By Faith McDonnell
This weekend holds another special event, in addition to the 237th birthday of the United States Marine Corps on Saturday, November 10, and Veteran’s Day on Sunday, “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” November 11 is also the annual observance of the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). This year marks the 16th anniversary of this special day to remember those persecuted for their faith around the world.
I was privileged to be part of the coalition that created IDOP. Convicted by the realization that more people had died for their Christian faith in the twentieth century than in all the previous centuries combined, our coalition first met on January 23, 1996 at a meeting convened by Nina Shea, the director of the Center for Religious Freedom (then at Freedom House, now at The Hudson Institute). The group consisted of many Christian organizations, including IRD, along with tireless advocates like Michael Horowitz and the late Chuck Colson. On that day, the National Association of Evangelicals issued a “Statement of Conscience and Call to Action” in which it pledged to end “our own silence in the face of the suffering of all those persecuted for their religious faith.”
After that inaugural event, a smaller team – mostly local to Washington, DC, along with Chicago-based Dwight Gibson, the U.S. representative of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF, now World Evangelical Alliance) – began to meet regularly to plan the first International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. The late president of IRD, Diane Knippers, and I were heavily involved in the effort. Diane worked as the Day of Prayer’s liaison with the mainline denominations, requesting endorsement of the Day of Prayer from denominational leaders, the National Council of Churches (NCC), etc. (We also reported to those church members whose denominational leaders, along with the NCC, refused to endorse the observance, protesting that we should “not just pray for Christians.”), I helped to create resource materials distributed by WEF, and drafted a resolution on the worldwide persecution of Christians that was passed in both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate in September 1996.
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