The children of Christians are facing hostility and discrimination in places where Christians are a persecuted minority. As important to the next generation of the church, they desperately need our prayers and support.
Barnabas Fund’s Suffering Church action week 2013 will support persecuted Christian children. You can join believers around the world in remembering these children as part of a special week dedicated to the suffering church.
The theme of the week, running from 27 October – 3 November, will be ‘Children of courage: raising tomorrow’s church’. It will include a worldwide Day of Prayer on Friday 1 November to pray for the next generation of courageous Christians.
The children of Christians in Syria are in particularly desperate need, and will now be a major focus of Barnabas Fund’s work to support persecuted and defenceless children. They are suffering acutely in the nightmare that has engulfed their country.
Many Christian families have been displaced by the bloody conflict, losing everything. The price of essentials has been driven up beyond the reach of many, and shortages of food, water, medicines, petrol and electricity are forcing many children to go without the basics we take for granted.
Children of Christian families are also greatly at risk from targeted anti-Christian violence, and teenage Christian girls are particularly vulnerable to abduction and abuse. As part of Barnabas’ ‘Children of courage’ campaign, we are launching a major child sponsorship initiative in Syria to enable believers in the West to reach out to these needy children.
Sadly, the suffering of these persecuted children is a worldwide tragedy. Being born into a despised or persecuted Christian community often means growing up hungry, because discrimination bars many parents from all but the poorest paid jobs.
Their little ones grow up without proper nourishment and some children are deprived of a childhood because they have to work to help support their family. In Pakistan, many parents are forced to choose between feeding their child and paying for school fees.
Even when Christian parents are able to send their children to school, they have no certainty that the children will be well treated there. Christian schoolchildren in many countries face discrimination in the classroom and pressure to convert to the majority religion. They could even be deliberately failed in their exams, an injustice that destroys their opportunity to lift their family out of poverty.
And some children are not safe from violence in the classroom. Ayman Nabil Labib, a 17-year-old Christian schoolboy in Egypt, was beaten to death by his classmates in 2011 because he bravely refused to conceal his cross. His teacher was involved in the violent attack.
Because they are unable to defend themselves or escape, children of Christians are easy targets for violence. They may be the specifically intended victims of attack, sexual violence or even murder.
In Pakistan and Egypt, Christian girls are at risk of being kidnapped, raped, and forced to convert to Islam and marry their Muslim abductors. In the face of these many pressures, persecuted children need both practical support and spiritual encouragement.
Barnabas Fund is helping in a variety of ways. It funds places for a total of 7,423 persecuted children at Christian schools in ten countries. We supply regular food packages to needy Christian families in numerous countries, meaning children benefit from a nourishing diet that helps them to grow up healthy and strong.
We also support refuges for Christian girls who are in danger of forced marriage and forced conversion to Islam, and help children to stand firm in their faith by funding Christian children’s magazines, children’s Bibles and Christian clubs for young people.
These are just some examples of the many ways in which Barnabas Fund is helping to support tomorrow’s church. As conditions worsen for persecuted Christian minorities, especially in the light of the growing strength of Islamism since the Arab Spring, our support is becoming more and more crucial as Christian children will need to be courageous in the years ahead.
Christian young people in the West also need to stand firm in their faith at a time when it is being publicly undermined and marginalised. They too need our prayers and support.
Please prayerfully consider how you and your church could get involved in Suffering Church action week.
A free ‘Children of courage’ Inspiration Pack will be available to order. This includes materials for a church service and children’s ministry, a prayer resource for the day of prayer, and further information (see also,
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
International Director, Barnabas Fund