My husband and I both celebrated our birthday this week – on the same day! It’s one of my favorite things about being married to Steve. In the midst of the fun we had and the love we felt from so many friends all over the world, I had two sobering reminders of suffering.
Last weekend (November 3) was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. While the day has come and gone, the need remains.
Christ-followers are dying for their faith at the rate of one every five minutes, according to “The Price of Freedom Denied” by sociologists Grim and Finke. On average, 280 Christians were martyred every day (12 per hour) over the past decade.
The word “martyr” comes from the root word “witness.” Our common usage speaks to a steep price exacted for that witness: death. Witnessing can bring feelings of unease to the boldest of us, but we don’t usually risk being tortured because of it. We may be ridiculed for our relationship with Christ. But persecuted? I don’t think so.
Most Americans are oblivious to the plight of the persecuted. Many deny that it could possibly happen today. Yet last year alone, 105,000 new Christian martyrs entered heaven’s gates. That’s a steep increase from 1900, when 34,000 were murdered.
The second reminder I had is that this next weekend, on November 9-10, the world will remember a horrible event that happened 75 years ago, in hopes that it will never happen again. In 1938, a pogrom was carried out throughout Germany and Austria that started the Holocaust. That night is commonly referred to as Kristallnacht, or Night of Broken Glass, after the shards of glass littering the streets from Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues that were demolished.
While we freely worship in churches, thousands of our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe worship in chains – imprisoned for their faith. Other innocents are persecuted simply because of the country or race they were born into. They need our prayers, too.
Let us never forget them. Please pray.