Today, in honor of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Christians were asked to fast and pray for their brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted because of their faith. I’ll confess that when I first heard the request, I cringed a little inside. I readily respond to a request for prayer, but I’m not much of a faster. I don’t deny myself much of anything in the way of physical comfort, and that includes food.
But could I really refuse to give up a meal and pray for people who are being tortured and murdered?
I have long been grieved by images of Christian persecution, but like most of us, I’ve done little about it. For several weeks last year, CNN ran that photo of the man in the orange jumpsuit on his knees with the boogeyman in black standing menacingly over him with the knife he later used to saw the man’s head off.
Despite seeing that image repeatedly for weeks on end, it was still more than I could take in. It was too much evil for me to process. What must have gone through the mind of the victim? What must it feel like to have a small, dull knife cut through your skin, muscle tissue, windpipe, and spinal column? Do you lose consciousness right away, or are there moments of sheer agony that must be endured first? I couldn’t help obsessing over such thoughts with those images constantly on display.
I thought I’d seen evil at its worst. Little did I know that over the coming months, those monsters would continue to invent new, grotesque ways to inflict torture on innocent human beings—drowning people in cages, setting people on fire, raping women in front of their spouses, and torturing and executing children in front of their parents.
Beyond the few high profile cases we see on TV, this kind of evil is going on all over the world and its worsening every day. Millions are being persecuted. We see the disturbing images, we hear the horrific stories, yet few of us are compelled to take action.
What will it take for us to do something? If the stories and images don’t move us to action, what will?
Are we really that broke, busy, selfish, desensitized or just plain apathetic to do anything–absolutely anything–to help these people? Even now that the violence is beginning to show up in our own back yard?
Yes, I guess I can skip my PB&J today and take a few minutes to pray for those who are starving, oppressed, imprisoned, widowed, tortured, exiled, and fleeing their homelands in terror. I guess I can do that.
And while I’m at it, I’ll pray for us too.