Also with news from India and Nigeria

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Nov 15 – Global call for prayer as Christian persecution rises in the most populous nations on earth.

All around the world the church is in lockdown – due to pandemic and persecution. Christian persecution is rising in plain sight, in the largest, most populous nations on earth.

The Evangelical Alliance, CSW, Open Doors and Release International are mobilising prayer for the 24th International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP).

China, India & Nigeria

Together they will be streaming an online prayer event on November 15. The focus is on three major countries where persecution is rising: China, India and Nigeria.

Eighty per cent of religious persecution around the world today is directed at Christians, according to the International Society for Human Rights – and the evidence points to persecution rising.

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Authorities in China destroy a church in Linfen, Shanxi, in January 2018. (Photo: ChinaAid)

In India, Christians are attacked by far-right Hindu extremists. In China churches are torn down, crosses removed and pastors arrested. And in Nigeria, terrorist and militant groups are slaughtering Christians and driving them from their villages.

‘In plain sight’

‘Persecution doesn’t just hide in the backwaters. It is taking place in plain sight in the largest and most populous nations on earth,’ says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release International.

‘In countries like China, Christians don’t just face lockdown – they’re being locked out of their churches in growing numbers. Even state-controlled churches are being demolished and destroyed.’

India is another country of growing concern, adds Robinson. ‘Attacks and false accusations against Christians are now almost a daily occurrence – and this in the world’s largest democracy, the second most populous nation on earth.’

And in Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, attacks on Christian villages increased in 2020. Heavily armed Fulani militants are driving Christians from their homes – adding to the clear and present danger from Boko Haram terrorists.

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Stop the silence

The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) began in 1996, when a coalition of Christian organisations recognised that more Christians had died for their faith in the 20th century than in all the centuries combined since the Church began. They pledged that the global Church would no longer be silent about the increasing persecution of Christians.

‘Our prayer for IDOP 2020 is to help our brothers and sisters in India, China and Nigeria to rise above persecution – and remain faithful in their worship and witness,’ says Paul Robinson.

Release International has produced video, PowerPoint and other resources as a focus for prayer. They can be downloaded here

The online IDOP event will run from 7.30pm to 8.30pm on Sunday November 15. Register in advance here


Truro report

While Release International does not commission statistical research, reports and case studies from Release partners on the ground firmly support the evidence that the persecution of Christians is on the rise.

The 80 per cent figure was cited in the recent Persecution Report commissioned by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office from the Bishop of Truro.

That figure was originally provided by International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), a secular organisation based in Germany. In a footnote to his report, the Bishop of Truro writes: ‘In private conversation with leading figures in ISHR they stand by the figure and suggest that it is now a conservative estimate.’

That 80 per cent figure was also cited in a 2015 report by the University of Notre Dame, based on research by ’17-leading scholars of global Christianity’. The report, Under Caesar’s Sword, Christian Response to Persecution went on to state: ‘Even the most conservative estimates of the Christian proportion of global religious persecution do not fall below 60 per cent.’

Christians targeted

It continued: ‘A report of the U.S. State Department shows that Christians face persecution in over 60 countries. According to the non-partisan Pew Research Center, for each year between 2007 and 2014, Christians have been targeted for harassment in more countries than any other religious group.’

Subsequent findings by the Pew Research Center in 2017 reiterated that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world, concluding that in 2016 Christians were targeted in 144 countries – a rise from 125 in 2015.

According to Pew Research, ‘Christians have been harassed in more countries than any other religious group and have suffered harassment in many of the heavily Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa.’

And Open Doors estimate at least 260 million Christians face high or extreme levels of persecution for their faith, an increase of 15 million on the previous year, itself a rise from the year before. Release International is satisfied the available research points to an increase in the persecution of Christians.