Pray for Our World: Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is almost all desert, but contains 25% of the world’s known oil reserves. This enormous oil wealth produces 75-90% of government revenue and is the foundation of the economy and infrastructure, while also being used to export Islam globally. Ironically, unemployment among Saudis is high, between 20-40%, largely due to Saudis’ disdain for certain types of jobs.

Saudi Arabia is the birthplace and keeper of Islam. People of other faiths may live in Saudi Arabia, but they may not practice their religion openly or gather privately. Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights is one of the worst. Why would a religion supposedly of God be against human rights, freedom of thought and equality? There is no mention of the word “love” in the Quaran. This is in stark contrast to the Bible’s most famous verse of “God so loved the world…”.

Saudis who come to faith in Christ face the death penalty if discovered. At the very least, they are disowned and kicked out of their homes. Despite this, increasing numbers are secretly seeking and finding Jesus, and there are believers in every Saudi city. It’s as if Jesus was speaking directly to them when He said:

“Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

Pray for these new believers to persevere, to multiply, and to find other believers they can safely be with in fellowship.

Pray for Our World: Rwanda

Rwanda is located in central Africa.  Due to the ethnically motivated genocides of the past, the government abolished all ethnicity as a means of identification.  Everyone now is only Rwandan, and cannot be referred to as Hutu or Tutsi.  The government has been working toward rebuilding infrastructure and making the country safe again. The current parliament is more than 50% female, the world’s highest rate.  Coffee, tea, and foreign aid are the dominant income sources, though the government hopes to reduce dependence on foreign aid.

The country is still trying to recover from the 1994 genocide that claimed up to one million lives. This also reshaped the religious scene.  The Catholic Church lost much credibility during this time by failing to adequately oppose the evil and speak against the ethnic hatred.  It should also be noted that many of the righteous Catholic, including priests and nuns, did lay down their lives to protect others.  But many others failed to intervene or help.  Evangelicals began to grow rapidly in the aftermath due to their aid programs and message of hope for all regardless of tribe.  Pray for all the churches there, that they will unite and continue to help the people move forward with the hope and the help they desperately need.

Pray for Our World: Russia

Russia is the world’s largest country, extending across 9 time zones. It has vast natural resources in gas, oil, timber and minerals, as well as huge amounts of arable land. However, most of the economy is in the hands of a few men while millions of Russians remain poor an unemployed. The country has known little but autocracy or tyranny since it began in the 8th century. Freedom of press and media is limited, and all television stations are government controlled and censored. The Church in Russia has suffered some of the most severe persecution of any nation in recent history. Deaths in the Gulag prison camps between 1920 and 1990 are estimated at 20 million, many who were Christian. Of the 100,000 church-owned buildings in 1920, almost none remained by 1940.

Today, the people still face many challenges. For the younger generation, modern life offers little real hope. Health care is inefficient and costly, making it inaccessible to many. Alcoholism is one of the world’s highest.  Drug addiction is prevalent among young people, with 8% of teens using drugs daily.

The religious climate is unique and challenging. The Russian Orthodox Church, over 1,000 years old, is the main church and a major symbol of Russian identity. Russian Orthodox claims to be the one true apostolic Church handed down from Rome and Byzantium. The original undivided church of the apostles split between the East (Orthodox) and the West (Catholic) during the Great Schism of 1054. Other denominations later derived from the Catholic church, but the Orthodox Church remains as the original church from that initial split. They have remained true in their ancient confessions of God, and the mystery of Christ and His resurrection, and we could learn some from their Orthodox theology. Yet at the same time, it has caused them to be closed off and intolerant of other Christian denominations. Pray for this ancient church, for their unity with other Christians, and for them to be able to reach a new generation of young people in the same way as Peter and Paul did with the original church.

*If you would like to know more about the forming of the original church during the first thousand years after Peter and Paul, and the theological differences that caused the church to split, I recommend this great book to read: The First Thousand Years, by Robert Louis Wilken.

Pray for Our World: Romania

Dracula’s castle

Romania has given us Dracula (or at least the background for the story), the origin of the Unitarian religion which started in 16th century Transylvania, and my personal favorite, the first perfect 10 gymnast, Nadia Comaneci.

Romania first originated as part of the Roman province of Dacia from about A.D. 100 to 271. The real Count Dracula was Vlad the Impaler who lived in Transylvania, and who did have a liking to blood.  Unitarianism, also started in Transylvania not long after Dracula, branched off from Christianity in their belief that there is no Trinity, Jesus is not the Son of God, and they like to encourage rational thought and individual freedom.  Except when that thought is that Jesus is who He said He was, and then they will be quick to disagree.  The gymnast Nadia showed us on tv what living in oppressive Communism was like during the 1970’s, and she later defected to the US in 1989.

Romania certainly has a colorful history.  Today, Romania is officially a secular state, but is dominated by the Orthodox Church. It struggles to regain employment after Communism and many emigrate to work elsewhere in Europe and the rural farms are being abandoned. Evangelicals are growing, the fourth largest in Europe, and Romania is considered one of the more spiritually receptive European nations. Pray that they will continue to be receptive to the true freedom that can only be found in the grace that Jesus Christ provides to all.

Pray for Our World: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico was a Spanish colony for 400 years, and then became related to the USA after the Spanish-American war of 1898. The US President is chief of state, but Puerto Rico is administered by an elected governor. However, corruption has been a big problem in local governments. They have a free market economy, and one of the higher per capita incomes in the Caribbean, but they also have one of the highest costs of living.

Puerto Rico is traditionally Catholic, but the trend seems to follow that of many other countries. Evangelicals are growing, from .1% in 1990 to over 25% in 2010, while Catholicism is on the decline. Yet, there is still a struggle for churches to make an impact on the social and spiritual needs of the nation. Over 45% live below the poverty line,  62% fail to complete high school, and many households are headed only by females. Pray for the needs of Puerto Rico to be reached through the church and neighboring Christians.