“I was so deeply impacted by the face of this young girl who is only 19, so scared,” Chacon told CNA.
“She had everything ripped from her, and lost family members, and still she had faith and she had hope in God, and she knew that nothing - nothing - was worth renouncing her faith. That Christ would pull her through.”
Through humanitarian work with refugees from Iraq and Syria, Chacon heard many stories like Maya’s, of Christians persecuted for their faith to the point of threats to their life and safety.
But she found that Christians in the West are largely unaware that Christians in 50 countries around the world face high levels of persecution.
Some of the countries with the worst persecution include North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan - countries where extreme ideas like communism or radical Islamism fuel hate towards Christians, she added.
“The Lord placed a heavy burden on my heart for the persecuted church,” Chacon said.
“I wanted to do something in the United States for the people of the West, to not only wake them up to the reality of what's going on around the world, but also connect them to know that we're one body of Christ. When one member suffers, we all suffer.”
This May, For the Martyrs will host the first March for the Martyrs on May 9 in Long Beach, California.
Chacon said she hopes the event “starts a movement” of Christians in the West who want to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians throughout the world, and who want to do all they can through prayer and action to help them.
“In talking to the refugees, the number one thing that they would say is, ‘Thank you for remembering me. Thank you for knowing about my suffering and thank you for your prayers for me,’” Chacon recalled.
“So I think it's really important for Christians of the West and the people of the West and the United States to know that one of the most important things we can do is just stand in solidarity, be the voice for the voiceless, and use our platform to raise awareness about Christian persecution.”
The march will be immediately followed by a ‘Night of Prayer for the Persecuted’ featuring speakers such as Sean Feucht from Bethel Music, Father Benedict Kiely, and others who will highlight the plight of persecuted Christians and what can be done for them.
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“Our purpose for that night is to pray for the persecuted, worship the Lord for victory and for protection over the persecuted, but also to gain insight into the reality of Christian persecution and learn what we can do as a body of Christ in America for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world,” Chacon said.
The march and night of prayer come at a critical time.
A recent poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of Aid to the Church in Need-USA found a 10% decline in the number of US Catholics who say they are “very concerned” about global anti-Christian persecution.
“The softening of the level of concern about Christian persecution among US Catholics is also evident in their ranking of the importance of global issues,” Aid to the Church in Need USA said in a March 4 statement.
“Global Christian persecution is ranked as less urgent an issue than human trafficking, poverty, climate change and the global refugee crisis. Catholics who identify themselves as being very devout are most concerned about the persecution of Christians, but even this group has ranked human trafficking the issue of greatest concern for three consecutive years,” the group added.
This decline in concern is coupled with an uptick in persecution - according to For the Martyrs, the persecution of Christians has increased by 20% in just two years, with more than 260 million Christians worldwide now facing high levels of persecution.