More than 200 million Christians worldwide continue to face persecution for their faith, but the church's support of their plight is growing.
This year's International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church on November 15 (www.persecutedchurch. org) will involve prayer vigils and worship services in at least 60,000 U.S. churches, but that number could grow to as many as 100,000.
Internationally, a total of 180,000 churches from 115 countries are expected to participate. Two special worship services are scheduled in Rome and Barcelona, sponsored by the Italian and Spanish national fellowships of the World Evangelical Fellowship. In Brazil, which is home to nearly half of all evangelical churches in Latin American, local IDOP coordinators plan to reach 70,000 evangelical churches with the message of the persecuted.
"I'm amazed at how far the awareness has come," says Steve Haas, president of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, the organization coordinating the day of prayer, who acknowledges that for many Christians, "These persecuted Christians don't show up on our personal radar screens." Haas believes Christians may have a limited understanding of today's typical believer, who is not a "white, Anglo male." Instead, she is "a dark-skinned female living in a restricted access world with difficulty finding biblical material."
As IDOP grows in popularity, Haas is concerned about the potential for disunity among supporting organizations. He has worked to build bridges with both Christian and secular advocacy groups that promote human rights.
North American Christians may feel inadequate to pray for the needs of the persecuted, but Haas encourages individuals to pray for similar needs as they pray for their own families: food, shelter, and encouragement in their faith. He asks why Christians aren't "praying for the Sudanese mother who just lost her child?"
"It's the same Lord who's listening."
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