Christian organisations galvanised believers across the UK and elsewhere to pray for persecuted believers around the world.
In November last year, the Evangelical Alliance, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and Release International mobilised people for the 24th International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP), as reports of rising persecution showed Christians were being targeted ‘in plain sight’.
With the world in lockdown throughout 2020, Christians have been suffering the most in some of the most populous nations on earth, such as China, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan – both due to the pandemic and to religious discrimination.
According to the International Society for Human Rights, 80 percent of religious persecution around the world today is directed at Christians.
In India Christians have been attacked by far-right Hindu extremists; in China churches are being torn down, crosses removed, and pastors arrested; and in Nigeria terrorist and militant groups are slaughtering Christians and driving them from their villages.
Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, commented, ‘Persecution doesn’t just hide in the backwaters. It is taking place in plain sight in the largest and most populous nations on earth.
‘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, Mr Robinson said, adding, ‘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.’
Meanwhile, 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.
The 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.
Mr Robinson said the hope for the IDOP was to help ‘our brothers and sisters in India, China, and Nigeria to rise above persecution – and remain faithful in their worship and witness’.