As Christians from around the world are facing persecution in unprecedented numbers, churches and Christian organizations will hold special prayers for the protection of Christians in persecuted countries on Sunday to mark the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church 2016.
"At no other time in history have Christians been as persecuted as they are now," says Dr. Vernon Brewer, president and founder of the Christian humanitarian organization World Help, in a statement. "Some estimate more Christians have been martyred for their faith in the past century than in the previous 19 combined, and persecution in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia seems to be on the rise."
"From merciless killing, destruction of churches and buildings, to being forced to denounce Jesus as their Lord, Christians are being stripped of the ability to follow Christ in safety and freedom," says Open Doors USA on its website, urging Christians to join them in praying for the persecuted church on Sunday.
Brewer draws attention to the IDOP coming just two days before the U.S. Election Day.
"Our next president is going to inherit a world that is as broken as it has ever been," Brewer says. "He or she will face the greatest refugee crisis we have seen since World War II, the threat of global terrorism, and sweeping persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians, in nations like Iraq, the place where Christianity was born. Therefore, we also pray this may be a time when we, as a nation, return to our Christian roots— both in policy and practice — and stand for all who are oppressed and in need. May we continue to be a source of hope and a blessing for the world."
Persecution of Christians is getting worse as up to 75 percent of the world's population now lives without religious freedom, European Union's special envoy Jan Figel said last month. "Therefore, those who believe that humanity should prevail can, and should do, much more for freedom of religion," Figel told Premier Christian Radio. "We are witnesses of a systematic and mass murder, martyrdom and persecution on several territories."
The Voice of the Martyrs has made a video for the IDOP 2016, featuring the testimony of Hannelie, who along with her family left their home in South Africa to serve on the frontlines in Afghanistan. The group has made the video available for free download.
International Christian Concern, which also has made a resource kit for IDOP 2016, says, "The number one thing persecuted Christians ask for is prayer."
ICC is urging Christians "to lead those around you, whether at church or coffee, to pray for those suffering for the Christian faith."
According to Open Doors, more than 7,000 Christians were killed for their faith between Nov. 1, 2014, and Oct. 31, 2015. The group also found that over 3,000 more Christians were killed for faith-related reasons during its reporting period for the 2016 World Watch List than it found during the reporting period for the 2015 report. Additionally, over 2,400 churches were attacked, damaged or destroyed during the reporting period, which is more than double the number from last year.