WASHINGTON — Five different churches in the nation's capital united together Saturday night to pray for Christians being persecuted all over the world and heard first-hand accounts about what it's like to be tortured, shackled and put on death row because of one's faith in Christ.
Persecuted Christians from the Middle East and Africa gave their testimonies at the third-annual night of prayer for the persecuted church organized by the organization One Body.
The event was hosted by Christ Our Shepherd Church and featured participants from Chinatown Community Church, Grace DC, National Community Church and The Church of the Resurrection. The gathering also featured worship music by the Church of the Advent worship band.
Giving her testimony at this year's gathering was Mariam Ibraheem, the Sudanese Christian mother who made headlines in 2014 when was sentenced to death for apostasy because she was married to a Christian man, who was also an American citizen.
Ibrahim, who grew up with her Christian mother, was imprisoned along with her baby son and was even forced to give birth to her baby daughter while chained to a Sudanese prison floor. She was eventually released by the order of an appeals court after spending months in detention. She now lives in Virginia.
"[Under Sharia law,] if you are a Christian woman and you married a Muslim man, your kids have to be a Muslim like their father," Ibrahim told the audience of around 250 people. "That's why I was charged with apostasy and adultery because I married a Christian man."
"My story did not start when I was sentenced or when I was in prison," she added. "It is the story of many men and women who are Christians in Islamic countries and end up being sentenced to death, beheaded, [or receive] 100 lashes for adultery."
Getaneh Getaneh, an evangelist from Ethiopia who was arrested at least five times and tortured for sharing the gospel during the reign of Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam, told the audience of the time when he was arrested and tortured after he baptized some converts in a river.
"They killed the three who converted from Islam and they were asking them to return to Islam and they refused," he explained. "They killed them and my turn came, and they took me to empty room, and hang me upside down, and started to put boiling oil on my feet. It's painful. Then, I asked God to take me home. I can't resist the pain."
"To tell you the truth, this is the word I heard from God, still it is clear on my ear — 'Son, it is not time for you to come home. Tell these people who persecuted you how God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.'"
Getaneh said that he did as God asked.
"Then, two of my persecutors, they think I am crazy when I tell them that God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son," Getaneh explained. "They put me down and they are asking me again and again. I told them the same thing. 'God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.' Two of them they gave their life to the Lord."
Getaneh reminded the audience that he is not alone when it comes to being persecuted.
"There are so many and persecution is going around the world and I ask this evening to pray for us and for others enduring persecution," he added.
Pastor Freddy Thomas, the senior pastor at Philadelphia House of Worship Community Church and the head of an Indian church planting initiative called Redemption Christian Ministries, told the audience that although persecution in India is on the rise, more and more people are coming to Christ.
"I remember when there was an outbreak of persecution in Kandhamal, I received a phone call that believers had gone to the pastor's house in the area with only their clothes on their body. Their huts have been burned, their field has been burned and their harvest had been burned. I was so afraid that day," Thomas stated. "I was afraid that these guys would deny Jesus and leave the faith. ... But not even one person left Jesus, not even one person went back to Hinduism."
"In fact, Christianity grew and is growing more ever since outbreak of persecution in Kandhamal," Thomas continued.
Thomas then recited 2 Timothy 3:12, which states: "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Loay Mikhael, head of the foreign relations committee of the Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council, and deputy Chairman of the Soraya Charity Organization in Nineveh, spoke about the persecution facing Christians in Iraq and explained that the non-Muslim jizya tax that Christians had to pay the Islamic State in order to live oftentimes meant that they had to give up more than money.
He told of one Christian family that was unable to flee the Nineveh Plain before the brutal terrorist group took over that was forced to give up both their son and daughter to the jihadis as jizya payments.
After each speaker presented the situations facing Christians in his or her country, the room full of Christians huddled in groups of three or four to pray for the Christians facing persecution in those countries and to pray for the persecutors.
A human rights advocate with One Body, who will not be named in this report, told The Christian Post that the organization is hopeful that the prayer night will help lead to more millennials taking action to help their persecuted brothers and sisters across the globe.
"The movement to protect religious freedom internationally began as a prayer movement in the 1990s with the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church," the One Body spokesperson told CP. "An estimated 100,000 churches across America prayed for the persecuted Church. Their prayers and political engagement lead to the passage of the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act. Today, the Church is facing genocide in places like Iraq and Syria and many on the front lines are millennials. We hope that this event will give a new generation of American Christians ways to support their peers and strengthen freedom of conscience for all."
At the end of the event, attendees were given the opportunity to sign up with a number of different human rights organizations that are on the frontlines of helping persecuted Christians overseas, including In Defense of Christians, 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative, the Institute on Religion & Democracy, Coptic Solidarity and Watch & Pray Ministries.