Source: Release International
As increasing numbers of Christians throughout the world are being killed for their faith, Release International is inviting churches to commemorate The Day of the Christian Martyr on June 29.
Upwards of 4,700 Christians are killed each year, an average of 13 per day, according to the latest estimates. And that figure is growing. To commemorate them and stand with the suffering Church, Release International is inviting Christians around the UK to take part in a live Zoom event on June 29.
"This is the day when churches around the world remember the deaths of the apostles Peter and Paul, but two millennia later, the killing of Christians continues - and is getting worse," says Paul Robinson, CEO of Release International, which supports persecuted Christians.
"So on the Day of the Christian Martyr, we are encouraging believers in the UK to stand with the suffering church worldwide. Let their stories of faith under fire challenge us in our faith and witness."
Taking part in this year's event will be Release International partner Rev Waseem Khokhar from Pakistan. He's been talking to relatives of those killed in the 2016 suicide bomb attack in Lahore, who will be sharing their stories.
Also speaking will be 'Esther' from Nigeria, the country where more Christians are killed in attacks by Islamist militants than any other.
The event is free. Registration is required and donations will be invited. Places can be booked on Eventbrite via the Release International website.
Release has produced a set of resources to allow churches to stage their own events to fit in with their church calendar. These are also available online.
"As increasing numbers of Christians are dying for their faith we should take this opportunity to stand with our brothers and sisters who've lost loved ones for the sake of the gospel," says Paul Robinson.
Originally, the word martyr meant simply witness or one who gives a testimony. But over church history, as many Christians have died for speaking about their faith, the word has come to mean those who lay down their lives for Christ.
Tertullian, one of the original Church Fathers, observed in the second century AD: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church."
John Allen, author of The Global War on Christians has said: "Two-thirds of the 2.3 billion Christians in the world today live… in dangerous neighbourhoods. They are often poor... And they are often at risk."
"All around the world today, we see Christians who are faithful in their witness persecuted and sometimes killed for their faith," says Paul Robinson of Release International. "And we see that where persecution is harsh, in countries such as China and Iran, the church is growing rapidly. Persecution concentrates the mind, refines the church and reminds us what we are living for. And it should rouse those of us who are able to worship in freedom to support those who suffer for their faith.
"Our active identification with persecuted Christians should lead us to pray for them and their families. And standing with them should encourage us to give them the tools they need to survive and thrive as they proclaim the gospel."
You can find out more about the Day of the Christian Martyr and register for the event HERE.
Through its international network of missions, Release International is active in some 25 countries around the world, supporting pastors, Christian prisoners and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles, and working for justice.