Tag Archives: persecuted church

Why Pray for the Persecuted Church?

In the US and in Western Europe, Christians are not imprisoned for attending church. They tend to feel persecuted when someone criticizes them for mentioning church in public. In many other countries, persecution has a much sharper edge.

In Laos, local government officials may evict a Christian couple from their home and send them into the forest with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The national government may revoke their citizenship, leaving them stateless.

In China, a Christian may be arrested for attending a church not registered with the national government.

In Saudi Arabia, Christian girls may be kidnapped and forcibly married to Muslim men. When families do find out where their daughters are and bring the case to court, the courts refuse to hear testimony from the girls and ultimately rule that the girls voluntarily recanted their Christian faith and married Muslim men.

In Syria, Christians are abused and even beheaded in the streets. Yet their response to persecution is so full of grace and love that everyone in that beleaguered nation knows to go to Christians for food, medicine and shelter from the ever-present danger.

What do Christians under persecution say to the rest of us? The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians from prison, and what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11 beautifully sums up the message of the persecuted church to the rest of the world:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.  NIV

Why should we pray for the persecuted church?

  • Because when we pray, we share their burden.

We are all part of the body of Christ on earth. When you mash your finger in a door, you feel the pain all over. Likewise, when the body of Christ suffers in Uzbekistan, the body in USA suffers as well.

Also, when we intercede for them in prayer, we enter into God’s ministry of blessing to them. We are part of God’s work on earth to strengthen their testimony in a dark and dangerous world.

Why should we pray for the persecuted church?

  • Because it strengthens our own testimony.

It is not possible to read of the sufferings and courage of Christians around the world and not be encouraged to be strong in our own testimony. The world is just as dark in the US, even if it is less dangerous, and we, too, are called by God to be faithful in our testimony. When we share their burden of persecution, we also share their burden for Satan’s captives who surround us. We, too, must pour out our lives in love for those whom Satan enslaves.

Why should we pray for the persecuted church?

  • Because prayer is what they ask for more than anything else.

Ministries who serve the persecuted go into dangerous settings and meet people whose lives are at risk. When the visiting ministers ask, “What can we do to help you? What do you need?” the first answer is always, “Pray that we will be strong and faithful in our testimony to Christ.” When we pray with them that they may be true to Christ, we join in their own most fervent prayers. They don’t ask for help to escape persecution; they ask for strength to go through it as Christ did. We must pray for the persecuted church if we want to give them the thing they most deeply desire.

If you have not been praying for the persecuted church, now is a good time to start. Visit I Commit to Pray and join with Christians around the world in prayer for the persecuted church.

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Christians feel Battered

Many people in the US today feel as if their world has been turned upside down. They feel almost adrift in a tumultuous sea. They feel that events swirl around them completely out of control.

What causes this feeling?

Probably one of the big issues is the nagging feeling that somehow the threat voiced long ago in the Soviet Union that “we will bury you” has come true. After all, the Soviet Union was a place where the government owned everything. Everybody worked for the government.  Businessmen were reviled as filthy capitalists. All healthcare was free, but it was administered by the government, and many people waited so long for service that they died waiting. Healthcare institutions looked more like prisons than hospitals. Christians and their churches were scorned and even punished. The government confiscated churches, stole anything valuable from the buildings, and turned them into government offices and agencies. Five-year plans for economic recovery never recovered anything and the country ultimately collapsed. Former refugees from the Soviet Union cry out that they came to the US to escape this sort of thing, yet it has now caught up with them. Both the culture and the government in the US are starting to look a lot like the former Soviet Union.

The refugee testimony that verifies the changes taking place makes it clear that Christians are not crazy when they feel battered on the one side by rampant secularism expressed both in the culture and in government and on the other side by Islam, which for reasons unknown, is accommodated by the government in deference not accorded to any other religion.

Secular pressure on Christians arises spontaneously in the culture with rising numbers of secularists who claim no connection to any religion while scorning those who do connect. Government in the US has historically been neutral or even benevolent toward religion in the culture, but in recent years it seems to be developing an aggressive and antagonistic attitude toward Christianity. (It might look equally antagonistic toward other religions if their adherents were as numerous as self-identified Christians.) Rulings forbidding prayer in schools or Christmas displays in parks or monuments to the Ten Commandments portend future policies and legislation that will make it difficult to exercise Christian faith in the public realm. Laws that upend moral codes that Christians believe to be the revealed will of God make it hard to express Christian teachings in public.

Islam presses for change in the culture more than it presses directly on Christians. Yet Christians are caught up in the pressure, because Christians are affected by every trend that develops in the culture. For example, there is no outcry from Muslims in the US to make Christian evangelism illegal, (as is normal in Islamic republics) but there is an outcry to apply sharia law in the courts when a Muslim is involved. The ultimate effect of invoking sharia in the courts, however, would be to risk suppression of Christian evangelism if a Muslim were involved. The Quran teaches that it is a deadly sin for a Muslim to convert to any other religion, and the Christian who may have led the Muslim to conversion would also be regarded as a threat. Couple Muslim rejection of a right for Christians to evangelize Muslims with secular demands that Christians refrain from “proselytizing” and a Christian is caught in a pincer attack from secularism and Islam.

Christians experience such challenges every day in the US. This threat level will not likely be reduced in the foreseeable future. How can Christians remain strong and faithful when under threat?

Christians in the US must look to the persecuted church around the world for inspiration and education in standing strong. Christians must learn from the persecuted church worldwide to be fearless in using the weapons God provides for this sort of warfare – truth, Christ’s righteousness, ready testimony to the gospel, faith, salvation, the Bible, and prayer. Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to get the whole picture of the way God intends for Christians to defend themselves. In many countries, the church thrives under oppression US residents have never seen, because the persecuted church uses these weapons with fervent commitment. US Christians must live the love of Christ in the cultural “no man’s land” between secularism and Islam. Christians must be the love of Christ to everyone who enters the “no man’s land” which is God’s workspace where he transforms darkness to light and death to life in the hearts of humankind for Jesus’ sake. There is a reason Christians feel battered; they are under attack. Nevertheless there is a way to thrive and live fulfilled lives if they use the tools God has provided for their well-being. This blog is devoted to helping people find and use these tools for blessing in their own lives and the lives of others.

Pastor Saeed Writes of “Psychological Warfare,” “Physical Violence,” and “Death Threats” in Iranian Prison

This post is a reprint of an article first posted at https://aclj.org/iran/pastor-saeed-writes-psychological-warfare-physical-violence-death-threats-iranian-prison . Follow this link to see video coverage. Please join in prayers for Pastor Saeed and sign the petition for his release.  

Earlier this week, American Pastor Saeed Abedini was able to write a letter to his wife and supporters detailing the horrific conditions he suffers in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison.

Pastor Saeed has now been imprisoned in Iran nearly five months. He describes how the “the psychological warfare, a year of not seeing my family, physical violence, actions committed to humiliate me, insults, being mocked,” extremists and other bullying groups in Evin “create another prison within the prison walls.”

In his last public letter, before his conviction, Pastor Saeed wrote that he was told he “will hang” for his faith. Today, he says that he still faces “death threats” in prison.

For the first time, Pastor Saeed acknowledges that the beatings and torture are designed to get him to recant his Christian faith – something he says he will never do. “They are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ,” he wrote. “But they will never get this from me.”

In one instance, a fellow cellmate “attacked” him because he was singing praise songs.

As Pastor Saeed writes, “It is during these harsh conditions, that I deeply need God’s Saving Grace so that I can be the fragrant scent of Christ in the dark house of Evin prison.”

These are the conditions he will face every day for the next eight years of his prison sentence. Pastor Saeed, a U.S. citizen, is being forced to undergo some of the most horrific conditions imaginable.

Upon receiving this heartbreaking letter, Pastor Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, told us:

It is heart wrenching to hear of Saeed’s continued abuse and torture in the Iranian prison. We have known for some time that he is facing physical and psychological abuse. Now our worst fears have been confirmed. He continues to face life-threatening abuse at the hands of the Iranian officials simply because of his faith in Jesus. These are the dreadful conditions he will continue to face as he serves his lengthy prison sentence in Iran. Saeed is an American citizen who is being pressured and falsely promised freedom if only he will deny his faith in Jesus. We have seen this tactic used in the past. Saeed will never recant his faith in Jesus – even if it means continued torture and abuse. Our primary concern is for his health and well-being with each passing day. We know that while he is very weak physically, Saeed is strong in his faith. His situation is dire and with the continued abuse and death threats, we are not sure how long Saeed will survive these horrendous conditions in prison. The most important thing we can do is pray, continue to raise awareness of his case and continue to work for his freedom.

It is incumbent upon each of us to stand up for this 32-year-old U.S. citizen, loving father of two, devoted husband, and committed pastor.

It is rare that he is able to get a letter like this to the public. He has no voice. Each of us must be his voice. Sign the petition for his freedom at SaveSaeed.org. After you have signed the petition, please consider who of your family and friends can also sign this petition to save Pastor Saeed.

Below is the complete letter from Pastor Saeed, translated into English – a powerful testimony of perseverance in the face of unspeakable persecution:

Writing from my heart.

My Dear Friends,

The conditions here get so very difficult that my eyes get blurry, my body does not have the strength to walk, and my steps become very weak and shaky.

Various (bullying) groups, the psychological warfare, a year of not seeing my family, physical violence, actions committed to humiliate me, insults, being mocked, being confronted with extremists in the prison who create another prison within the prison walls, and the death threats…

It is interesting that because I am a Christian pastor, I am carefully watched. I am expected to smile at them despite what is being done and to understand why they are doing all of these things. But, of course, I can clearly see what is going on and because I want to serve God, I see all of these difficulties as golden opportunities and great doors to serve. There are empty containers who are thirsty for a taste of the Living Water and we can quench their thirst by giving them Jesus Christ. Maybe you are also in such a situation, so pray and seek God that He would use you and direct you in the pressures and difficulties of your lives.

There are those who are enemies of the Living Bible and do not want to hear. They are trying to put me under such horrific pressures (that are sometimes unbearable) so that they can show me that my faith is empty and not real. And after all of these pressures, after all of the nails they have pressed against my hands and feet, they are only waiting for one thing…for me to deny Christ. But they will never get this from me. This is why the Bible is Truth and they are in the way of destruction.

There is another group who does not know the Gospel of Truth. Instead of truly listening and meditating on God’s Word, they are just waiting to see how I react to all of their pressures and persecution. What will come out of me during these intense times? But again, this is another golden opportunity for me to shine the light of Christ in this dark world and to let God to use me.

Yesterday when I was singing worship songs, the head of my cell room attacked me in order to stop me from praising but in response I hugged him and showed him love. He was shocked.

It is during these harsh conditions, that I deeply need God’s Saving Grace so that I can be the fragrant scent of Christ in the dark house of Evin prison. I have often seen the Shining Morning Star in the darkness of this prison and I have seen His amazing and supernatural works. Oh, how beautiful is seeing the light of the Shining Morning Star of Christ in such evil darkness.

So:

  • See your golden opportunities in pressures and difficulties.
  • See the Shining Morning Star in the dark times of your life.

I Love Him! He is Gracious, Merciful, and Righteous to me. I now know that I have not been forgotten and that we are together in this path. God gives me Grace. This is my message for the Church: Stay Strong for His Glory. He will come back soon! Be with God and give your best efforts for His kingdom.

Pastor Saeed, servant of Jesus Christ in chains for endurance of Gospel. I love you all.

Share his letter. Pray. Join over a quarter of a million others, and sign the petition at SaveSaeed.org.

Could you be ‘Steadfast Under Fire’ the way Pastor Saeed is? Learn about persecution and the Christian response to persecution at the VOM Classroom.