Next month will mark the International Day of
Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The official date is November 10, 2013.
However, their website states: “…you are free to choose another date if you wish."
Voice of the Martyrs and Open Doors have chosen November 3.
When I was a child, I somehow picked up the notion that persecution against the
Christian church basically ended with the collapse of the Roman Empire.
But it turns out that the last century was the worst century ever for the
persecution of Christians and martyrdom. Dr. David Barrett, a leading church
statistician, says there were more Christians martyred in the 20th century than
had been murdered in all previous centuries combined.
Persecution today continues to rear its ugly head in various places around the
globe, such as in remnant Communist countries, like Vietnam or North Korea. But
anti-Christian persecution is especially found in the Middle East and those
places where the philosophy of Islamism---a supremacist form of
It’s a cliché by now, but it’s true: The Arab Spring has turned into the
Dr. Peter Hammond of Frontline Fellowship says that just in the last few years
the Christian population in the Middle East has shrunk from about 15 million to
13. Most of these have fled the homes their families have occupied for multiple
generations---or perhaps even millennia.
Hundreds of years before Mohammed was born or Islam conquered that region,
these families lived basically in peace and safety. Even after the Islamic
sword swept over their lands and forced them into dhimmi status (a second class
status, not unlike the old Jim Crow laws blacks lived under in the deep South),
these families still remained in Iraq and Syria and Egypt.
But in recent years, due to events like the “Arab Sprint” and the war in Iraq,
the region has dramatically destabilized for Christians. We need to pray for
these hurting fellow Christians. Paul says, “And if one member [of the Body of
Christ] suffers, all the members suffer with it…”
More than 100 or so Christian cathedrals, churches, schools have been destroyed
in Egypt just in the last couple of months. One Cairo-based church cancelled
the Sunday-morning service in August for the first time in 1300 years.
In a recent weekend, Islamists killed dozens of Christians at a Pakistani
church service and shoppers at a Kenya mall. (To the Islamists, virtually all
non-Muslims are infidels.)
Recently, American attention has been focused on Syria, though it has somewhat
subsided as of late, since a US strike has seemingly been averted for the
Clearly, Syria is undergoing terrible developments. Some call it a civil war.
Others would say that foreign invaders are taking advantage of the chaos that
came in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, especially after the fall of Mubarak
In any event, Islamists are creating more and more havoc throughout the whole
Syria played a key role in the start of Christianity. It was in a city of Syria
that the famous moniker for believers in Jesus was first created. Luke tells us
in the Book of Acts: "the disciples were fist called Christians in
Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus, when Jesus appeared to him and changed
him into the greatest missionary ever---Paul the Apostle. He went on to write
half the New Testament.
It was out of Antioch, that the early Church sent Barnabas and Paul out on the
first missionary enterprise. They were the first we know of to bring the gospel
My good friend, Bill Federer, bestselling author and speaker, told my radio
audience recently that after Greek (the Koine version of which was the language
of the New Testament) and after Latin (the main language for Church writings
for more than a millennium), Syriac (a language based in Syria) contained the
most amount of Christian writings.
Even now, thousands of Christians still live in Syria, but their lives and
future are in jeopardy, as are the lives of many Muslims who do not buy into
the Islamist philosophy of the Syrian rebels.
Reports show that our government is funding many of these rebels in Syria or
providing them with guns<http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/12/politics/syria-arming-rebels/index.html>.
Most agree that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is a bad guy. Yet the rebels
opposing him include Muslim terrorists committed to the same deadly philosophy
of Al-Qaeda, whether directly affiliated or not. Christians in Syria,
meanwhile, plead with foreign powers to stay out of the battle and to not
support the Muslim rebels.
Saddam Hussein was a bad guy by anybody’s reckoning. But, reflecting the “law
of unintended consequences,” the change in government in Iraq has been
devastating to Christians---the majority of whom have been killed or driven out
by Islamic militants.
For TheDailyBeast, Kirsten Powers, wrote, “A Global Slaughter of Christians,
but America’s Churches Stay Silent” (9/27/13). She notes, “Christians in the
Middle East and Africa are being slaughtered, tortured, raped, kidnapped,
beheaded, and forced to flee the birthplace of Christianity. One would think
this horror might be consuming the pulpits and pews of American churches. Not
so. The silence has been nearly deafening.”
It’s time to shatter the silence and mobilize the prayer warriors. The least we
can do is pray.
Dr. Jerry Newcombe is a key archivist of the D. James Kennedy Legacy Library
and a Christian TV producer. He has also written or co-written 23 books,
including The Book That Made America: How the Bible Formed Our Nation and (with
D. James Kennedy), What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? His views are his own. www.jerrynewcombe.com
Jerry Newcombe, D.Min.
P.O. Box 1
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33302