November 1st is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Many of the believers we come alongside in South Asia are heavily persecuted – they face imprisonments, beatings, deprivation of their rights, rejection by their families, and other forms of opposition.
As we pray for the persecuted church, each Sunday of November (starting on the 8th) we will share messages from our country leaders in Bhutan, Bangladesh, India and Kashmir, Myanmar, and Nepal here on our website and on social media.
Each leader will share their reflections on what they view persecution to be and not to be, from experience and Scripture. They will explain the causes of persecution against followers of Jesus in their specific communities and countries. They will share how they exhort persecuted believers, and how you can pray for the persecuted church.
Our hope is that these reflections will give greater context on how to pray specifically for our South Asian brothers and sisters, and build greater compassion for their persecutors.
However, before we begin, consider Pastor Thang* in Myanmar (Burma)’s prayer:
“When I was converted in 1990, I started to pray for the people who have been persecuted because of their faith till today. Also I am praying for the persecutors and the authorities who mistakenly and wrongly persecute Christians, that they will turn their life into believing God and trusting, like Paul the apostle.”
Sometimes in the US, when persecution is talked about, it can lead to the vilification of the persecutors, and especially of Muslims. It can fuel anger and fear, instead of compassion and evangelism.
Yet, as believers, we are called not only to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3), but also to “…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). We are also told that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7).
We cannot separate these three exhortations. Let the example of persecuted believers spur us on to pray for, love, and share the Gospel with persecutors and those of other faiths, and not act out of anger or fear, so that more Sauls become Pauls.
Below, we share the first of messages on persecution from our country and regional leaders.
Pastor Joshua* in Orissa, India, whose ministry you support, has been beaten and imprisoned several times. He has lost friends to martyrdom at the hands of radical Hindu groups. He is married to the widow of a martyred pastor. Here, he explains what fuels persecution in his region, his message to persecuted believers, and how you can pray.
“You can say the motivation for persecution here is that in India, Christianity is considered as a foreign religion. The British ruled India for many years, and Indians were slaves to them. So, in India Jesus Christ is considered a foreign God. [Hindu] religious people are motivated by their religious leaders and politicians – they fear loss of power. In India, Hinduism is the main religion. But people are touched by God’s love, by the Good News, and they are converting.
My message for persecuted pastors and believers is this: ‘In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus preached about persecution. He said “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.” Beloved Brothers and Sisters, according to Jesus, persecution is a blessing. What is persecution? It’s hatred, suffering, hearing evil things from people, they revile you and reject you, and so on. Even Jesus was persecuted by high priests, Sadducees, Pharisees, by his disciples, and his own people. If Jesus was persecuted we should also expect it – maybe physically, mentally, socially or materially. We, each one of us, will undergo persecution. As the Old Testament prophets were persecuted, Jesus was persecuted. His disciples and New Testament believers were persecuted. All those who believe in Jesus’ name will be persecuted. It is a part of our calling. Jesus told about how He will suffer and die and raise to life on the third day, Jesus told Peter how he will die. Likewise, the apostle Paul knew he must suffer for His name. He knew we must undergo persecution for righteousness’ sake, for our faith in Jesus as a Christian, to manifest Jesus in our mortal body, and to bear witness. Finally, there is no crown of life without suffering.’
Many of our believers have lost their beloved ones – sons, husbands, brothers, fathers, and so on. Please pray for the bereaved families. Naturally there is a fear among persecuted families. They must learn to love God in this, so please pray for them.
Some of the persecuted believers are facing social rights problems in their places – for example, they can’t use the village well, pond or tube well, and they can’t purchase anything from the local shops. Nobody keeps friendship or fellowship with them. Some are physically attacked and they need recovery. Some believers’ houses are damaged. They must rebuild or repair it. Some of them are scattered because of this. Please pray for them wherever they are, that they must be witnesses of the Lord and that God will bring them back to their place.”
Thank you for reading, praying, and giving.
Check back on November 8th for another message, this time from leaders in Nepal and Bhutan.
Kate Therese, Executive Director, with Pastor Joshua
*Names changed for persecution