Proverbs 31:8 – Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. (NIV 2011)
Proverbs 24:11-12 – Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (NIV 2011)
International Christian Concern is one of several ministries committed to raising awareness of the plight of persecuted Christians worldwide. Every year, they put together a free resource kit designed specifically for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church; it includes a variety of materials such as persecution facts, Scriptures, and answers to frequently asked questions. But despite their best efforts, many still haven't heard about the daily atrocities being carried out against thousands of believers, especially in the Middle East and Africa. Unfortunately, the mainstream news does not give adequate attention to their story.
Meanwhile, Christians are being persecuted in approximately 130 countries. Record numbers of them have already been forced to leave their homes; their properties have been destroyed, as well as their churches. Many are imprisoned or put to death due to unjust charges of blasphemy, illegally spreading the gospel, or simply attending church. Because they are looked upon as second-class citizens, they also experience employment discrimination, limited education, poverty, and harassment from society in general.
Concerning this on-going crisis, I read an interesting devotional entitled, "Speak on behalf of those who suffer." The author, Paul Estabrooks, made this thought-provoking statement: "It is hard to believe that Christians are the largest persecuted group in the world today. But it is even more difficult to believe that this is so seldom mentioned in our gatherings and church services. More Christians know the names of their favorite actors than their fellow believers who are in prison." Then, I came across another article by Fox News contributor, Kirsten Powers, that included a similar message. She wrote these startling words: "The silence in the churches is almost deafening."
So, what can individuals and churches do to help the persecuted? First, be informed so that you can pray for their specific needs. Sign up for monthly newsletters and prayer emails through ICC or other mission groups. You will become familiar with the personal stories of prisoners like Asia Bibi, a young mother sentenced to death in Pakistan, and Saeed Abedini, an American pastor who is imprisoned for sharing the gospel in Iran. Secondly, be a voice for the voiceless; social media can provide a good platform to educate the public. Thirdly, encourage your church to get involved with advocacy, assistance projects, and/or fundraising. Finally, sign petitions or call legislators asking them to take action on this important cause.
Let us think about how we can make a difference in the lives of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. How might God be urging you to answer this call?
Prayer: Lord, we thank You that You Yourself experienced rejection, persecution, and death for our sakes. May the church which shares in Your sufferings continue to flourish and grow despite heavy afflictions. Strengthen all victims of intolerance with the hope and peace that can come only from You. Bring all members of Your body together in serving our brothers and sisters who desperately need our help, and lead their oppressors towards Your mercy and love. In Jesus' holy name, we pray. Amen.
Listen to this devotional
Listen while you read: "O That Will Be Glory" (Lyrics)