By Shayne Looper
“It’s just the beginning.” That’s what one of the attackers said while bombing a church in eastern Kenya last week. Two people were killed and three others injured in the attack, which authorities believe was carried out by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab.
This month at least 65 people were killed in the city of Damaturu in northeastern Nigeria, when Islamist insurgents bombed churches, mosques and police stations. The Boko Haram militant sect claimed responsibility.
In October, government soldiers opened fire on a church in Bhamo District in Kachin state in Burma, just as the congregation was preparing for Sunday services. No one was injured in the gunfire, but the soldiers burned the property and detained five church leaders.
In Somalia, a 17-year-old Christian was beheaded this past September by Islamist extremists. The boy’s parents, who hold a Bible study in their home, had left for work and he was getting ready to go to school.
Compass Direct News reports that a 30-year-old Christian teacher was deported from Maldives after authorities discovered a Bible in his house in October of this year. The Indian teacher had lived and taught in Raa Atool for two years before his deportation.
In October the government of Kazakhstan enacted new legislation, which further restricts religious freedom. All registered churches must now re-register with the government, and only churches meeting the new criteria will be approved.
The Indonesia Pentecost Church in Sumedang, Indonesia, was closed on Oct. 3 for using an illegal building permit, and its pastor was arrested. According to the Jakarta Christian Communication Forum, at least 30 churches have been closed or burned in Indonesia in 2011, and many church leaders have been arrested.
On Oct. 27, a 25-year-old Somali Christian refugee was beaten and left for dead by six men. The man, known as Hassan, was beaten with an iron rod and stabbed. His attackers then stripped off his clothing and dumped him at the entrance to a Presbyterian Church of East Africa building.
Persecution of Christians did not end in the fourth century with Constantine. In fact, it has been estimated that more Christians were killed in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined. And the 21st century, as these recent occurrences suggest, has not gotten off to a very promising start, either.
Recognizing that Christians were suffering unprecedented persecution worldwide, the World Evangelical Fellowship launched the first International Day of Prayer in 1996. Each year on the second Sunday in November, millions of Christians around the world join together to pray for fellow-believers who are being persecuted.
These Christians take seriously the biblical injunction to: “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” (Hebrews 13:3).
Besides prayer, people can help the persecuted by writing letters to government officials, appealing for the release of specific prisoners. In some cases it is possible to write directly to persecuted believers who are in prison. Check out www.prisoneralert.com for more information.
There are numerous organizations that serve the persecuted. Some provide blankets, Bibles and other goods to Christians living in restricted nations. Others help interested persons become advocates for the imprisoned. For a list of agencies, check out www.persecutedchurch.org.
Shayne Looper is the pastor at the Lockwood Community Church in Michigan. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article posted as found on CarthagePress