Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Youcef Nadarkhani is a 34 year old pastor in Iran. He was arrested in October of 2009 after protesting a government policy that requires his two sons (8 & 9) to study the Quran in school. Secret police called him before a tribunal and arrested him. His charges were later amended to include apostasy and evangelism of Muslims. Youcef was tried in September of 2010 and sentenced to death for apostasy.
He has been imprisoned in Lakan prison where authorities have used various methods, including medication, to convert him back to Islam. He has refused to deny Christ. In fact, at least three times during court proceedings Youcef has refused to secure his own release by recanting his Christian faith. After Youcef refused to convert, his wife was arrested, put on trial without an attorney and sentenced to life in prison. She was later released after an attorney was able to make an appeal.
Youcef will remain in prison for at least one more year. The presiding judge ordered authorities to keep Youcef in prison using whatever means necessary to force him to recant his Christian faith and convert to Islam.
Many of us don't realize how common it is for Christians around the world to be persecuted, imprisoned, and even tortured for their faith. The myth that this type of thing doesn't happen anymore is unfortunately just that, a myth. It has been estimated that more Christians were martyred in the 20th Century than in all the prior 1,900 years combined.* Brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world will lay their head down tonight in a prison cell because they refuse to reject Christ, because they refuse to stop telling others about His grace. "In more than 40 nations around the world today Christians are being persecuted for their faith. In some of these nations it is illegal to own a Bible, to share Christ, change your faith or teach your children about Jesus."** In spite of all this, men and women, boys and girls across the globe continue to faithfully follow after Jesus because they are convinced that He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). They are real heroes of the faith who live out the truth of Luke 9:23-26 everyday.
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Today, let them challenge you to a closer walk with your Savior and Lord. And more than that put Hebrews 13:3 into practice today. Spend five minutes in prayer for the persecuted church. Remember, "the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).
For further reading...
- http://www.prisoneralert.com/ - This is a ministry of Voice of the Martyrs. It gives stories of specific Christians and pastors around the world who are being persecuted for their faith so that you can pray for them. They also have information on how you can write letters to them in prison to encourage them. They translate phrases for you so you can print them off and mail them overseas to these precious believers.
- http://www.persecution.com/public/pray.aspx?clickfrom=bWFpbl9tZW51- This is the prayer page for Voice of the Martyrs. It has prayer requests and praises for the persecuted church globally.