Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Hostility toward religion a reality; ministry launches solidarity campaign

International (MNN) ― A new study titled "Rising Restrictions on Religion" shows increased hostility toward religion between 2006 and 2009.

Released by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life, the study revealed that hostile action by community or government toward religious groups rose substantially for more than 2.2 billion people during the study period.

The report also noted that this data was not surprising due to the fact that many of the countries with the increase had already experience high levels of hostility or restrictions.
Violence considered in the report included damage or destruction of property to physical assault, false charges, detention and displacement. Also predictable was the percentage of Christians involved in the harassment. According to the report, they were the victims of mob violence in 52 separate incidents by the middle of 2009.

Christians also faced harassment in130 countries, the highest numbers among the religious groups studied. According the report, the top ten countries with the highest hostilities regarding religion included Iraq, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Israel and Egypt.

A slightly different distinction with another top ten list involved countries with government restrictions in place: Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, China, Maldives, Malaysia, Burma, Eritrea and Indonesia.

Open Doors World Watch List (WWL) is a list of the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is the worst. A comparison of both Pew lists finds the countries in the top 50. However, the 2011 WWL names the following as the world's worst persecutors of Christians: North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Iraq, Uzbekistan, and Laos.

Carl Moeller with Open Doors explains that "over 70% of the world's population lives in places where  religious liberty is restricted. Well over 100 million Christians right now, as we speak, in over 60 countries, are being actively persecuted for their faith."

Given the scenario facing believers, Open Doors launched the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in 1996. From a core group of approximately 7,000 churches, the IDOP has grown to be the largest prayer day event of its kind in the world.

IDOP is a means of encouraging solidarity, offering a rallying point for Christians and others to stand behind the persecuted Church. Moeller says, "When I hear that the vast majority of the world lives in places where they are not free to believe, in the way that we are here, my heart goes out to them and I want to do something."

Traditionally the second Sunday in November, IDOP this year has a preparatory campaign launch called "One With Them." Moeller says, "By being part of 'One With Them' and going to onewiththem.com, I can actually show the world that I care and make a difference."

The sole functions of IDOP are prayer and awareness. One With Them serves both purposes with the help of a rubber bracelet shaped like barbed wire. "This campaign is really focused on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church in November coming forward, where we will mobilize literally millions of Christians around the world to pray for persecuted believers."

Since most of the persecuted church feels forgotten by the rest of the world, Moeller says, "The most important thing we do will be to mobilize prayer for these Christians. That's the number one request they have. Our commitment is to provide whatever resources they need, and in order to do that, we need the support of people in the United States."

Because Open Doors is so committed to getting people to join in the solidarity movement, they're giving the bracelets away to encourage people to participate. Go to Onewiththem.com where you can request a bracelet for yourself and one for a friend. Beyond that, you can purchase extras. The prayer reminder comes packaged with a commitment to pray for the persecuted church. Also, written inside the card is the pledge: "I wear this wristband in solidarity with my brothers and sisters in Christ, who share my faith but not my freedom."

Moeller says, "It's really vital that people mobilize those that they know who have opportunity to step in the gap and provide the material resources, the Bibles, the rebuilt churches, the food, clothing and shelter for the victims of the violence in these places."

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