I began researching, I realized that not only is Christian persecution growing every single year, … but also that Christians are the most persecuted religious group. And I never realized this before, “ she shared.
What prompted her to truly devote her life to this work was seeing a need to raise awareness and reach people her age and younger to join the fight for persecuted believers.
This led her to launch For the Martyrs in December of 2019, a nonprofit that provides aid through food, clothing, transportation and Bibles and advocates for persecuted Christians since the issue is “often overlooked by communities of faith” and ignored by the media, she said.
So many American Christians have no idea Christian persecution is rampant in other parts of the world, she said. This is why she seeks to raise awareness through For the Martyrs and a widespread social media presence that receives over 2 million impressions weekly across platforms.
Chacón’s humanitarian efforts and advocacy have led her from her home in Orange County, California, to advocate worldwide. She even went to the White House in 2019 to speak with top officials to discuss religious liberty issues and shed light on the persecuted Church and has been a part of multiple phone calls with President Donald Trump.
“I think that knowledge inspires action, so the more people who are aware of Christian persecution, the more can be done to aid the suffering faithful,” she said.
For the Martyrs will host its second annual March for the Martyrs event in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Sept. 25.
For the Martyrs held the first-ever march for the persecuted church in Long Beach, California, on Sept. 5, 2020, which drew a crowd of hundreds across multiple Christian denominations to stand in solidarity for the persecuted church around the world.
“Here in the United States, we march for so many amazing causes,” Chacón said.
“We march for life. We march for our rights. We march when we stand up for injustices. But there’s never been a large-scale march to stand in solidarity of the persecuted Church around the world,” she continued.
“So we at For the Martyrs, spearheaded by myself, decided if we host a march to stand in solidarity with the persecuted Church, that will help not only raise awareness but also bring people into this movement for the persecuted Church to give them a tangible way to make a difference in the lives of the persecuted.”
In the past year, over 340 million Christians live in areas where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination, international advocacy group Open Doors USA reported in its 2021 World Watch List.
Open Doors also found that 4,761 believers were killed for their faith, 4,488 churches or Christian buildings were attacked and thousands of Christians were detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's 2021 report released last month warned that some countries had experienced a rise in persecution for religious minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She said the mandates that forced most churches to shut down in-person worship during the pandemic made the issue of persecution more real for American Christians and gave them a small taste of what it would be like to face persecution. Moving forward, she believes Christian persecution will become more of a leading issue for American believers.
“The Church in America eventually is going to have to make a decision of how willing we are to stand for our faith, to stand for our beliefs, to stand for the Gospel truth. …,” the activist said.
“I do believe that Christian persecution is going to be a bigger issue that we’re going to have to bring to a global platform, and I believe that the Church has a huge responsibility in protecting Christianity in not only protecting our freedoms here but in the freedom and the safety and the livelihood of our brothers and sisters around the world. And I think that we have more power than we believe.”
She feels the Church in the U.S. has an "obligation" to become more aware and active in advocating for their persecuted brothers and sisters.
“It is important that we as the church in America are using our platforms, our freedoms, our voices, to not only know that our brothers and sisters are suffering, but we have an obligation to speak on behalf of them and be our voice,” Chacón said.
Although Chacón said her Catholic faith is the “guiding principle” for everything she does in life, For the Martyrs is non-denominational by design to unify the body of Christ around one issue.
“When you’re persecuted, they don’t ask you what denomination you are. They’re not going to persecute you more if you’re Catholic or you’re Protestant or whatever denomination you adhere to,” Chacón assured. “When you’re persecuted, you’re dying because of your belief in Christ, because of your allegiance to the Cross.”
For Christians who seek to become involved in solving the persecution crisis, Chacón asks them to pray for the strength, boldness and protection for the persecuted. She also encourages churches to start prayer groups to raise awareness and begin the conversation about Christian persecution.
“A lot of times when we hear about Christian persecution, especially as young people, we think, 'Well, nobody is talking about this, what can I possibly do?'” she said.
“'How can I possibly make a difference?' But we have so much power, especially as young people, especially in the age of social media, especially as Christians living in the United States to make an impact, a global impact. So, it starts with movement. And the more people that join the movement and unify around this issue, we'll see that this issue will be brought to the forefront of the fight for human rights."
Since its inception, For the Martyrs has raised thousands of dollars for humanitarian aid, provided grocery relief to refugees in Jordan, provided transportation to orphans in Africa and funded hundreds of Bibles for restricted nations.