An invitation has gone out to our region and throughout the world to celebrate freedom, hope and prayer. This Sunday, Nov. 9 is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church.
Over 100,000 churches in over 100 countries are planning to come together to intercede for persecuted Christians worldwide.
Many in this country and worldwide are still celebrating the historical testimony to democracy that occurred this past Tuesday. Regardless of what your personal political views may be and what an Obama presidency may hold, the election itself held historical significance in the U.S. and abroad. Despite months of often harsh and tiring debate, in the U.S. we still are able to hold a peaceful vote and bloodless transfer of power. To many, this seemingly unimaginable occurrence testifies to freedom and sparks hope worldwide. U.S. citizens today enjoy many freedoms such as this that so many now and in the past have fought and died to protect. Another such freedom we enjoy today though often taken for granted is that of religious liberty.
It is for Christians and those of other faiths worldwide who are oppressed and deprived of religious liberty that the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church was first organized.
Locally, the Beacon Church of Chautauqua will be hosting a gathering at 4:30 p.m. this Sunday, Nov. 9 on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
The gathering will be held at the Rotunda Memorial Church of Salvation located at 307 East Main St., Fredonia. Although the prayer gathering will be from a Christian perspective, people of all denominations and faith are invited to attend.
There are millions of people in this world today who do not have the right to worship and practice the religion of their choice in private and in community, including the right to witness and evangelize, and the right to change their religion as they so choose. As you read this article, there are many others around this globe that are keenly aware of their lack of freedom to worship who and how they see fit. On the IDOP Web site, it states that "some 2,000 Christians are in prison in Eritrea and thousands have lost their homes in India as a result of anti-Christian attacks. More than 100 million Christians face disinformation, discrimination and persecution only because they want to follow Jesus Christ."
For more information on International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church please visit www.persecutedchurch.org. Please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the local prayer gathering.
Religious liberty was granted to U.S. citizens in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievance." The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights states that: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance." In spite of such lofty statements, religious liberty is far from universal.
The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) is a global day of intercession for persecuted Christians worldwide. Its primary focus is the work of intercessory prayer and citizen action on behalf of persecuted communities of the Christian faith. We also encourage prayer for the souls of the oppressors, the nations that promote persecution, and those who ignore it. Although IDOP is focused on Christians worldwide, in many of those same countries that Christians are being persecuted, so are those of other faiths who are not conforming to the laws or cultural norms in those countries.
While there are many types of religious persecution and various degrees of severity, the World Evangelical Alliance which works with the Unitied Nations has designated four levels of persecution. The most sever being "Historically Christian ethnic minorities at risk of genocide." These include:
Iraq: Islamist forces and sympathizers (Sunni and Shia) in Iraq are exploiting the chaos of war to 'cleanse' Iraq of Christians, nearly all of whom are ethnic Assyrians, the indigenous people of Iraq.
Kosovo (Serbia): The Serbian population in Kosovo (the historic and spiritual heartland of Serbia), virtually all of whom are Serbian Orthodox, are at risk of genocide on account of Albanian separatism and nationalism, and Islamic imperialism - different forces which assist each other.
Northern Laos: The Communist government of Laos is waging a low-level but genocidal war against the predominantly Christian ethnic Hmong of Northern Laos because of their longheld political stance: pro-democracy, proreligious liberty, pro-West.
Papua (Indonesia): The Indonesian government is waging a low-level but genocidal campaign against the predominantly Christian indigenous Papuans because of their resistance to Indonesian occupation, exploitation, colonization and Islamization.