"But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake . . ." 
The Plight of one Pastor
In a court of law in the year 2011, a young pastor is asked to recant his faith in Jesus Christ or face the death penalty. Does that sound like the latest fiction novel or movie plot? It's not! Youcef Nadarkhani, a 32 year-old Christian Pastor, was arrested in 2009 in Iran after he protested to local educational authorities that his son was forced to read from the Koran at school. He was charged with "apostasy" and court documents indicated Nadarkhani was convicted of "turning his back on Islam . . ." The documents go on to state "He has often participated in Christian worship and organized home church services, evangelizing and had been baptized and baptized others, converting Muslims to Christianity.”
Nadarkhani was sentenced to execution by hanging and just recently the Iranian Supreme Court ruled the death penalty should be upheld on the grounds that the Pastor was encouraging other Muslims to convert to Christianity. During the appeals process, Nadarkhani was brought back to court on three separate days and asked to repent and renounce Christianity. To that he replied "Repent means to return. What should I return to; to the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?" The judge answered “To the religion of your ancestors, Islam,” and to that Nadarkhani simply said "I cannot."
In an apparent attempt to pressure the pastor to renounce his faith authorities arrested his wife, Fatemeh Pasandideh, in June 2010. She was released in October 2010, according to Amnesty International.
Open Doors USA and One With Them
The Christian community worldwide continues to pray for Pastor Nadarkhani and his family, however, his is only one story of many people persecuted throughout the world for their faith in Jesus Christ. The group "Open Doors USA" has launched a campaign called "One With Them" to bring awareness to the plight of the persecuted and to call upon all believers to unite with the persecuted through prayer.
In addition, Open Doors USA serves Christians worldwide by seeking to strengthen persecuted believers through community development, Bible and literature distribution, leadership training and education, and ministries of prayer and advocacy. They work in the world's most oppressive countries, strengthening Christians to stand strong in the face of persecution and equipping them to shine Christ’s light in these dark places.
Persecution in the 21st Century
According to the Open Doors website, the five countries with the worst Christian persecution are North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, and Somalia. But there are several more on their list of fifty. The organization also outlines individual accounts of persecution like the following;
Shakeela Bibi (Pakistan): She was beaten to death while on her way to church; she was hit over and over with bamboo clubs on her head and face. Her husband found her lifeless body on the ground an hour after her beating.
Vikash Patrick (India): While attending a church service with his wife, Deepe, a bomb exploded in a pew directly in front of the couple. Vikash was seriously injured and Deepe did not survive. The Nepal Defense Army has claimed responsibility for the attack and has threatened more violence unless non-Hindus leave the country.
Tapan Kumar Roy (Bangladesh): Young Tapan was working with a Christian organization doing medical work to help prevent AIDS. He was brutally stabbed and "practically hacked to death" while sleeping in his room.
To read more about these brave martyrs and others go to the Open Doors Website and click on "Martyrs Stories."
National Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
A day of prayer for the persecuted church has been set in the United States for November 13, 2011, and One With Them is urging everyone to pray for these brave individuals on that day and every day.
Persecution has always emerged in an attempt to defeat the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, however, it has never succeeded (nor will it ever succeed). In "Foxe’s Book of Martyrs" the martyrdom of the early Christian Church is chronicled; here are a few of the historic accounts:
The apostle Peter was condemned to death by crucifixion, and was crucified upside-down at his own request because he said that he was not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Lord.
The apostle Andrew, the brother of Peter, was also sentenced to crucifixion. While walking toward the place of his execution and seeing the cross prepared; Foxe's Book of Martyrs states "[he] did change neither countenance nor colour, neither did his blood shrink, neither did he fail in his speech . . . as it is the manner of men to do . . . but out of the abundance of his heart his mouth did speak, and fervent charity did appear in his words as kindled sparks; he said, 'O cross, most welcome and long looked for! With a willing mind, joyfully and desirously, I come to thee being the scholar of Him which did hang on thee. . . .'"
The apostle James, the brother of John, as he went to his execution saw the person who brought the charges against him, who was moved to conversion that he himself confessed Christ as his Lord. After doing so, the man was lead away with James and as they were both awaiting execution, he turned toward James and asked for forgiveness. James said to him "Peace be to thee, brother" and they were both beheaded.
Paul the apostle was lead out by soldiers to a place of execution, "Where he, after his prayers made, gave his neck to the sword."
You Can Show Support
There are several ways in which you can support those brave believers who are being persecuted. The first and foremost is through prayer. You can also go to various sites like Amnesty International, The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Open Doors USA, or One With Them. Another way many are showing their support is by wearing the One With Them wristbands which provide the opportunity to talk to others about the plight of persecuted believers.
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For information on other Christian topics, see the following:
Credit: Introspective PicsThe Harvest Crusade Plants Seeds in Dodger Stadium