Next month will mark the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The official date is November 10, 2013. However, their website states: “…you are free to choose another date if you wish." Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors have chosen November 3.
When I was a child, I somehow picked up the notion that persecution against the Christian church basically ended with the collapse of the Roman Empire.
But it turns out that the last century was the worst century ever for the persecution of Christians and martyrdom. Dr. David Barrett, a leading church statistician, says there were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than had been murdered in all previous centuries combined.
Persecution today continues to rear its ugly head in various places around the globe, such as in remnant Communist countries, like Vietnam or North Korea. But anti-Christian persecution is especially found in the Middle East and those places where the philosophy of Islamism---a supremacist form of Islam---prevails.
It’s a cliché by now, but it’s true: The Arab Spring has turned into the Christian Winter.
Dr. Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship says that just in the last few years the Christian population in the Middle East has shrunk from about 15 million to 13. Most of these have fled the homes their families have occupied for multiple generations---or perhaps even millennia.
Hundreds of years before Mohammed was born or Islam conquered that region, these families lived basically in peace and safety. Even after the Islamic sword swept over their lands and forced them into dhimmi status (a second class status, not unlike the old Jim Crow laws blacks lived under in the deep South), these families still remained in Iraq and Syria and Egypt.
But in recent years, due to events like the “Arab Spring” and the war in Iraq, the region has dramatically destabilized for Christians. We need to pray for these hurting fellow Christians. Paul says, “And if one member [of the Body of Christ] suffers, all the members suffer with it…”
More than 100 or so Christian cathedrals, churches, schools have been destroyed in Egypt just in the last couple of months. One Cairo-based church cancelled the Sunday-morning service in August for the first time in 1300 years.
In a recent weekend, Islamists killed dozens of Christians at a Pakistani church service and shoppers at a Kenya mall. (To the Islamists, virtually all non-Muslims are infidels.)
Recently, American attention has been focused on Syria, though it has somewhat subsided as of late, since a US strike has seemingly been averted for the moment.