Photo by Stringer/Getty Images
Photo by Stringer/Getty Images

In the immediate aftermath of the deadly church bombings in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which claimed the lives of nearly 300 people, survivors of the bloody terrorist attacks are asking Christians around the globe to pray.

Sarah Cunningham, senior communications director for Open Doors, a faith-based nonprofit working with persecuted Christians internationally, told Faithwire survivors in Sri Lanka have said prayer “is the most powerful weapon” they have to combat the evils of terrorism.

She went on to explain that the attack — the deadliest in recent history — “is for sure unprecedented for that area,” noting Sri Lanka is No. 46 on the organization’s annual World Watch List, which tracks the 50 most dangerous countries for Christians.

“There’s always tension between them,” Cunningham said of the friction between the Buddhist, Muslim and Christian factions in Sri Lanka. She added there are sometimes instances of harassment and pressuring, “but nothing anywhere close to this degree of violence or to this degree of planning.”

“That, I think, is what is most shocking,” she said. “The [local pastors] were very surprised that their congregations were targeted because they had really no inkling that anyone had any hostility at that level toward them.”

This attack should sound the alarm

For many in the West, the idea that Christians are facing unparalleled persecution — they are the most persecuted religious demographic, according to the Pew Research Center — is hard to understand.

Cunningham said Open Doors is hopeful Sunday’s tragic bombings will raise awareness about the plight of Christians around the world.

“Something we’re hopeful of is this will bring the plight of persecuted Christians onto the world’s radar,” she said. “We’re hoping it will make politicians and leaders in the free world — and especially here, in the United States — pay close attention to Christians who face everything from discrimination and harassment to false imprisonment and rape and killings.”

These kinds of crimes against Christians, she explained, are “commonplace” in countries outside the Western world, and the data bears that out.

From a practical standpoint, Open Doors has launched a rapid response effort Cunningham described as a “two-pronged approach” between on-the-ground assistance and prayer support. The former is still being built out based on the constantly shifting needs of the people in Sri Lanka.

The Christian nonprofit, which has a permanent, native presence Sri Lanka, is also asking believers around the world to participate in its virtual prayer wall. Cunningham said people can visit the site to submit written prayers to those who survived the Easter bombings.

“We’re trying to have people type [their prayers] out because it will send the message that they are not alone,” Cunningham said of those in the South Asian country. “Because especially for a minority group, who might be treated as second-class citizens, they might not have the typical support system that you and I would expect if something like this happened.”

She added it’s important for persecuted Christians to know there are “thousands and thousands of people around the world who are rooting for you, who are empathetic toward your plight, who are rallying their leaders to respond positively to your need.”

For those interested in learning more about Open Doors or donating to its rapid response for those impacted by the church bombings in Sri Lanka, click here.

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