During the month of November, many churches around the world set aside time to prayer for the persecuted church. Believers in countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam face violence, imprisonment and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other places in the world such as North Korea where acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: 'Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.'
IDOP is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.
Gospel for Asia (GFA) reports that more than 14,000 people around the world are martyred for their faith each year, though that number only includes reported cases. Christians who aren't killed are sometimes beaten, deprived of food or imprisoned. Believing children are sometimes rejected by their families or turned away from their schools. In other cases, the homes of believers are burned down by their persecutors.
"Jesus promised his church that there would be persecution and tribulations," GFA Founder and President K.P. Yohannan said in a statement. "Tens of thousands of believers, missionaries and pastors are experiencing the reality of persecution on a daily basis. Yet they recognize the honor it is to suffer for his sake. May the Lord lead us with his burden to intercede for these brothers and sisters."
More than half a million churches in 150 nations participate in the IDOP each year, according to the event's website. Some organizations are encouraging believers to observe the day of prayer on Nov. 3 and others on Nov. 10, but Dykstra says Christians need to also make an effort to pray for persecuted believers year-round. American believers can also offer their support, he says, by speaking up about persecution to their representatives in Washington, by getting involved with campaigns by Open Doors and other like-minded organizations and by becoming more mindful of the global church.
"Become a global Christian…Be informed about the status of Christians wherever they are. When you read, watch or listen to the world news, think about how believers are being attacked," said Dykstra.
Each year Open Doors publishes the World Watch List, which ranks the 50 nations where Christians are most persecuted for their faith. North Korea has held the top spot on the list for the last 11 years, as Christians there are often arrested, tortured, forced into labor camps or executed under the Communist regime. Other nations in the World Watch List's top 10 are Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Maldives, Mali, Iran, Yemen and Eritrea.