Southern Baptists encourage prayer Nov. 5 for global persecuted church

For the family of 80-year-old Washima Erukaa, a Nigerian Christian and government official, the 5-million-naira ransom his kidnappers demanded was out of reach.

Unable to pay what amounts to about $6,400, Erukaa’s family members learned Oct. 29 of his murder. His death was reported among the murders of at least 16 members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church of Nigeria in Benue in October alone, Morning Star News reported Oct. 31.

Nigeria is the deadliest nation for Christians, who Open Doors said suffered 5,014 murders in 2022 at the hands of armed bandits and Islamic terrorists including Boko Haram, the Islamic State West Africa Province and Fulani militants. Another 4,726 Christians were kidnapped.

As Southern Baptists observe Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church Nov. 5, leaders are reinforcing the importance of the day observed globally.

“With 360 million Christians suffering persecution around the world, it’s vitally important for us to pray for the persecuted church,” said Kie Bowman, leader of the SBC Executive Committee’s prayer ministry. “Not only should we pray for their protection and comfort, but also that their testimony might advance the gospel in the world’s most dangerous places. We live in an age of martyrdom, and an age of answered prayer.”

Bowman encourages Southern Baptists to also pray that God prepares believers in the Western world for “the persecution that may eventually come much closer to home.”

Nigerian Christians are among 360 million Christians globally who suffer high levels of persecution for their faith, including killings, beatings, wrongful imprisonments, economic, societal and governmental harassment.

They are among many who do not enjoy the religious freedoms long held in the U.S., points out Miles Mullin, vice president and chief of staff of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).

“As Baptists, we believe that all people should be granted the freedom to follow their conscience in matters of religion. We especially grieve the fact that countless numbers of our brothers and sisters suffer significant persecution for their commitment to Jesus Christ,” Mullins said. “At the ERLC, we join in praying for the persecuted Church.”

Mullins encouraged prayers that persecuted Christians would have more freedom to practice their faith without fear of retribution, and that their witness would spur multitudes to follow Christ.

The International Mission Board (IMB) is assisting churches in marking the observance by offering resources including a prayer guide, bulletin insert, social media graphics and promotional videos at imb.org.

April Bunn, IMB’s Prayer Office director, references the early New Testament church in asking for prayers that God strengthens Christians to endure persecution.

“As Christians, when we see fellow believers experience persecution, our first response may be to ask God to make it stop. While this is compassionate, we see another example in Scripture,” Bunn said. “Like the early church, we should pray for those who are suffering, asking God to give them boldness, strength and endurance, and that through the persecution of His children, God might receive the glory due His name among the nations.

“On Nov. 5, we ask Southern Baptists to come together in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters, that God would use them to push back lostness.”

Among other international ministries encouraging prayer Nov. 5 are Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Evangelical Alliance, Open Doors and Release International.

VOM released several resources including free downloads or DVDs of the short feature film “Sejun:Nepal,” the story of a young Nepali boy’s journey from fleeing abuse in a Buddhist monastery to finding new hope in Christ, despite his family’s violent objections. Promotional videos, church bulletin inserts, guided prayer slides and other resources are also available at vom.org/idop.

“The first thing persecuted Christians ask us to do for them is pray,” said Todd Nettleton, host of The Voice of the Martyrs Radio. “International Day of Prayer is a direct response to their number one request, and it is our fervent desire that every church and every Christian pray for the persecuted members of our spiritual family.”

Among online Day of Prayer observances are VOM’s “24 Hours of Prayer” Nov. 5, featuring a new prayer request from persecuted Christians every hour on VOM’s social media channels; and a prayer service Nov. 5 from 7:30-8:30 Greenwich Mean Time hosted by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors, the Evangelical Alliance and Release International. Sign up to view the service here.

— Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.