Persecuted families and the cross they bear
When creating families, God had in mind a design and purpose where His love would be portrayed, shared, and experienced through the family unit. As believers having and maintaining a safe space where we, as a family of faith, can live out our Christian values is something that should be protected and nurtured. In the Southern African region we have that privilege, but this isn’t the case for many Christian families around the world. Being a Christian makes believers prone to persecution by their families and communities. Many believers are shunned by them. In some countries, they’re even seen as breaking the law, going against their elders and rejecting their traditions. But despite it all, persecuted believers around the world are determined to stand strong for Jesus.
Heads of the Household
Anointed as heads of their households, Christian men, husbands and fathers are targeted to breakdown Christian families. “It’s a simple principle,” shares an expert in India, “kill the leader and win the battle.” By targeting men, persecutors can inflict pain on the wider Christian community. As providers of their families, taking away their ability to provide for their families leaves their families destitute. By recruiting men into militias and criminal groups, abducting or killing them, families and communities are left traumatised and defenceless. By removing Christian men as the protectors of their families through imprisonment or death, women and children are left vulnerable to attack. Despite it all, they remain faithful and look to God for a breakthrough in their situations, which often comes along through other believers and partners from the Church or from Christian organisations like Open Doors.
Nurturers in the Faith
Bringing joy into the world through the birth of children and being natural nurturers in their households, persecuted Christian women bear a cross unlike any other. Targeted not only for their faith in Jesus, but also targeted because of their gender, Christian women are seen as sexual objects and vehicles of shame for the Christian community if their purity is ruined, particularly in cultures where sexual purity is inextricably tied with family honour. By sexually exploiting them through abduction and forced marriages, it curbs the growth of the Christian population while increasing the population of their persecutors. Also, women as the nurturers in their homes are usually the ones who carry the Gospel to the next generation in their households. So they live with the knowledge that they could be separated from their children, abandoned or divorced by their husbands for believing that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Saviour.
The Next Generation
Children are a blessing from the Lord and the crowns of their parents and grandparents. They represent a continuation of a lineage of men and women that love Jesus, so they’re vulnerable targets for their faith because of their potential to grow the Church and spread the Good News. They also risk separation from their parents and family as they can be forced into serving another religion. So if persecutors stop them, they weaken the Church in the generations to come.
Like adult men and women, their persecution is also determined by gender. Sons face the threat of physical beatings or being forced into militant groups or armed gangs to be trained as soldiers. Daughters risk being kidnapped, forced into marriage and forced to bear children to be future soldiers in some countries or grow another religion’s population. In some countries, they’re forced to learn about the country’s dominant faith as a tactic of trying to diminish their faith. In addition to enduring discrimination, rejection and persecution from their peers, they may be denied a proper education. Education “determines a child’s path to financial and social security, without which the new adult generation will be even more vulnerable to numerous forms of pressure and discrimination coming from those who are hostile to their Christian faith”. Yet, as young as they are, they remain courageous in their faith.
Despite the persecution, discrimination and rejection they face, persecuted Christian families stand on God’s Word. Their faith remains a source of hope that they hold onto amidst the persecution they experience. It’s in Jesus each of these family members finds peace, but they need your prayers!
Here is how you can pray for persecuted families:
- Pray for Christian families that experience persecution and loss of loved ones for believing in Jesus to find strength and comfort in the Lord and be reminded of His promises. Pray that they’ll remain bound by love and prayer and know their identity and belonging in Christ.
- Pray for the fathers and mothers of households within the persecuted Church. Pray that God grants fathers the wisdom to lead their families in the way of God’s teachings. Pray that He strengthens mothers to remain faithful and helps them extend the warmth of their love and faith through prayer and through their actions.
- Pray for children to take heed and learn the Lord’s ways through their parent’s faithful actions and God’s Word. Pray that the teachings of the Lord take root in their hearts and can be portrayed in their actions.
Persecuted families across the world need your prayers and support. You can be a hero of faith by sowing a seed of faith and hope to help meet their urgent needs through things such as Bibles, Biblical training, trauma care and emergency aid. Click here to change the lives of many persecuted families worldwide, making sure that though they are persecuted, they are never alone.
Source: Open Doors’ Gender Specific Religious Persecution Report and Open Doors Targeting the Next Generation of the Church Article.