Prayer is the first thing persecuted Christians request when Voice of the Martyrs spokesman Todd Nettleton encounters them in countries where it’s difficult to practice their faith.
Whether the woman he encountered on a recent trip to the Middle East who has planted 30 house churches since accepting Christ two years ago or the man he interviewed who has lived with no legal status after fleeing persecution by the Islamic State seven years ago, prayer is their top concern.
“It’s the first thing they want Christians in the free world to do to help them and to stand with them,” said Nettleton, VOM chief of media relations and message integration.
That’s the logic behind VOM’s latest global prayer guide, a free tool that has fueled Christian prayers for the persecuted since 1997.
“It’s a tool that we want every American Christian to have in their home to help them pray, to help them answer that first request of our persecuted brothers and sisters,” Nettleton said. “Instead of just saying God help persecuted Christians, we can start to drill down and pray for specific Christians in specific situations in China, or Iran or Nigeria. It really is a tool to help people pray more effectively.”
Hostile and restricted countries
The 2022 Global Prayer Guide tracks more than 60 countries where Christians suffer persecution, informing readers of the type of persecution suffered, the source of the persecution and what drives the mistreatment. Countries are grouped into categories of “hostile” and “restricted.”
In hostile nations or territories, practicing Christians suffer persecution from family members, community extremists and terrorists despite governmental efforts to protect Christians. In restricted nations or territories, Christians suffer government-sanctioned persecution and anti-Christian laws that subject them to harassment, imprisonment or death. Countries that restrict the circulation of Bibles or other Christian literature are also considered restricted.
“We have staff that travel in and out of these countries, and are constantly in contact with church leaders and other Christians in these countries to hear what’s going on, what is happening,” he said. VOM annually evaluates its list based on new information received. The 2022 list is basically unchanged from 2021.
“Voice of the Martyrs has identified over 70 countries where Christians are persecuted,” he said. “That’s the information that is in this 2022 prayer guide.”
Nettleton encourages Christians to make the prayer guide a part of their daily devotion and to share it with others at Bible study groups and other gatherings.
“It has become a really vital tool for a lot of people who have made that commitment to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters,” Nettleton said. “There are a lot of committed Christians that have this prayer guide sitting beside their Bible, where they will see it when they pick up their Bible for devotion. They maybe have it on the breakfast table, and as a family they pick out a country each day and pray for the believers in that country.
“We hear stories like that, of people putting it to use to help them pray effectively for persecuted Christians around the world.”
Deemed hostile to Christians are the Central African Republic, Colombia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Israel (Including the West Bank and Gaza), Kenya, Lebanon, Mali, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippine island of Mindanao, Southern Mexico, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda.
Listed as restricted are Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Comoros, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
The guide doesn’t rank countries by level of persecution suffered.
“If you’re the Christian who is facing persecution, it doesn’t matter if you live in what somebody else says is the worst country or the fifth-worst country or the 50th-worst country,” Nettleton said, “you are still facing persecution. You are still in the midst of that struggle.
“And our goal as Voice of the Martyrs is to stand with every Christian who is facing persecution, so for us, the issue is how do we help them. The first thing they ask us to do is pray.”
In addition to the prayer guide, VOM has an app, Pray Today, which sends a daily prayer reminder with a specific prayer request.
Additionally, prayer requests and information are posted at icommittopray.com, where users register to receive regular prayer requests and also post prayer requests for persecuted believers. Find all these resources at persecution.com/prayerguide/.
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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