Christians in Orissa would be remembered and prayed by over half a million churches in 150 countries this November.
In the traditional church calendar, the month of November is marked by “All Saints Day” and “All Souls Day.” These days were set apart to remember the saints of the church and the souls of those who have departed this world.
In recent years, the modern church has also set apart the month of November to remember and pray for suffering believers through The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP)— an initiative of the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance.
"There are many countries in the world today where Christians are martyred for their faith. The world watched in horror the unbridled violence that was unleashed on Christians in Orissa state, India last year. There are other places in the world, such as North Korea, where acts of persecution take place, but we often don’t see or hear the full story," says a statement on the website.
It continues that "The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord."
The IDOP began in 1996 through the efforts of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) in cooperation with a variety of denominations and faith-based organizations.
From a core group of approximately 7,000 churches, the IDOP has grown to be the largest prayer day event of its kind in the world. The IDOP is a rallying point for Christians and others to stand behind those who suffer for their faith by providing prayer support and appropriate advocacy.
Says Godfrey Yogarajah, Executive Director of the Religious Liberty Commission of WEA, "Every time I ask a persecuted Christian what we can do for them, the answer is always the same: please pray for us."
"A few months ago, in Orissa state's Kandhamal district in India, I met several widows of Christian leaders who were killed in the recent anti-Christian violence. They had lost everything: their homes, their possessions and their husbands. “We have lost everything except our faith,” one told me, clutching her baby," he recalled, urging Christians to unite in prayer for the persecuted church.
"Let us remember those who have not eaten for days because they are given nothing to eat…those languishing in prison…Christian families who have watched their homes burn to the ground…pastors who are brutally beaten and tortured for their faith…Christian families and children living in constant fear of violence…those who have lost their loved ones…those who are facing death, even right at this moment, for refusing to denounce Christ…"
Over 100,000 U.S. churches, representing nearly every U.S. denomination, are estimated to have earlier taken part in the IDOP.
According to organizers of IDOP, more than 200 million men, women and children in more than 60 countries face discrimination, persecution and even death for their Christian faith. The goals of IDOP are three-fold: increase awareness of the persecuted church worldwide, lead in prayer on behalf of the persecuted church, promote ongoing and appropriate action on behalf of the persecuted church.
For more information on IDOP, visit: http://www.idop.org or http://www.worldevangelicalalliance.com.