Christians in Iran are in urgent need of prayer as they risk their lives and safety assisting protesters injured in the ongoing, nationwide uprising.
"Christians in Iran are using these protests as an opportunity to minister. And one of the amazing things, there are Christians out among the protesters," explained Todd Nettleton. "And remember, as these people are marching against their government, their government is Islam. It's the mullahs who are in charge of the country. And so they're not just saying we don't like our government, they're saying we don't like Islam."
Nettleton is host of Voice of the Martyrs Radio, a weekly radio broadcast and podcast. VOM assists persecuted Christians in countries where the gospel message is restricted, and hostile areas where Christians are persecuted for their faith in Christ.
Appearing on this week's episode of the CBN News program The Global Lane, Nettleton said he recently learned that Christians in Iran are sharing their faith with protesters and are providing many of the injured with timely medical care.
"If you go into the hospital in Iran right now with an injury, they're going to ask you, did you get this at a protest? If you did, you're going to get arrested. And so Christians are providing medical care outside of the hospital to protesters who don't want to get arrested for being at the protests and being injured," Nettleton said.
Christians are also at great risk, simply for demonstrating the love of Jesus and assisting protestors in need of help.
Many citizens of the Islamic Republic have either grown hostile toward the Ayatollah and their country's ruling elite, or they've been alienated from the Islamic faith. Many have embraced Christianity as a welcome alternative to Islam, and now Iran has become home to one of the fastest-growing Christian communities in the world.
Former Muslims who have chosen to follow Jesus have paid a heavy price for their new faith. Some have been attacked by friends or family members, while others have been sent to prison for apostasy.
Nettleton said suffering Christians in Iran and other restricted nations are in desperate need of prayer. He urges Christians to join millions of people around the world in praying this Sunday, November 6th during the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
VOM's primary IDOP focus this year is on Nigeria, and features the video story of a woman named Rebecca whose husband and son died after an attack on their village.
Although the Islamic terror group Boko Haram may now be less of a threat than in the past, Nettleton said kidnappings, attacks against churches, and the killing of Christians remain widespread.
"It is bad. And I think one of the sad things is these kinds of attacks and kidnappings have become so commonplace that they don't even make the news anymore," he explained. "It's just like, 'oh yeah, another kidnapping in Nigeria, another attack on a church in northern Nigeria.' Our Christian brothers and sisters there are suffering. They are in danger. And yet again, as we talked about in Iran, they are standing boldly for Christ."
Nettleton also expressed concern for persecuted Christians in China, Eritrea, and India.
He believes the re-election of China's communist ruler Xi Jinping is unwelcome news for religious minorities there.
"We know what has happened during his first two terms to Christians, to churches, even registered churches in China. So thinking about five more years of him being in charge and probably more than five years of him being in charge, that's bad news for religious freedom, it's bad news for our brothers and sisters in China."
And Nettleton shared his concern for Christians suffering in the East African country of Eritrea. He said although the country gets little attention from the international community, it is of utmost concern to VOM.
Nettleton visited there many years ago, when the government detained Christians in shipping containers.
"Today, there are more than 100 Christians currently in prison in the nation of Eritrea, a nation probably a lot of us don't even know where it's at on the map. And none of those Christians has had a trial. None of them has even been formally charged with a crime. They've just been arrested. They disappear into the prison system, often held in underground cells, often held in metal shipping containers. Terrible conditions in those prisons," Nettleton explained. "That's a country that I would love for people to pray for this weekend on the International Day of Prayer."
Also, of growing concern is the treatment of Christians in the world's largest democracy--India. Controlled by Hindu nationalists, India is ranked as number 10 on the Open Doors annual World Watch List.
"The government of Prime Minister Modi has made it really kind of open season on Christians in India. And those who attack pastors, those who attack churches, they know they're unlikely to pay any penalty for that. They're unlikely to be charged with a crime," explained Nettleton. "In fact, what often happens is the police will come to an attack and they will arrest the pastor. They'll say, 'Hey, you're a troublemaker, you're trying to convert people. That's against the law.' They're going to arrest you instead of arresting the people who have just been beating that pastor. That's reality for our brothers and sisters in India."
So, how should people pray? What does Nettleton think Christians should pray for this IDOP Sunday--and every day?
"I think praying for a sense of encouragement for our brothers and sisters. Praying for God's kingdom to advance in their countries.
And I think as Jesus called us, we also need to remember to pray for the persecutors. Pray that they will have an encounter with Christ and will come to know him in a very real way."