Hundreds of men and women are in prison serving sentences that range from a few months to life. They are not criminals who have robbed or murdered other citizens but Christians who were put on trial for their faith in Christ and found guilty. They could have avoided prison by simply denying allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are literally “doing time for God.”
Over 200 million Christians around the world live under the threat of persecution.
Go to Release International for more about the countries involved.
Persecution of the Church takes many different forms. In Iraq, for example, government pressure on Christians ended with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. But subsequently, religious minorities have been among the prime victims of lawlessness and unrest in the country. Following a string of church bombings last summer, up to 40,000 of the total Christian population of 750,000 fled the country. The Iraqi government and church officials also concede that hundreds more have been leaving each week, many for safety in neighbouring Jordan and Syria. Without a strong Christian presence in Iraq and election candidates who insist on the separation between religion and the state, the country could become a theocracy dominated by Islamic parties and clerics who impose oppressive laws against minorities.
Under Pakistan’s ‘blasphemy laws’ a mandatory death sentence can be invoked for ‘defiling’ the name of Muhammad. Some Muslims, knowing that their word often carries more favour with the courts, have made false accusations against people from minority groups in an attempt to seize their lands or assets. Muslims who convert to Christianity are particularly vulnerable to physical attacks, even from their own families.
Persecution is not confined to the Muslim world, however – in communist Laos, Christians are considered to be ‘enemies of the state’. In Eritrea, the government refuses to register, and therefore deems illegal, many evangelical churches. Some pastors and members have been imprisoned, including some working with a Tearfund partner. In Sri Lanka, attacks on churches and Christians have decreased in the last year, but the media produces a great deal of anti-Christian material which incites hatred, and Buddhist extremists are seeking to change the constitution to ban Buddhists from converting to other faiths.
Pray for those throughout the world who pay a heavy price for their continuing faithfulness to Christ.
For more information:
Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Open Doors UK