This month, across the world, churches will give time to pray for the persecuted church ... and that all may have the Right to Believe. STEPHEN RAND updates us on the campaign as voting time in the United Nations approaches.
Many churches in the UK and Ireland will join in prayer for the persecuted church on 7 November, as part of the worldwide body of Christ. Many will take the opportunity to sign the Open Doors global petition for the Right to Believe. And as the petition is presented, and the United Nations votes on the ‘Defamation of Religions’ Resolution, there is every reason to keep praying!
Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says ‘everyone has the right to freedom of religion’; if only that were true in every country around the world.
Christians in Uzbekistan, for example, face many restrictions. An Uzbek is supposed to be a Muslim, and live according to Muslim traditions. Christian believers face pressure from family and the authorities to return to Islam. “When my husband and I became Christians, his parents made us leave their house,” shares one believer. “My brothers beat him. My husband also lost his job. We decided to move to another city.”
“Today we are leaders of a small house group of Uzbek Christians. Recently most of our furniture was confiscated to pay for a fine ... a fine for meeting without registration and having Bibles in our home. Next time they charge us, we may go to jail.”
In Afghanistan, most Christians are secret believers unable even to own a Bible. Believers who are exposed as Christians face reprisals from family, community and the Taleban. With some Afghan politicians calling for the execution of Muslims who become Christians under Afghan law, believers have very little real freedom.
In Israel, Orthodox Jews reject the 'Jewishness' of a Messianic Jew (anyone who has accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah and Son of God), and they exert both social and legal pressures against these Christian believers.
Unofficially, frequent threats and even violent attacks are directed against Messianic Jews. Hundreds of these believers have faced direct attempts to revoke their Israeli citizenship. Some Israelis who have confirmed under legal questioning that they believed Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah have actually lost their citizenship.
A few miles away, in Gaza, pressures are mounting for Palestinian Christians. Christian women in particular are being forced by the circumstances to adjust their lifestyles, clothing and freedom of movement. “You can feel the tension, and the atmosphere is depressing,” Maryam* says.
“There is no space anymore to live as a Christian in Gaza,” she adds. “You have to follow the rules of the majority. Nobody cares about minorities. There is totally no room for our own identity. We do not feel safe anymore. What shall we do? Do we all have to leave Gaza?”
The Right to Believe campaign is focused on prayerful action to stand up for Christians around the world whose freedoms would be even more under threat if the ‘Defamation of Religions’ concept continues to be accepted by the United Nations and becomes part of human rights legislation.
The global petition has been signed by people in more than 40 countries, and with continued effort during November the target of 100,000 signatures could be reached. At the time of writing we are still waiting to hear whether we will be able to present the petition to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in person.
While people have been signing petitions across the world, Open Doors staff have been working behind the scenes to convince representatives of government of the need to vote against the ‘Defamation of Religions’ concept.
That task has not been made easier by the global furore over the Florida pastor’s threat to commemorate the 9/11 disaster by burning the Quran. The Organisation of the Islamic Conference were quick to cite this as further evidence of the need to protect the sensibilities of Muslims with the Defamation of Religions Resolution.
This campaign is intended to support and strengthen believers who do not have the Right to Believe; to walk with them through informed and committed prayer, reinforcing campaigning action to petition the powerful on their behalf, and gifts that will bring new hope through practical help that meets their needs.
GIVE YOUR SUPPORT
More than 81,000 people around the world have now signed the Right to Believe petition. You can too by going to www.opendoorsuk.org/inspiremag or by downloading the petition HERE for use at your church, and returning it to the address given by 24 November 2010.
* Name changed for security reasons
HOW TO PRAY
PLEASE PRAY that such a powerful statement of concern will be heard by leaders around the world, and particularly for Open Doors colleagues in South Africa and Brazil, as they engage with their governments and encourage them to vote NO to the resolution.
PLEASE PRAY that the Holy Spirit will give staff the right words to say at the right time, so that the arguments can be fully understood and nations can vote with wisdom and courage.
PLEASE PRAY that persecuted believers will be encouraged and strengthened through the prayerful action of God’s people at this time of the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted Church.
PLEASE PRAY that Uzbek and Afghan believers would have the courage to live for Christ whatever the opposition.
PLEASE PRAY for all believers in Christ who feel legal and social pressure because of their faith
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