One year ago this month, U.S. Pastor Andrew Brunson was released after two years of imprisonment in Turkey. The anniversary of his release, however, serves as a solemn reminder of thousands around the world who remain still imprisoned for their faith.
Brunson had served for 23 years as a pastor in Turkey, leading a church in Izmir, when he was arrested on charges of espionage and terrorism. Now acquitted, the pastor spent two years in prison while his trial was ongoing.
News organizations and social media spread the word of Brunson's struggles while millions prayed for the pastor and his family around the world. Members of the U.S. government attempted diplomatic efforts on his behalf, reports Open Doors USA.
Read more: Pastor Andrew Brunson sentenced but released
The anniversary of Brunson's release, while a victory for the faith community, also brings to mind the thousands still suffering persecution for their faith. Some, like Brunson, will be released. However, the names of many of these individuals will never appear on a prayer list.
Open Doors USA receives reports of men, women, and children from around the world encountering opposition and violence in response to their faith daily. Open Doors' World Watch List reports of 50 countries known for their extreme persecution of Christians. Believers in countries such as Iran, North Korea, and China, are considered "political prisoners," a charge carrying a long and brutal sentence.
Below are a few representing many facing terrible consequences for their faith who you can add to your prayer list as they continue to remain strong in Christ.
1. Fatemeh Mohammadi
Mohammadi is the leader of an underground church in Iran, a country known for its intolerance of religious freedom.
The 19-year-old is currently serving her second six-month sentence in Evin Prison in Tehran, an institution known for being the country's "torture chamber." Her first conviction came after she was charged for being a member of a house church in Tehran.
Earlier in 2019, the teen wrote an open letter to Iran's Minister of Intelligence. As a Christian activist, Mohammadi accused the Minister of violating Iran's constitution through targeting Christians and questioned why Christian's cannot share their faith among peers while Muslim individuals are free to propagate their own religion.
2. Shagufta Kausar and Shafat Masi
Kausar and her husband, Masi, have been on death row in Pakistan since 2014 for allegedly sending blasphemous text messages. For the past five years, the couple has waited for their appeal to be heard by a higher court.
The cell currently occupied by Kausar, a mother of four, is the same cell formerly occupied by Asia Bibi for many years at the Multan Women jail.
3. 50,000 unknown believers imprisoned in North Korea
The names of those suffering for their faith in North Korea cannot be revealed for their own safety. These Christians live in conditions that have been described as "equal to or worse than World War II-era concentration camps."
At least 50,000 prisoners are estimated to be held in these conditions within North Korea. Prisoners have reported atrocious treatment, such as being caged and now allowed to stand, or provided with a daily food ration consisting of a handful of rotten corn.
Keep these fellow believers in your prayers and minds as they and many others continue to stand for their faith against significant oppression and resistance.