By Rebecca Roman
By the time you’re reading this, International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (November 7, 2021) will have passed. However, the need for prayer remains.
According to Open Doors USA, in the last year there have been:
- 340 million Christians living in places where they experience high levels of persecution and discrimination;
- 4,761 Christians killed for their faith;
- 4,488 churches and other Christian buildings attacked;
- 4,277 believers detained without trial, arrested, sentenced or imprisoned.
Through two of its church plants in Canada (The Glory of Christ Evangelical Church in Toronto, Ont., and Ephrath Evangelical Church in Edmonton, Alta.), EMC has links to the persecuted church in Ethiopia. Open Doors USA’s World Watch List ranks the persecution level in Ethiopia as “very high” and it’s on the list of top 50 countries where it’s most difficult to follow Jesus.
Mennonite World Conference article “Ongoing conflict cuts off congregations” says, “In November 2020, fighting broke out between Ethiopian government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Although a 28 June 2021 ceasefire halted overt fighting, in October 2021, the UN General Secretary is warning of a humanitarian crisis, with some 400 000 people living in famine-like conditions.”
Meserete Kristos Church (MKC) is the Mennonite church in Ethiopia, the largest Mennonite church in the world. Six local MKC congregations and 15 church planting centres in the Tigray region have been affected. Since a church worker at Wukro MKC died in the conflict, there is no direct way to hear about the conditions for believers in the region, says Desalegn Abebe, MKC president.
Open Doors says, “Women are also subjected to specific persecution in Ethiopia. Christian women have been forced to marry non-Christians and then recant their faith. And if a woman converts to Christianity in a non-Christian area, it is most likely she will be divorced by her husband. She may lose custody of her children.” Amnesty International describes horrific incidents of sexual violence against Tigrayan women and girls committed by soldiers and militia aligned with the Ethiopian government.
How can we assist the persecuted church, in Ethiopia and globally? The primary request of believers experiencing persecution is prayer. For the Ethiopian conflict, Desalegn Abebe asks, “Pray for MKC to continue…peacebuilding activities, pray for the church to get resources to share with the affected in conflict areas and undertake more peace activities in conflict areas.”
Open Doors describes five ways to pray effectively for the persecuted church:
- Pray that whatever their circumstances, God will enable persecuted Christians to defend their faith.
- Pray that persecuted Christians will understand and find peace in the sufficiency of God’s grace, even in their weaknesses.
- Pray that Christians facing hardship will rely on God’s power.
- Pray that persecuted Christians will experience God’s presence and protection.
- Pray their witness would inspire those who seek to harm them.
Sometimes Western Christians have falsely adopted the language of persecution when words like “discomfort” or “inconvenience” would be more accurate (“Happy Holidays,” anyone?). I can’t recall the source, but I recently heard speculation this is due to a lack of true persecution: we’re not actually experiencing persecution, so we need to fabricate it. Whether accurate or not, it made me think.
Outrage at outside forces and people is sometimes a convenient outlet for the stress we’re under due to various life circumstances. Perhaps, instead, that energy could and should be redirected toward prayer for others undergoing much hardship.
After all, the persecuted church needs our prayers!