"These staggering numbers alone are reason enough to pray diligently for the lives of Christians whose only crime is courageously declaring 'Jesus is Lord,'" says Anita Levesque, coordinator for IDOP Canada Partnership. "IDOP Sunday plays a vital role in answering the cry of oppressed believers. It encourages and strengthens the persecuted Church and brings awareness to their plight."
"It is a very precious and valued truth to them—a truth that gives them courage in the face of extreme opposition," she says. "The promise of 'future glory' has, for more than 2,000 years, encouraged suffering believers that very soon they will meet their King. As faithful followers with them, in Christ, we share that hope of future glory."
Organizers have also chosen to focus on China and Iran this year. Levesque says the focus countries are a starting point intended to help believers recognize the gravity of persecution and be inspired to pray daily.
"All of us can identify with persecution and suffering on some level," she explains, "but our brothers and sisters in religiously restricted countries experience suffering we cannot imagine and this suffering is intensifying. As we hear of their overcoming courage in the face of arrest, imprisonment, torture and even death, our faith [can be] strengthened and encouraged."
Levesque says every year about 800 Canadian churches and groups register their events. They join more than half a million churches worldwide taking part in IDOP.
"Prayer is the most important thing Christians can do for the persecuted church," says Alan Doerksen, publication editor for Intercede International, a ministry involved in organizing IDOP Canada. "If a Christian is in prison in Iran because of his or her faith, money won't get that person out, only prayer. Ultimately, it is God who rescues and protects persecuted Christians."