International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted (IDOP)
This past Sunday, many churches across the world took part in the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted, or IDOP for short. Some American churches postponed for a week because of the election (I do not understand such reasoning, but the fact remains), and some churches across the globe are marking the day on November 15th. This means for the first three Sundays of the month in which this post is first published, there will be focused and corporate prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters. I urge you to join in.
If you, like me, enjoy the freedom to express your beliefs where you live, it’s difficult to understand what our fellow Christians endure daily. We cannot make too much of this issue. While we worship in freedom, millions of Christians are enduring unimaginable persecution because they are steadfast in affirming Jesus as their Lord.
As I read and listen to many voices leading up to the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted, I’m struck by how removed Christians in the West seem to be. As we pray for the persecuted, our prayers are far too safe, much too ordinary. We need to understand what these precious people are going through. While we don’t enjoy discussing or even thinking about torture, until we feel what the persecuted feel at least on an emotional level, we will struggle to pray powerfully for them.
Space does not allow me to detail the many accounts of persecution but let me tell you of one recent example. Huma is a 14-year-old girl in Pakistan who is a Christian. She was kidnapped at gunpoint by a Muslim extremist, repeatedly sexually violated, beaten, and forced to convert to Islam. Her parents, also Christians, went to the authorities who turned them away. They are pursuing legal channels to get their daughter back. In return, the militants are threatening the family with violence and warning them to drop the case or be killed. It has now been ten months since they abducted Huma. She is now married to her abductor (in violation of Pakistani law that requires girls to be 18 years-old before marriage) and is pregnant. All of this because she chose to follow Jesus.
In Eritrea, they throw Christians in prison because of their faith. Many have remained there for twenty years or more. They did not commit a crime, yet still, they remain in some of the worst conditions known in any country. Many are imprisoned in small steel boxes that bake in the sun’s heat. In North Korea, the government feeds some Christians to vicious dogs, while others spend their lives starving to death in forced labor camps. In India, Christians who lead a Hindu to Christ will have their homes burned down, their daughters raped, and their sons killed. All this while the government either approves or turns a blind eye.
These stories are hard to hear, much less dwell upon. As you join with the Church of Jesus on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted, don’t let your discomfort keep you from considering the horrors our brothers and sisters are enduring every day of their lives. Learn more about what is going on in the world outside your comfort zone (I’m including several resources as a starting point below). Pray daily for the persecuted. We have so much for which to be thankful, but we must never cease lifting those in prayer who are in need and despair. Resolve to pray for the persecuted every day for the next year.
Do not take your current freedom for granted, because it may be fleeting. Someday, you may be the one in need of the prayers of the saints. We must not shirk our responsibility to pray for the persecuted. The need is great, and this is our moment in history to do our part in supporting the body of Christ. Please join me in solemnly honoring the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted.