Persecution against Christians around the world continues to escalate year after year. In the last 30 years, the number of countries where Christians suffer for their faith has almost doubled to 76 countries.
Today, more than 360 million Christians are subject to high and extreme levels of persecution. 312 million live in the top 50 nations where Christians are most at risk.
Despite the severity of the situation, what we hear most often from our suffering brothers and sisters is the simple request to pray for them.
They are devoted to Christ, and many continue to share the gospel message with others in gentle and discrete ways.
Sunday November 5 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The theme, Courage to Rise Above, is inspired by Joshua 1:9. In this well-known text the Lord reminds Joshua of how he must respond to the adversity that will inevitably come: be strong and courageous, do not be terrified, do not be discouraged. To this strong command the Lord adds the promise of his faithful presence with him, every step of the way.
These timeless words reflect accurately the day-to-day reality of millions of suffering Christians today.
Thousands of our co-workers and volunteers serve the Lord in many of the 50 nations that are most dangerous for believers. Every day they courageously rise above their suffering and trepidations to stay on mission. Their work is bearing fruit and proving once again that the gospel is the power of God at work in the world.
I recently had the joy, along with our staff, of spending two days with three EHC workers from one of the nations that ranks in the top 10 where Christians are most at risk. What we heard was simply astounding. These precious friends not only rise above their suffering and the fear of what could happen to them, their vision also rises above the opposition and the threats, and they see a harvest ready to be reached.
In one recent bold and creative outreach in a large city, 300,000 gospel messages were handed to people at a public event. Within one week 34,000 people responded, many being young people. Clearly there is a hunger.
In the face of great risks and their potential tragic end, Christian workers in this nation continue to reach out with the gospel. A vision of the Lord who loves them and loves their neighbours is rooted in their hearts and their manner is gentle, their speech hopeful, their conversation specifically about what can be done in the name of the Lord. They only spoke of their struggle when we asked.
One of our questions was, what is a typical workday like, and how do you face it? Their answer was sobering and flowed from their biblical view of life and of self. The following is a summary of what they shared.
“We start the day with at least one hour looking into God’s Word. We remind ourselves and each other that Jesus had to face all this and endure it all, and we will do like him. We encourage each other with this fact. And we cry to the Lord in the early hours. We cry from our hearts because he is our help. And we cry to the Lord for the workday ahead, for the people we will meet, for the gospel seed to enter the hearts. And at night we go to bed with joy in our hearts because of what God has done.”
As history moves on, adversity towards the Lord, his Word and his people is intensifying. God alone knows what we may also have to face if we remain faithful, and I pray that each of us will. But whatever comes, I think we can all follow the example of our friends and look into the Word of God every day to find courage, guidance and strength for the mission before us. We too must cry to the Lord from our hearts because he is our help. We must ask him every day to make a way for the gospel in our own nation, in our neighbourhoods, in our families and circle of friends.
Inside this issue you will find the World Watch List 2023 as provided by the ministry of Open Doors International. Each of the nations on this list needs our prayer support. Lifting one nation to the Lord every day throughout the year would make it possible to pray for all 50 nations at least seven times in one year.
One important thing that we can do is to ensure that persecuted Christians do not suffer alone. We can stand in solidarity with them before the throne of heavenly grace. They are a part of the Body of Christ, and they need our prayer support.
On Sunday November 5, let’s take time to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters. Whether by ourselves or with family and friends, let’s pray for God’s comfort and protection and for the gospel to bear much fruit in their nations.
May God’s kingdom come, and his will be done one earth as it is in heaven.
Praying for Persecuted Christians
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — Sunday November 5, 2023
- May the Lord’s presence refresh and sustain his people in the midst of severe brutality, torture, imprisonment and constant threats; may his grace be with those who suffer to help them forgive their persecutors; may he deliver his children from evil.
- May the Lord protect the labourers and their families from danger and adversity as they courageously share the gospel; may the Lord meet all their needs for personal care and for their difficult work.
- May the Lord transform the hearts and lives of terrorists and persecutors everywhere and open their eyes to see Jesus.
- May the Lord cause his Word to continue to spread and reach the dark places where evil thrives.
- May the Spirit of the Lord comfort believers who have lost loved ones through violence against the Body of Christ.
- May the Lord deliver and heal persecuted Christians everywhere.
For more information about the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, please visit www.idop.ca. We are grateful to Open Doors International for their continued research that helps inform the Church of this urgent prayer need.
About the World Watch List 2023
The World Watch List is compiled by Open Doors’ analysts using real-world data from experts on the ground in 150 countries. Persecution in each country is recorded using a points system which tracks violence and pressure.
This measures the number and severity of violent incidents against Christians and the degree of pressure exerted against the practice of their faith in the following five spheres of life: private life, family life, community life, national life, church life.
Christians in the first 11 nations listed endure extreme persecution, while believers in nations 12 to 50 experience very high levels of persecution. For the third year in a row, every country on the list is ranked as having very high or extreme levels of persecution, showing the continued intensity of persecution against Christians.
We must pray for them!
Christians suffer the most intense persecution for their faith in the following 50 nations:
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
- Burkina Faso
- Central African Rep.
- Congo DR (DRC)