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  • What persecution looks like

    Persecution- what do you think of? Close your eyes. What do you see? I don’t know what you imagine, but it often is acts of violence, refugees fleeing, burning churches- the really gritty stuff. The images that can haunt you when you can’t sleep, the images that linger in your thoughts, the stories that remain with you for days.

    Tragically many Christians experience these first hand because of their faith in Jesus, but this is not the extent of it. Persecution can come in many forms. Not all are so blatant and aggressive but are more subtle, persistent and secret.

    Let’s look at the most extreme example: North Korea. This country has been at the top of the World Watch List for 14 consecutive years, with persecution extending into all areas of people’s lives. There are many brutal examples of persecution, found in and out of the country’s labour camps (with many human rights being violated), but that is just the sharp end of the weapon of fear that is being wielded.

    Persecution through idolatry

    The whole culture is flooded with persecution. The Kim family have ruled North Korea for the last 3 generations, but in a way that is beyond what we can imagine. The citizens have to follow 10 principles including ones that force people to worship the country’s leadership:

    “Endlessly revere and adore the Great Leader and eternally lift him higher… unconditionally accept the instructions of the Great Leader… and only think and act, trusting in the thought of the Great Leader.”

    As well as this, every single house has to have a portrait of the current leader, which they must bow to, as if he were a god. It sounds farcical but it is taken very seriously. In fact, if there is a house fire, the owner of the house must rescue it or they face execution or torture. If someone dies attempting to save a portrait, unbelievably, it is considered a great honour.

    Persecution through education

    No one is free from it, not even the country’s children. Hate of Christians is taught from a very young age:

    “When I was a young student, the teachers told us that Christians had built secret basements under hospitals… They kidnapped people, especially children, and sucked out their blood in those basements. North Koreans are still indoctrinated with stories like these…”

    Many Christians are so afraid, they choose to hide their faith, even from their families.

    Persecution through discrimination

    Even basic rights are affected by persecution. The government dictate who gets what food and jobs. As a Christian, it would be impossible to progress in a career and you would constantly be going hungry and even be at risk of starvation.

    Persecution through threat

    In addition to this, there is a secret service whose entire job is to find people who oppose the worship of the Kim leader, particularly Christians. There is normally at least one spy per road/apartment block. To try and catch people out, they hold fake Christian meetings to arrest and abduct genuine believers. This has become worse recently, with more house raids and spies.

    For North Korean believers, no part of life is easy and they are constantly in fear of being discovered as a Christian. Many Christians are so afraid, they choose to hide their faith, even from their families. Sadly, although this is most extreme in North Korea, elements of this can be found across the world, in many nations for our Christian family.

    No one can deny the violent acts of persecution are devastating and tragic but these other ways infect a society and make every day living as a Christian almost impossible. Situations like the one in North Korea desperately need our prayer.

    Pray now…

    • Pray that North Korea will see significant, radical changes in the governing of the country
    • Pray that Christians will be filled with strength and hope to keep going in their faith in places like this.
    • For God’s comfort and presence to be really felt by these Christians.

    Give now…

    £6 can provide a single survival pack for a secret Christian in North Korea, the most hostile place in the world to be a Christian.

  • Will we walk away?

    I don’t know about you but it seems that in every family there is always at least one person who is determined to embarrass you- it may be your Dad, your crazy uncle or your little sister (or all of the above, like in my family). They bring out their moves on the dance floor, or their ‘hilarious’ jokes, or their loud pre-teen tantrums and, all we want to do is pretend that they’re nothing to do with us. It is far easier to close your eyes and walk away from them, right?

    I wonder, are we ever tempted to do the same with Jesus? To walk away and stay quiet or pretend He’s nothing to do with us, if it’s likely to cause us any kind of embarrassment. Sometimes, it’s so tempting to think, “I’ll be fine, I’ll say sorry to Him later,” or, “What difference will it really make if I don’t say anything?”

    Behind the temptation

    The temptation to deny Jesus and pretend you don’t know Him is strong, and it is not something that disappears as you get older. But what is behind it? We can often feel it more when we might be seen as uncool, or weird or even bigoted. All of these things are to do with what others think of us. They take God out of the equation and make our friends, our family and sometimes even strangers’ views of us to be the biggest thing. The thing that is worth the most.

    When others are tempted

    Remembering others who have much more to lose, can help. It can humble us. It can help us re-evaluate our choices and our priorities. It can get our heads straight.

    Let’s look at a teenage boy from Ethipoia. On 20th December 2009, Islamic extremists came to his house, dragged his father outside and brutally killed him right there, all because of His faith in God. His family lost everything. They went from being a well-respected, active family in the Christian community, to having to flee from danger and re-locate several times, without any source of income for his mother and his six brothers and sisters. His brother left school to find a job in order to help provide money for the family.

    Along with all of this loss, he was faced with more tragedy as one of his brothers was involved in a road accident where two people died and another brother tragically died in a work accident, both in 2011, just 2 years later.

    “My father didn’t die in vain. He died for the name of Christ. And that is an honour for me.”

    It would be understandable if he thought, ‘This was too much God, the cost you’ve asked me and my family to pay is just too great.’ Amazingly though, the Holy Spirit has ministered to his heart. When asked, “How could you keep silent without avenging your father’s blood?” He replied, “He is my father. I love him and it hurts me to know that he is killed. But, my father’s case is not new when it comes to the gospel. There are others who (have died) for the sake of Christ. So, there is no need for revenge. My father didn’t die in vain. He died for the name of Christ. And that is an honour for me.”

    Being prepared for loss

    When we look at our very different lives in the UK, what are we often unwilling to give up for the sake of Jesus?

    • How we are seen?
    • A friendship?
    • A conversation without conflict or tension?
    • Freedom from hurtful comments or pain?

    As we know, these things are difficult to deal with and do cause real and significant pain- no one is denying that. God knows that and He promises us that He will be with us, right in the midst of it.
    But when we see what some people go through, what they are willing to give up for Christ- a childhood, a father, an easy life, revenge- it changes things. It shines a light on God’s worth and reminds us that nothing, no matter how attractive it is, is worth more than Jesus Christ, our King and salvation.

    Pray now…

    • For integrity and strength for us in the UK and that we are proud to be Christians.
    • For our vision of God’s worth to be bigger than all other things.
    • That this will bring glory to God and others will see God through it.
    • For those whose faith costs them everything.
  • Three persecution facts you wouldn’t believe

    When we see the news or read about what is going on across the world, we are almost used to the shock and horror of it all. This can also be true when we hear of the levels of persecution of Christians around the world. But there are things going on that make you realise just how dark and deep this goes.

    Here are some elements of suffering that our Christian family are facing that are hard to believe. Sadly, these things are going on today, right now, and will be happening tomorrow.

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    Prayer meeting in an Egyptian church…

    1. Egypt: You can’t pray with anyone unless youre in a specifically licensed building

    Think about the last time you prayed with somebody. You probably just leant over and suggested, “Shall we pray?” or nodded as they asked you. At no point did you have to check whether anyone else was listening. At no point did you have to leave the coffee shop you were in, the home you were in, the classroom you were in. In Egypt this is not the case.

    In June this year, an angry mob of Muslims attacked an unfinished building in the village of Baidaa in Egypt because Christians were praying there when it wasn’t licensed as a church. Hundreds of people attacked, destroying the priest’s car and stoning houses of Christians, shouting, “We don’t want a church, we will knock down the church building, and Egypt is an Islamic country.” Five Christians were detained under charges of prayer in an unlicensed building.

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    An old North Korean Bible…

    2. North Korea: You can’t own or access any non-North Korean media

    In North Korea, the government is obsessed with control and are fearful that any non-approved media will poison people’s minds against the authoritarian regime. Therefore, all non-North Korean music, films, books, magazines, newspapers, TV programs, video games and all internet is strictly banned. That means that if you were North Korean, you would never have even heard of Adele, Coldplay, Doctor Who, Made in Chelsea, Star Wars, Google or even the Bible!

    Unbelievably, those who are caught smuggling anything in illegally, including any Christian material, are imprisoned under hideous conditions in a labour camp or publically executed.

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    A Nigerian boy in a church meeting…

    3. Nigeria: Many have to change their names to protect themselves

    Some people love their names, others hate them and many are just used to them. But it is undeniable, they are a part of us, they are how we are identified as ‘us’.

    Many Christians in Northern Nigeria, have to adopt Hausa names (Hausa is the dominant culture that is greatly influenced by Islam), not because they want to, but to avoid being immediately identified as a Christian. If you have a Christian name in these regions, you are immediately marginalised, discriminated against or even kidnapped, with the aim to then being converted to Islam while being held hostage.

    It is amazing to think how different our lives are to those who believe what we believe elsewhere in the world. We are so blessed in the UK, to be safe and free to worship God in prayer, unlike our Egyptian brothers and sisters. We are able to discover and learn about the world, unlike our North Korean family and we are able to be called by our own name, without fear or persecution, unlike our brothers and sisters in Nigeria. However, just because these things aren’t happening here in front of us, it doesn’t mean they are not happening.

    Pray now…

    • For Egypt: that Christians can find places to gather and worship and pray that are safe from attack.
    • For North Korea: that Christians would be able to access God’s Word and that God would protect them from the authorities discovering it.
    • For Nigeria: That God would provide safety and security in Him for the Christians who are in fear.
  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.