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Summary: A sermon for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

A Call to Prayer – International Day of Prayer

November 10, 2002

Remember my chains. Those are Paul’s final words in Colossians – a command for the Christians to whom he writes to remember the suffering he is facing because of his sharing Jesus with others. We want to take the time today to remember the suffering of Christians in our world today, and to commit them to God’s mercy through prayer.

It is helpful as we head into this time of prayer to reflect together for a moment on what the Bible has to say about suffering and persecution.

Hebrews 13:3 – “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

Here is a command to us to identify with those who are suffering, to put ourselves in their circumstances and to “remember” the sacrifices they are making. This is likely a difficult thing for us to do here in comfortable North America, where most of us have never known prison, and where for most of us the idea of being imprisoned for something one believes is completely foreign. It is hard for us to really identify.

The Bible teaches us that “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26). It is in the passage talking about the church as a body, and it applies directly to our consideration of Christians suffering for their faith. They are suffering, and as a result we suffer with them. How? How do we suffer when Christians in Viet Nam are imprisoned; when Christians in Sudan are murdered because they believe in Jesus? Those places are a long way away – how can they impact us? They impact us because we are a part of the same body – the Body of Christ. We might not personally feel the effects, we might not personally experience the same persecution and suffering, but the larger body of Christ is hurting in parts of our world, and we need to first know about what is happening, and second we need to allow ourselves to feel a part of that pain. Remember my chains…

When we don’t realize how the suffering of others in our world affects us, we demonstrate how self-centered we really are. How selfish, how completely concerned with our own problems that often (but not always) pale in comparison to the real needs of others around us. If we remain un-moved, I believe it reveals that we aren’t really a part of God’s Kingdom.

When the four Canadian soldiers were killed by friendly fire in Afganistan earlier this year, our entire nation mourned. Their memorial service was held at the Coliseum, with top government officials from across our country. It was the lead story on every national newscast, seen every where from BC to the Maritimes. Four men in a nation of 31.5 million people died, and the whole nation felt the pain. Why? It was one of our own – we belong to the same kingdom – we recognize shared values, history, and we believe in the cause for which those men were fighting. And so the whole country mourned the deaths of those four men.

The exact same thing is happening for fellow citizens in the Kingdom of God. Brothers and sisters in Christ – soldiers in our Kingdom – people who share our spiritual history, who value what we value, who believe in the cause of Jesus Christ – these brothers and sisters are facing unthinkable torture, imprisonment, harrassment, loss of property, separation from loved ones, and even death. For no other reason than because they believe the same thing that you and I believe – that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for our sins, and that we have been called by God to share that Good News with people everywhere.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” We suffer alongside as we remember. We share the pain, although much muted by distance, of persecuted Christians in our world as we remember and hold them up in prayer.

One of the countries we are going to pray for today is Pakistan. Militant Islamic forces in Pakistan have initiated much violence against Christians. Many Pakistani Christians have been falsely accused of breaking Law 295B and 295C (blaspheming the Qur’an, Muhammad, or the Prophets) - a crime punishable by death. Some have even been killed by mobs after being acquitted of such charges. In 1999 a proposal was made to officially adopt Muslim Sharia law as the law of the land, which would bring about even more persecution. Despite hardships, Christians continue in love and perseverance, boldly sharing Christ.

SALEEM AND RASHEED MASIH

Saleem and Rasheed Masih, two brothers from the Pakistani city of Pasrur, were jailed on 30 May 1999 on blasphemy charges arising from a dispute with a Muslim ice cream vendor. The vendor refused to serve the Christians in the same bowls used by Muslims and told local police that they had then made “bad remarks” against Islam and Muhammad. The families of the two brothers fled their homes for fear of retaliation by local Muslim extremists. Rasheed, 32, is married with five children. His brother Saleem, 28, has a wife and three children. The two men had initially been charged with violating PPC 295-C, which carries a mandatory death sentence if found guilty of insulting the prophet Muhammad. On 11 May 2000 they were sentenced to 35 years imprisonment and a 75,000 Rs (over 5 years’ wages) fine. An appeal has been launched in the Lahore High Court.

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