Sunday, November 13th (Sunday, November 6th in the UK and Ireland) has been set aside as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). A great deal of international attention has been drawn to the Copts who were attacked and killed in Egypt in early October, and the plight of Christians in Iraq and Iran has been well brought to light. Members of our Christian family continue to suffer in less well-advertized parts of the globe as well, and all desperately need our prayers and the power of the Spirit of God working in their own lives and in their villages and nations.
Burma has long denied its people true religious freedom, and Christians and other religious minorities have large targets affixed to their chests. Recently, the Burmese government in Kachin State handed Christians a new set of legal requirements. In a letter entitled "Concerning Christians conducting cultural training", the Chairman of Maw Wan Ward in Phakant Township, Kachin State informed local churches that they had to get permission for Bible studies, reading the Bible, or fasting prayer at least 15 days in advance. Getting the required authorization is not easy, and Burmese churches have already been required to get permission for any Christian events outside of Sunday services.
Legal issues, however, can be minor compared to the terrorizing done by the local military. According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide, it is not uncommon for the national Burma Army to commit serious violence against Christians and churches. CSW reports that recently the Army has again attacked church members, beating them and their pastors, burning houses and raping, torturing, and killing civilians.
On October 16th, Light Infantry Battalion 438 shot into a Roman Catholic Church in Namsan Yang village, Waimaw township. When the priest's assistant tried to speak to the troops, he was cracked in the head with a rifle butt. He and four others were detained - to be used as forced labor. Later that day, Battalion 438 was joined by Light Infantry Battalion 121 soldiers, and the group continued on to a Baptist church by that evening. The church was destroyed and the northern end of the village was burned. A 19-year-old woman was reportedly raped to death during this time.
CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers commented on the recent events, saying, "CSW has received numerous reports of rape, torture and killing of civilians in Kachin State by the Burma Army this year. Rape, forced labor and killing civilians on a widespread and systematic basis constitute crimes against humanity."
Three more Christians, two women and one man, have died in prison camps in the small African nation of Eritrea, bringing the number up to 21. According to Open Doors USA, Ferewine Genzabu Kifly, 21, died on October 23, just one week after Terhase Gebremichel Andu, 28. Both perished from starvation and untreated medical issues. They were arrested in 2009 at a prayer meeting. These women's deaths followed that of Angesom Teklom Habtemichel, 26, who died at the end of August after a severe battle with malaria, which was purposely left untreated because he refused to recant his Christianity.
In 2002, Eritrea outlawed evangelical Christianity and any religious activities that stepped outside the official Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Islamic systems. An estimated 1,500 Christians suffer in Eritrea's prisons for their faith. It is estimated that between 2,000 and 3,000 Christians are held hostage in Eritrean prisons, having not been charged with crimes or given trials.
"Eritrea is a small country that has a bulls-eye on the backs of evangelical Christians," Open Doors spokesperson Jerry Dykstra told The Christian Post. "President Afewerki denies that persecution takes place but the persecution of Christians, including keeping them in shipping boxes in the hot sun, has been well documented."
This is not the 1940's, and Hitler is long dead. The Soviet Union has fallen. The Coliseum no longer boasts savage lions drooling for their Christian victims. Yet, our brothers and sisters around the world are still tortured and slaughtered and subjected to depravation and loss at the hands of the cruel, who torment them for the faith they hold in Jesus Christ.
Let us continue to pray for these dear people, that the Spirit of God may comfort and strengthen them, that their physical needs may be miraculously met, that God may work richly in their lives to shine the brilliant light of the Gospel into the darkest places. May we do at least that much for them, that they may be able to say, with the Apostle Paul:
"We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." -2Cor 4:8-10
For more information about the International Day of Prayer For The Persecuted Church, please see the link below.
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Related Links: International Day of Prayer For The Persecuted Church - IDOP 2011