Ruth Graham Credit: Courtesy of Ruth Graham Ministries

Ruth Graham, the daughter of renowned preacher the Rev. Billy Graham, will participate in a prayer service for persecuted Christians next month at an Auburn church.

“Christians are suffering around the world, we just don’t know about it,” she said recently in a telephone interview. “We do not know what these people are enduring.”

Graham, 67, of Waynesboro, Virginia, learned of the plight of persecuted Christians last year. One of her goals is to inform American Christians that people are putting their lives in danger to worship and read the Bible.

“The World Watch List names 50 countries where being a Christian is almost impossible, but they do it,” Graham said. “They are in great jeopardy. They are afraid for their lives. They are afraid for their families, their homes and their churches.”

The list is gathered each year by Open Doors, a 60-year-old organization founded to distribute Bibles to countries where Christianity is either outlawed by governments or not tolerated by society.

“We need to continue to pray for these dear people because we sit in our comfort our wealth, we sit in our ease, and we can go worship any way we please,” she said. “We are so blessed, and we take it for granted.”

Graham’s visit is sponsored by the Christian Civic League of Maine.

“One of the issues we deal with is religious freedom, but we’re dealing with it on a very different level in this country,” Executive Director Carroll Conley said recently. “It made sense for us to go beyond our borders.”

Graham said the event will not be a worship service with preaching.

“We will hear from those who have been persecuted around the globe,” Graham said. “These are going to be personal accounts of people who have suffered for their faith. There will be practical advice about what people can do, and they will receive prayer cards, one for each nation, and advice how to pray for people in those places.”

One of those places will be Somalia, the homeland of an estimated 1,200 Maine residents. It is listed as the third most dangerous country in which to be a Christian by the Watch List. Islam is the state religion in Somalia where “there are no safe places for Christians to practice their faith,” according to the Watch List.

North Korea and Afghanistan are listed by the organization as the first and second most dangerous countries for Christians. The major trends in Christian persecution in 2017 were: the spread of radical Islam; the rise of religious nationalism and intense persecution on Central Asia, where a grassroots revival of Islam is taking place, the Watch List report concluded.

The Pew Research Center in June released statistics for 2016 about the worldwide rise in religious restrictions. Overall, the number of countries where religious groups were harassed by either governments or social groups increased from 169 in 2015 to 187 in 2016.

“The most widely targeted groups in 144 and 142 countries, respectively, were Christians and Muslims, the world’s two largest religious groups,” the Pew center reported. “Jews were harassed in 87 countries, reversing a decrease that occurred in 2015.”

In a podcast interview with Graham, Conley said the prayer service would give people a chance to pray, something Christians in the U.S. often just don’t get around to doing.

“I think what we talk about prayer, we preach about pray, we feel guilty about prayer, but don’t take the time to pray,” he said.

The prayer service for persecuted Christians will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at the East Auburn Baptist Church, 560 Park Ave., Auburn. For information, call 207-782-0348.

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