The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Canada (IDOP.ca) calls Canadians to join with over half a million churches in 150 countries on Sunday, November 13, 2011 to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries who are suffering, even dying, for their faith.
The persecution of believers has persisted for centuries, but what is alarming is that the number of Christians killed for their faith in the 20th century was more than the number of Christians killed in the 19 centuries prior. Today, around the world over 200 million are suffering for their faith in Jesus Christ. The number of Christians who have been martyred for their faith in the 21st century averages over 170,000 each year.
Many victims of persecution say that the prayers of believers in countries where religious freedom exists serves to encourage and strengthen them spiritually; and, expressions such as IDOP help to bring global awareness to their plight. While the focus of IDOP is supporting those who are persecuted, those who participate have said they find spiritual strength and encouragement in the stories of persecuted believers who evidence overcoming courage in the face of arrest, imprisonment, torture and even death for their faith in Jesus Christ.
Celebrated by global media, uprisings like the Arab Spring advocated a more democratic society, but may have the reverse effect on religious freedom for many minority Christian believers in the Middle East. In these Muslim majority countries, Christianity is regarded in different ways: by some to be synonymous with Western or American culture; by some to be a competing, and therefore false, religion; and, by some to be one of the three faiths of The Book (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The first group targets Christianity as a threat to Sharia Law principles because they view Christianity as synonymous with Western ideals. The next want no competing beliefs and target Christians (and sometimes other Muslims) under the guise that the true faith tolerates no compromise. The third have historically lived in peace with Christians, but have often limited Christian expression and forbidden conversion from Islam to Christianity. Both Egypt and Iraq have seen an increase in attacks on Christians since the Arab Spring uprisings, with increased tensions and directed attacks.
Open Doors, a partner in Canada’s IDOP, compiles an annual list(World Watch List .pdf) ranking 50 of the top offending countries in the world. North Korea is identified as the most dangerous place to be a Christian, followed by Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. Ranking is based specifically on persecution for faith, not political, economic, social, ethnic or accidental reasons.
It is often the case that countries that are the worst violators of religious freedom are also frequently recognized for other human rights violations and matters of global security.
Recently the Canadian Government began taking steps to establish the Office of Religious Freedom, as promised in the last election. This development has been applauded by many Christian organizations, including the EFC, as an acknowledgement of the importance of monitoring and protecting this fundamental human right which has become the focus of more restrictive and aggressive activity than any other on the planet.
IDOP Canada invites Canadian Christians into the international Christian experience. In 1996, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) coordinated the efforts of thousands of churches and faith-based organizations to hold the first International Day of Prayer. Now, in addition to the international group, there are regional IDOP groups in countries like Africa, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United States that participate in this initiative. IDOP has become one of the largest annual prayer events in the world, with more than half a million churches participating.
Will you be joining us?
For more information, visit www.idop.ca.