SANTA ANA, Calif. (Aug. 2, 2011) – In more than 60 countries around the world, more than 100 million Christians face persecution simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Seventy percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, according to a study by the Pew Research Forum on Religion & Public Life. The persecution and lack of freedom often leave believers feeling like they suffer alone.
One such brave, faithful persecuted Christian is Asia Noreen (Bibi), a Pakistani mother of five arrested in 2009 on false charges of blasphemy – defaming Islam and the prophet Muhammad. A judge sentenced her to death by hanging. She has languished in a Pakistani prison for more than two years without the judge ever hearing her side of the accuser's charges. One radical iman has offered a reward of $5,800 "to finish her." Death threats have forced her family to flee. In Pakistan and elsewhere in the world, many other Christians have been targeted for imprisonment or death.
Open Doors USA is focusing on supporting persecuted Christians such as Asia Noreen during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). The campaign, called One With Them, will culminate with IDOP on Sunday, Nov. 13.
One With Them is a call to action to unite with persecuted believers, not just on IDOP but during the months leading up to that special day. Through prayer and advocacy, Christians in the United States are urged to join millions who share our faith but not our freedom.
One way Christians in the United States can show their support for the persecuted is through One With Them wristbands. Wearing the black, rubber wristband that looks like barbed wire is a great conversation starter. The wristbands provide an opportunity to explain to others about the plight of persecuted believers.
Dr. Carl Moeller, Open Doors USA President/CEO, shared that recently a serviceman returning from Afghanistan noticed his wristband. That led to a deep conversation about Christian persecution in Afghanistan.
"I've seen it again and again: These wristbands really do open doors to great conversations," Moeller said. "He told me he planned to share our encounter from the pulpit in his home town where he was going to be welcomed home. I believe God received some mighty prayers that night. I encourage all believers in the West to order and wear the wristbands and see how God uses you to share the situation of our persecuted brothers and sisters."
Order wristbands now. Two of them will be free of charge – one extra to share with a friend. Additional wristbands can be ordered for a fee with 100 percent of the funds going to support persecuted Christians.
As one of the lead agencies promoting the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, Open Doors is focusing on providing materials for Christians to use for the Nov. 13 event that will be observed by millions of Christians in the United States and around the globe. Materials in the free online kit include bulletin inserts, a pastor's guide, videos, prayer points, testimonies from persecuted Christians, Bible passages on persecution and lessons learned from suffering believers. These materials will be available in September at www.OneWithThem.com.
"Millions are living every day under severe persecution because they choose to be followers of Christ," Moeller said. "This is happening, and it's on our watch. Imagine the impact of millions of people, all praying on one day, for the same thing: Strength and courage for those who share our faith, but not our freedom. Today is the day to begin! Now is the time to become One With Them in prayer.
"The One With Them online experience will intensify your walk with God, draw you closer to your friends and family and connect you with the struggling but courageous persecuted church."
Social media will play an active role during the months leading up to IDOP. Open Doors will share inspiring stories and information about One With Them on the Open Doors USA blog, via Facebook and Twitter .
(To set up an interview, contact Jerry Dykstra at 616-915-4117 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.)