International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Thursday, the 1st day of November, 2018. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. First up: the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.

It’s this coming Sunday, and it’s a day set aside for believers to pray specifically for oppressed Christians around the world.

One organization that advocates for such people is Open Doors. It aims to build up Christians who live under extreme restrictions. Open Doors publishes a list each year that ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to live out the faith.

REICHARD: David Curry is president and CEO of Open Doors, USA, and he’s on the line now to talk about how our fellow believers are faring.

David, speaking generally, what is the state of international persecution?

DAVID CURRY: Well, over the last several years, we’ve seen an incredible rise in persecution of Christians in many regions around the world. In fact, in most regions around the world. You have places in Asia, like North Korea, but also in India, in Buton, there are major areas, big and small countries where people are facing persecution for their faith. But it’s not just in Asia. It’s also in Africa and of course in the Middle East. The squeeze of persecution, which is those everyday things which make it very difficult to practice their faith—going to church, having access to a Bible—that’s going up as well. And we want to draw attention to it so that Christians and others know that the religious freedom of Christians is at risk in many areas around the world.

REICHARD: First, tell us how we define Christian persecution here?

CURRY: Well, one word that can be helpful is those that suffer for their faith. That could mean that they lose their job because they’re a Christian or that they are imprisoned because they are a Christian. Some people are attacked and killed because they’re Christians. For example, in northern Nigeria you have about, on average, 10 Christians killed for their faith every single month throughout the year. That’s because there are radical Islamic factions in the north of Nigeria that make it very difficult to be a Christian. So it can be the very dangerous and violent all the way to people who are harassed or lose their jobs for their faith.

REICHARD: What does the latest report on Christian persecution from Open Doors tell us?

CURRY: Well, we have a World Watch List, which is a grassroots survey of what’s going on, and it tells us that North Korea is the most difficult place to be a Christian. That’s because the government there controls all the methods and the means of sustaining life. If you’re found with a Bible in North Korea, you’ll be arrested and sent to a labor camp. It’s a very difficult place for people. But the other thing we notice throughout the list is the incredible factor of Islamic extremism in many regions around the world. And, in fact, it’s not just Islamic extremism, but now Hindu extremism in India has driven them up on the list. So this idea of religious extremism is very prevalent in our research this year as is the role of nationalism. You see this in China, for example, where they really want the church to come under the government auspices, to validate their situation, to be more communistic, to be more Chinese. But it’s also the case in India where they’re saying, look, we’re persecuting you because you’re not really an Indian unless you’re a Hindu, so, therefore, no Christians in our country. And, as such, it’s number 11 on our list.

REICHARD: Is there some good news in there?

CURRY: Well, for people of faith, there is good news because what you see is that people are deciding for themselves to come to know Jesus and take their faith seriously and very personally. So, I think that’s an encouragement.

I think we see some pressure mounting on the political side on countries like Pakistan and others to drop their blasphemy laws. The world understands better, but not completely, that this is a significant problem. So I think some of those elements are improvements.

REICHARD: What would you like American churches to understand about Christians in other nations? Do you think awareness is at a useful level?

CURRY: Well, I think the churches in the West generally don’t know how widely spread persecution is. 

Right now, Christians see this through the lens of media and whatever episodes they know about. So, if they heard about a pastor in Turkey being arrested then they think that it’s resolved once that pastor is released. But it’s wider than any specific episode. It’s a massive growth across all regions and we need to be mobilized first to pray because the Bible told us to do so, to pray for those in chains for the name of Jesus. And then to take action and let our voice be heard on this. We’re called to make a difference in the lives of people who are persecuted for their faith.

REICHARD: David Curry is president and CEO of Open Doors. Thank you for speaking with us today, David.

CURRY: Thank you for having me on.

(AP Photo/Irum Asim) Pakistan Christians pray for Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who has been on death row since 2010 accused of blasphemy in Multan, Pakistan. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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