Dear Tabernacle Family,
This week we will celebrate the founding fathers signing of the Declaration of Independence and the creation of this Nation. While the ideal of freedom is facing monumental challenges in our day, one freedom we continue to enjoy as followers of Jesus is to practice our faith without oppression or persecution. This is clearly not the case in far too many countries in our world where Christians are being arrested, beaten and even murdered because of their allegiance to Christ.
In a recent message, Aaron Derstine of Eagles’ Wings noted, “More Christians have been martyred in this century than all the past centuries combined.” Another ministry, Open Doors, recently concluded that of the past 25 years since they have been chronicling and ranking the political and societal restrictions on religious freedom, the persecution experienced by Christians worldwide in 2016 has been the, “worst year yet.”
Here are a sampling of findings and trends noted by Open Doors:
• Approximately 215 million Christians experience high, very high, or extreme persecution.
• North Korea remains the most dangerous place to be a Christian.
• Islamic extremism remains the global dominant driver of persecution, responsible for initiating oppression and conflict.
• Ethnic nationalism, leading to ethnic cleansing, is fast becoming a major driver of persecution.
• The killings of Christians in Nigeria saw an increase of more than 62 percent.
• Pakistan, the most violent nation, exceeded even northern Nigeria.
• Hitting closer to home, 23 Christian leaders in Mexico and four in Colombia were killed specifically for their faith.
• Asia is a new center of concern, with persecution rising sharply in Bangladesh, Laos, and Bhutan, and Sri Lanka joining the list for the first time.
As we celebrate our freedoms this Tuesday, especially our freedom of religion, let us remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are paying the ultimate price for their faith. In particular, please join me in praying for the Church in the Philippines, where in Marawi, approximately 300 miles from Cebu where Bishop Joe and Doreen DiSarno lead a thriving work for God, Islamic militants have killed upwards of 1,000, and more than 300,000 have been displaced. We look forward to hearing a firsthand account of this from Bishop DiSarno when he ministers in each of our morning services on July 16th. Until then, brothers and sisters, PRAY!
Free to worship,
Pastor Jim Ruddy