"(North) Americans who have not experienced persecution do not fully understand what it means to have their lives threatened, homes destroyed, rights violated and loved ones imprisoned, all because of embracing faith in Jesus Christ," said K. P. Yohannan, Gospel for Asia (GFA) founder and president. "In the 14 countries we serve, persecution of this sort has become a normal way of life, especially for those directly involved in mission work."
In a single state of one 10/40 country, thousands of Christian homes have been destroyed or damaged by anti-Christians. In another, three Christian brothers are currently in prison under accusations of forced conversions, an offence punishable by law. Six women are raising their children alone, their husbands killed because of their belief in Christ. In one nation of 17 million people, an estimated 2,000 or fewer Christians must operate underground for fear of their lives.
"The increase of this kind of persecution should not be surprising where the gospel is going forth in unfriendly world areas," said Yohannan. "Jesus sent His disciples out as sheep among wolves (Matt. 10). Historically and biblically, persecution is an anticipated part of serving God."
In turn, the biblical response of the church to persecution is immediate and urgent prayer. Believers in remote parts of the world who feel alone in their struggle are divinely strengthened and encouraged by the prayers of others to remain faithful in the face of extreme persecution, Yohannan said.
GFA is encouraging Christians to make International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church more than a "nod" to persecution. Those who are physically able are urged to fast as well as pray. Rather than waiting for Sunday's one-day emphasis, those who can take a day off work could be alone or together as a family in a full day of prayer.
Rather than simply making an announcement or spending a few moments in prayer, churches are urged to devote the entire worship time to prayer for the persecuted church individually, collectively and in small groups.
To facilitate this prayer effort, GFA has prepared "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church," a free downloadable video for churches to view together on Nov. 4. The video and other print resources are available at www.gfa.org.
"Suffering is forced upon our brothers and sisters. To those of us not experiencing the normality of persecution, Jesus is asking that we participate willingly in their suffering and chains," said Yohannan. "Through our prayers, we can be agents of God's divine healing, hope and help."
Gospel for Asia (www.gfa.org) is a mission organization based in Carrollton, Texas, involved in sharing the love of Jesus across South Asia.