Today marks one week since a 6.2 magnitude quake struck a string of mountain towns in Italy, killing at least 290 people. The powerful quake inflicted excruciating pain on those left behind—many people lost every member of their family or several of their dear friends.
As the international media moves on may we be found interceding on behalf of Italians for weeks and months to come. Below are seven points for focused prayer, based on the input of missionaries working in Italy right now.
1. The province of Rieti, where the quake struck, is one of the least-reached areas of Italy. In the whole province of 160,000 people, there are no more than six of Evangelical churches. The lack of gospel witness in Rieti is a great tragedy. Pioneers International has only three missionary families serving in Italy—none in the quake affected areas. Pray that God would send workers to Italy for His name sake.
2. This past weekend over 40 Christian aid agencies within Italy gathered to strategize relief efforts for the quake victims. Typically, both missionaries and Italian Christians report conflict within and between churches and amongst agencies. It appears that this disunity was overcome on August 29 when all of the agencies signed a declaration, committing their prayers and unified efforts to help earthquake victims. Praise God for this unity and pray that it would continue.
3. Small church bodies near the epicenter have been earnestly pursuing ways that they can help. One local pastor said, “We quickly gathered in prayer and we wondered how we could make ourselves useful. Our community is tiny and consists of people who work for themselves and cannot take leave. However, as a church, we would like to be present, to show our solidarity and be put to work.” The church commissioned a 17 year old member to go and work alongside the Civil Defence Civitella d’Agliano in the relief work. Praise God for the faithful Italian churches who are giving their best efforts to their suffering fellow countrymen.
4. Only 1.28% of Italy is Evangelical Christian. Over half the population of Italy lives in towns with less than 50,000 people. Most of these towns do not have a single Evangelical church. Additional populations within Italy which are virtually unreached with the Gospel include: college students (230,000 in Rome and 180,000 in Milan without a substantial campus witness), the upperclass, and migrant communities and refugees. Pray for the Light to shine in the darkness in Italy.
5. Comments from Italians affected by the quake reveal a belief in the divine or supernatural. Additionally, statistics show that there are 150,000 practicing fortune-tellers in the country (three times the number of priests). Pray for the spiritually hungry in Italy to have their eyes opened and for believers to be ready to share their only Hope.
6. And, in moving forward in Italy, we must consider the past. While in the past the Roman Catholic Church vehemently opposed any Protestant work in the country, there has been a recent shift toward ecumenicalism and focus on shared words such as Jesus, faith, and grace. However, indigenous believers report that Protestants and Roman Catholics pour vastly different meanings into these words. One missionary says, “Underneath the kinder, gentler veneer of the RCC, the dogma of meritorious works is still essential teaching... it is not gospel, it is works righteousness.” Pray that Italy would embrace Grace and Truth.