We know that multitudes of Christians will be suffering severe persecution and great hardship as we start this year. In Syria, those who have survived last year’s deadly violence now have to survive another freezing winter without access to heating or medications. In such conditions, escaping pneumonia can be just as difficult as escaping jihadis, bullets or shrapnel (which is becoming more difficult as the al-Nusrah Front is now systematically targeting Christian villages).
In mid-November the Government of Sudan escalated its genocidal campaign against the predominantly Christian non-Arab Africans of the Nuba Mountains with a vow to ‘eliminate rebel groups’ by ‘the end of next summer’. Because of insecurity some 165,000 Nuba children will not receive their polio vaccinations.
In Iran, Eritrea, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia and Egypt Christians wonder what terror might await them on Christmas Day — a police raid, a bombing, a massacre, a pogrom? Will those in prison receive extra aggression? Will all those who go to church come home again? Will all family members still be alive at the end of the day?
We know that many Christians hold grave fears for what awaits them in 2014. In India, the results of four provincial State elections held in November-December have been announced. The Hindu nationalist BJP retained power in Madhya Pradesh, picking up 22 seats to win 165 of 230 seats. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP won with 49 of 90 seats. In Delhi the BJP picked up 9 seats to win 32 of 70 seats while the AAP, the new, anti-corruption party won 28 seats, giving Delhi a hung parliament. In Rajasthan, the BJP picked up a massive 84 seats to win 162 of 199 seats. (Updating RLPB 239, 4 December.) The results bode ill for India’s Christians.
Christians in Iraq are deeply concerned about the escalating sectarian violence tearing their country apart. Some have only returned to northern Iraq this year, having been forced out of their refuges in Syria. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS: ‘al-Sham’ Syria) is carving out a base across the north of both states; their fight is set to escalate in 2014.
What might 2014 hold for Afghanistan?
What might 2014 hold for North Korea?
With unprecedented levels of persecution and trauma afflicting the Church, how can we pray for persecuted and threatened Christians at the start of this year while still maintaining our celebrated Christmas hope and joy?
THEREFORE WE PRAY:
Dear Sovereign Lord,
We rejoice in Jesus Christ: the child who was born, the son who was given.
We rejoice that the burden of governance is upon his shoulders.
Because he reigns, we can lift up to him all who suffer and are persecuted on account of his name.
May Christ the Wonderful Counsellor give wisdom and guidance to all who seek him.
May Christ the Mighty God (el-gibbor: literally the warrior God) defend and fight for his people.
May Christ the Everlasting Father comfort and care for his precious children.
And may Christ the Prince of Peace establish and uphold his Kingdom — overcoming all opposition — as he zealously spreads justice and righteousness throughout the world.
For the sake of his Church and for the glory of his name,