Saddleback Church to Host Forum on Persecuted Church

In observance of this year's International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, the Southern California megachurch of popular preacher Rick Warren will host a forum on the persecuted church with some of the nation's foremost experts on the subject.

According to an announcement, Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., will moderate the discussion on religious freedom and persecution this coming Sunday as millions worldwide unite for prayer. The civil forum will feature Michael Cromartie, vice-president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom; Dr. Carl Moeller, president/CEO of Open Doors USA; and Pastor Dishan Wickramaratne, senior pastor of the 8,000-member Peoples Church in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Warren says Saddleback, in observance of IDOP, wants to remind people that the Church is still suffering around the world.

"While most nations hold religious freedom as an ideal, religious persecution is widespread," says the pastor and best-selling author .

"More than one half of the world's population lives in places that severely restrict or prohibit the freedom to practice one's religious beliefs," he adds. "[O]ur prayers and our love are essential to our brothers and sisters who suffer that persecution."

The International Day of Prayer is an annual event in which Christians around the world pray for their brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer because of their faith. According to persecution watchdog group Open Doors USA, an estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer from some form of persecution for their faith in Christ – ranging from interrogation to death. Millions more face discrimination and alienation.

With an estimated half a million churches in 150 countries having participated in the event in 2008 alone, IDOP has become one of the largest prayer events in the world.

On Sunday, as millions pray, the featured guests for Saddleback's forum will discuss the status of religious persecution worldwide and how the Church is being persecuted around the world. Sri Lankan Pastor Dishan, furthermore, will share how his own church has suffered at the hands of other religious leaders and under the government in Sri Lanka.

The forum is the fifth in a series of civil forums featuring high-profile figures discussing current significant, but sensitive issues. Previous civil discourse focused on the issues of reconciliation, Holocaust survivors, the 2008 presidential campaign, and HIV/AIDS.

"In addition to my primary calling to proclaim the Gospel message, these Civil Forums further my three other life goals: helping individuals accept responsibility, assisting the Church in regaining credibility and encouraging our society to return to civility," Warren explains.

Sunday's two-hour event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the main auditorium of Saddleback Church starting at 5 p.m.