Christians hold signs as they march on the streets of Abuja during a prayer and penance for peace and security in Nigeria in Abuja on March 1, 2020. | Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images
Ahead of the annual International Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians, Voice of the Martyrs ministry has released resources to help churches pray for the hundreds of millions of believers facing threats of violence or being killed because of their faith.
The VOM, a nonprofit that’s provided practical and spiritual help for persecuted believers since the 1960s, has released resources for churches, small groups and families “that inspire prayer” weeks before the IDOP, which will be marked on Nov. 6 this year.
“You can hang a prayer banner in your church as a reminder to pray for persecuted Christians in hostile areas and restricted nations,” the ministry says of those who are frequently ostracized or rendered homeless in many parts of the world.
“You can share Global Prayer Guides with church members to help them learn who the persecutors are in these countries and how difficult it is to get a Bible there. And you can order bookmarks that provide 10 ways to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Around the world, more than 360 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus — that’s one in seven believers worldwide, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians experience the worst persecution for their faith.
The 2022 World Watch List, which looked at incidents reported between Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021, found at least 5,898 Christians were killed, 5,110 churches were attacked or closed, 6,175 Christians were arrested without trial, and 3,829 Christians were kidnapped. The year 2021 saw a 24% increase in Christians killed for their faith.
The VOM has also released a video titled “Rebecca: Nigeria,” featuring the story of a woman who watched helplessly with her daughter as Boko Haram militants killed her husband and son, and burned her home. When she searched the charred remains of her home, she found the Bible that she and her husband had received on their wedding day. “I still use this Bible,” she says in the video. “It reminds me of God’s faithfulness.”
Earlier this month, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warned that religious freedom is deteriorating in Nigeria because of rising violence by non-State actors, mainly militant Islamist groups, and “poor governance.” The group has called on the State Department to utilize the power that it has to take action against the government.
According to a recent study from the Anambra-based International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law, at least 60,000 Christians have been killed in the past two decades in Nigeria alone. The organization reported that hundreds of churches had been threatened, attacked, closed, destroyed or burned in 2021 alone.
Churches around the world have observed the IDOP on the first Sunday of November since the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Commission launched the first Persecution Sunday in 1996, encouraging churches worldwide to dedicate a Sunday to pray for persecuted Christians.
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