Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have Time for a Few Prayers for the Persecuted Church?

One of the ongoing issues we highlight here at Vital Signs Blog is the persecution of Christian believers throughout the world. And we urge our visitors to pray fervently and frequently for these believers, their families, the churches they're a part of -- and even those that are persecuting them. We also encourage taking up the task to advocate for religious freedom and keeping informed of not only specific cases of persecution but the ominous trends in certain countries. To that letter end, we especially recommend Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors, International Christian Concern, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

Stuart Cunliffe, our British pro-life colleague who blogs at Diary of a WIP and who produces an e-mail Prayer Digest that I find of great value, shares this burden for the persecuted Church around the world. And here are a few of the specific cases he passed along this morning. Some of them I've mentioned before but please take a couple of minutes to send some prayers heavenward for the following:

* Christians are being harassed in more countries than any other faith group, according to a new report by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Nearly a third of the world’s population live in countries where restrictions on religious beliefs and practices increased between 2006 and 2009. China, Egypt, France, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, Vietnam and the United Kingdom were listed as countries where Christians were finding it more difficult to practice their faith.
* Christians in the Nuba mountains in South Kordofan state, which has one of the largest Christian populations in North Sudan, are being subjected to a campaign of ethnic cleansing. A leaked UN human rights report described ‘significant loss of human lives. . . abductions. . . arbitrary arrest and detentions; targeted killings; summary executions. . . mass graves; systematic destruction of dwellings; and attacks on churches.’

* A car bomb exploded outside a church in Kirkuk, Iraq, injuring 23 people. Car bombs outside two other churches were defused.

* More than 60 violent anti-Christian attacks were recorded in India during the first half of 2011, says the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Hindu extremists attacked churches, pastors and homes, disrupting services and beating up worshipers.

* There has been a fresh outbreak of violence in Nigeria, resulting in the death of at least 15 Christians. Police and army were said to be involved in the attacks. Members of a radical Islamic group have killed at least 10 Christians in Maiduguri, Nigeria, in the past two months. Most of the Christians are reported to have fled the city.

* Two churches on Zanzibar island were burned down within four days. Population of the Zanzibar archipelago is 99.9% Muslim. Pray the Christians there will stand firm in their faith.

* Pastor Vahik Abrahamian, in prison in Iran since September 2010 but cleared of all charges in April, has still not been released. There are fears for his health.

* Asia Bibi, the Christian mother on death row in Pakistan for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Mohammed, may be in jail for years awaiting her appeal, lawyers say.