The Church Under Siege

Not long ago in Sudan a mother sent her nine-year-old son, Peter, to the market to buy tomatoes. But Peter never made it. Police officers of the Muslim government grabbed Peter, threw him into a truck, and drove him to a concentration camp for children. There camp officials beat the little boy brutally until he renounced Christ and converted to Islam. Peter's story is just one of millions about Christians who were persecuted last year for their faith in Christ. The list of afflictions they suffer reads like an alphabet soup of cruelty: amputation, bombing, crucifixion, displacement, flogging, kidnapping, murder, prison, rape, slavery, and torture. The sheer dimensions of the problem are mind-boggling. More Christians have been martyred for their faith in this century alone than in the previous 19 centuries combined. A human rights group called Freedom House documents abuses against believers in a white paper called "In the Lion's Den." For example, in Saudi Arabia, since the Gulf War, police have arrested and abused hundreds of Christians--believers whose only crime was engaging in religious activities. In Pakistan, Christians have been driven from their villages by Muslim mobs, their possessions looted, their homes and churches destroyed. In Vietnam, Christians are subject to arrest, threats, and confiscation of their homes. In North Korea, Christians are forced to meet secretly in private homes, and they have no access to Bibles or religious materials. In the Sudan, Christians are bought and sold in open-air slave markets. In China, up to 100 million Christians risk their lives daily by defying government orders banning free worship. In Egypt, Islamic converts to Christianity are arrested, tortured, and murdered. The list goes on and on. In response to this staggering increase in persecution, believers around the world are observing the first International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on Sunday, September 29. The event is being coordinated by World Evangelical Fellowship, and Christians in more than 95 countries will take part. Dwight Gibson of World Evangelical Fellowship says the purpose of Persecution Sunday is to set aside a day to "ask divine guidance and request political intervention on behalf of those facing religious persecution." Our suffering brethren in faraway lands will never forget our prayers and our public expressions of concern for them. The Soviet dissident and poet Irena Ratushinskaya spent seven years imprisoned in the former Soviet Union's notorious Gulag. She told me that she endured deprivation and all kinds of abuse because she knew that people around the world were praying for her. I wonder what God would do if all his people were on their knees begging for mercy for their persecuted brethren on one day. And who knows what impact we can have on our government officials, who have done so little to help the persecuted church overseas? At the very least, we'll be letting the church worldwide know that American Christians are not a self-indulgent, uncaring people. That we really do care about our brothers and sisters in Christ.


Chuck Colson


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