If you only read the headlines, then you’ll be afraid for Christians in Egypt. The ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi to power, continuing discrimination against religious minorities and national political unrest paint a dark picture of the future.
“The political, social, economic and religious situation in Egypt today does not indicate we are proceeding towards stability,” said one Christian leader. “Just to see the increased influence of Islamist groups has already scared away many Christians and has stolen peace from their hearts.” Out of this concern, Egyptian Christians issued a nationwide call for prayer October 1-3. Many Christians in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia face similar stolen peace.
Yet that fear — as legitimate as it is — is only part of the story in the land of the Nile. There’s another picture emerging, one fueled by prayer and worship that is much more hopeful. Also this fall, 10,000 young believers from across Egypt gathered in the desert — some traveling there from hundreds of miles away — to pray and to worship the Lord and to seek his blessing for their country.
“To sit among over 10,000 young people, worship with them in a roaring holy noise, listen to powerful and challenging messages and pray for God’s powerful presence in our lives; really, it is hard to describe in words,” reported a Christian leader.
The three-day event was called “One Thing,” taken from Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Said the leader, “Imagine the empowering, heavenly force that those crowds of young people have taken back with them as they flooded back into their cities, towns and villages all across Egypt, assured that God the Holy Spirit is Himself living within them, determined to make them a blessing for the nation. God is at work in Egypt, no doubt!”
Later in October, an estimated 50,000 gathered in the desert at an evangelical festival to pray, worship and participate in fun activities.
So how do we reconcile these seemingly divergent pictures of Egyptian Christianity? We do it by prayer. Yes, from a human perspective, Egypt faces dark days. Open Doors ranks the nation of 84 million people No. 15 on its annual World Watch List of nations that persecute Christians. So prayer for God’s wisdom and protection for these dear brothers and sisters is most needed.
But, as “One Thing” demonstrates, God is already with his people in Egypt and is accessible through prayer and worship. Egyptian Christians, who are undeniably under pressure and persecution, nonetheless are the apple of the Lord’s eye and are in a very real sense participating in His victory.
We believers in the relatively safe West need to keep this dual perspective in mind with the latest International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP) right around the corner. To be held this year on Sunday, Nov. 11, IDOP focuses our attention on the estimated 100 million Christians worldwide who suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation.
Prayer, at its best, is not merely a call for God’s rescue amid suffering, though at times it certainly is that. But prayer is also an opportunity to see our circumstances in light of God’s purposes and to align our hearts and lives with those purposes. It is a way to stand with our brothers and sisters while we seek and worship the Lord. And when we worship the Lord, his love casts out all fear — and all hate.
As Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, has said, “Christians have an answer in those situations that the world does not know anything about. But as followers of Christ, we must take a bold step: we must shed the ‘enemy image’ we have of those who persecute us. Because the moment we have an enemy image of anyone, God's love can no longer work through us to reach them! We must pray for and even love those who hate us.”
That’s why Open Doors is joining millions of Christians around the world for IDOP — not just for persecuted Christians in places such as Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea and Vietnam, but for their persecutors, and for ourselves as well.
IDOP is not the property of Open Doors or any other group. It is a movement that crosses organizational and denominational lines for the glory of God and the good of his people.
And though IDOP is coming soon, it is not too late to get involved. Just go to opendoorsusa.org or the website of your favorite organization.
If you want to do more, please consider checking out the Open Doors campaign, “One With Them,” which offers a special wristband that looks like barbed wire. It’s a great conversation starter. The wristbands provide an opportunity to explain to others the plight of persecuted believers.
But whatever you do, join IDOP this year, and get your church, small group or family to do the same.
Lindsay Vessey is advocacy director for Open Doors USA (www.OpenDoorsUSA.org, based in Santa Ana, California), the American arm of Open Doors International, a worldwide ministry supporting the religious and humanitarian rights of Christians since 1955.
Publication date: November 2, 2012