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Day of prayer focus: persecuted believers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The plague of Christian persecution affects more than 200 million people, with an additional 400 million believers facing discrimination and legal impediments, writes Paul Marshall in his 1997 book, “Their Blood Cries Out.”
Despite the intensity of suffering in 60 countries, with many believers paying the ultimate price for their faith — persecution to the point of death — Christians in America have not heard the cry of their persecuted brethren around the world, according to Marshall; the thought of physical sacrifice for the faith is foreign to most in the church in America.
“The vast body of Christians in the United States, along with their major organizations, have indeed abdicated their responsibility to deal with the persecution of Christians,” writes Marshall, senior fellow in political theory at the Institute of Christian Studies in Toronto.
While various groups and individuals have stepped to the foreground in this global struggle, Marshall notes “the overall record of the church is abysmal.”
“Despite a plethora of TV programs, radio stations and magazines, despite the presence of the tens of thousands of workers overseas involved in missions, education and relief and development, despite networks of contacts worldwide and a vast array of internetted agencies, the situation of Christians is passed by silently,” he writes. Marshall insists the churches’ ignorance of the issue has been fed by the silence on the part of secular institutions.
“If we turn to secular news outlets, to academics, to policy analysts, to international relations scholars, to political activists in search of news about the persecution of Christians, we encounter a deafening silence,” he writes.
A secular myopia trivializes the role of religion in the world, Marshall suggests.
“When I see something like this, my heart aches because the believers here don’t even know about it, don’t care,” Chuck Colson said on the Sept. 16 Focus on the Family radio program. “We’re not expressing moral outrage; we’re not indignant of the indifference of the United States government towards this.”
Colson declared “we ought to be marching in the streets because our brethren are being persecuted, imprisoned, beaten, sold into slavery, and butchered, and we don’t seem to care in this country.”
Yet a movement is growing to heed the cries of the martyrs, sparked by a call to prayer for persecuted Christians last year from the World Evangelical Fellowship, and continuing this year.
The 1997 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a resounding call to “shatter the silence,” said Steve Haas, the coordinator of the global effort. This year’s season of understanding, prayer and action began Sept. 28 and culminates in a day of prayer to be marked Nov. 16 in 115 countries and more than 50,000 churches.
Southern Baptists are reaching across denominational lines to link arms with other believers in raising a unified voice for the fate of the persecuted Christians around the world.
“Southern Baptists and other evangelicals are awakening to the plight of their persecuted brothers and sisters overseas,” said ERLC President Richard Land. “All across America, Christians are committing to pray for persecuted Christians, to raise awareness of their plight and to insist that our government adopt a policy of opposition to such atrocities.”
The ERLC is offering a resource kit that includes a 24-page prayer journal and a three-part video on the issue. The kit is available from the ERLC for $15.00.
“It is rare that an issue has the power to unite all peoples regardless of race, economic background, religious creed or political stripe,” Haas wrote in planning for the effort. “The persecution of Christians is an act against the most basic of human rights-freedom of conscience.”

    About the Author

  • Dwayne Hastings