From the sands of the Arabian Desert to the shores of the United States, millions of people will be prostrating themselves in prayer throughout the month of July.
Ramadan, which started June 28 and concludes July 28, is a holy month for Muslims across the globe. The Islamic observance calls for fasting during daylight hours and for participation in pious activities, including doing good works or giving up bad habits.
At the end of the 30 days, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, or the festival of breaking the fast, that lasts three days.
But prayer and fasting aren't just reserved for Islamic followers.
The two sacrificial practices of time and nourishment are also observed by Christians throughout the year. That's one of the reasons why Pastor Ian Dent of Camden Crossroads Community Church is working with an international organization to have Christians devote time during Ramadan for their own prayers for Christ believers living in the Middle East.
The prayer schedule devotes each day to a different country and topic, including analysis of the religious parties and situations Christians face living there. One day will be assigned to pray for goodwill in Pakistan or to have a resurgence of Christian believers in Turkey.
"While prayer and fasting are a primary focus of Ramadan for the Muslim, in the Christian faith, we typically pray little and fast even less. It still amazes me that we, who say we hold our faith so dear to us, live in such a casual way for Christ," Dent said. "We could learn from Muslim discipline and devotion to duty."
Dent said he reached out to Open Doors, an international organization that acts as a facilitator for helping Christians living in conflict areas under suppression, after his wife, Kari, read a book 15 years ago by the organization's founder, Andrew van der Bijl. Van der Bijl, known as Brother Andrew, is a Christian missionary who smuggled Bibles into communist countries and started an underground network of Christians living in persecution.
The international arm of Open Doors, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary next year, has grown into a network in 45 countries where Bibles are delivered and assistance programs are implemented in secrecy.
"The more we learned about the treatment and suffering of Christians in countries like North Korea, Indonesia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a host of other countries, the more determined we were to do something about it," Dent said. "In the United States, we call getting a flat tire on the way to church suffering. We get called a name and we conclude we're being persecuted for our faith. In North Korea, it's illegal to be a Christian and the penalty is death."
Dent hopes his congregation and other Christians will use the prayer campaign from Open Doors USA to refocus on those who are facing life or death situations for their faith.
"The primary purpose for our participation in the prayer campaign is to get our people doing something to help. 1 Corinthians 12:26 tells us, 'And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.' We pray that our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ remain strong and courageous through their suffering," Dent said.
Sectarian violence in the Middle East continues to spiral, making it dangerous to belong to any religion that isn't in control at the moment, said Jerry Dykstra, media relations director for Open Door's U.S.A.
Dykstra said the organization has been helping deliver supplies of food and water to refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and the takeover of Mosul in northern Iraq.
"At Open Doors, we take a holistic approach and work with churches and organizations on the ground to provide emotional, physical and spiritual needs of Christians facing life and death situations," he added. "What's going on in the Middle East doesn't just affect one group. It is concerning for all faiths."