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  • What comes first?

    Khalid is a believer from Ethiopia who was excluded from his family because he chose to follow Jesus.

    “They told me that I defiled the culture. In fact, they said that I betrayed them and their faith. They forced me to leave the house. They refused to give me food and shelter. They even threatened to kill me.”

    But, thanks to support from local Christians, and help from Open Doors through a local church, Khalid has been able to start a new business and completely change his life. Watch the video below to see how things have turned out for Khalid.

    Think:

    • Imagine what it would be like choosing between Jesus and your family, culture and even your security?
    • Look up Luke 14:25. Can you see how this passage relates to Khalid’ story?
    • How do you feel about that passage – does Jesus really mean you should hate your family, or is he saying that following Him means putting everything else in second place? What do you think?
    • Khalid’s life changed because other Christians showed him God’s love and became friends with him. How can you be a good friend and shine God’s love to those around you? Is there anyone in your life that might need a friend now? What could you do to show you care?

    Pray:

    • Thank God for Khalid’s brave faith, and that he chose Jesus despite rejection, insecurity and threats.
    • Thank God that Khalid’s life has changed – pray that his business continues to be successful.
    • Pray for Khalid’s wider family. Ask that they’d also come to know Jesus.
    • Pray that you’d be brave in your faith like Khalid and able to put Jesus first. Pray you’d be a good friend, shining God’s love to those you know.
  • Your impact: 61 MPs support letter!

    Thank you to all of you who wrote to your MP, asking them to sign a letter to the Foreign Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities highlighting the double vulnerability of Christian women around the world because of their faith and gender. This is part of our ongoing See.Change. campaign. Today the letter was sent, signed by 48 MPs and backed by a further 13 who contacted the Ministers directly! Please pray that this will result in real and significant change for our persecuted sisters.

    In the letter to Dominic Raab MP (Foreign Secretary) and Elizabeth Truss MP (Minister for Women and Equalities), we call on the UK government to respond to the issue of gender-specific religious persecution through the implementation of three recommendations:

    • To publicly and explicitly acknowledge that religion is a vulnerability in gender-based violence.
    • To practically support, counsel and re-integrate persecuted women who are stigmatised by sexual violence, abduction or forced marriage.
    • To support and resource the Prime Minister’s Special Envoys for: Freedom of Religion or Belief, Fiona Bruce MP; and Girl’s Education, Helen Grant MP, to work together to address the persecution of women and girls for their faith.

    Amazingly, on top of the 48 MPs who added their signature to the letter, a further 13 unable to sign it due to parliamentary protocol, contacted the Ministers directly, adding further backing to the campaign. All in all, this is a fantastic response – thank you for taking the time to contact your MP for your persecuted sisters.

    Please pray for impact

    Now that the letter is with Ministers, will you join us in praying for impact? Please pray:

    • That Dominic Raab MP and Elizabeth Truss MP will respond positively and effectively
    • That it will result in our persecuted sisters seeing tangible change in their lives
    • For ongoing engagement from the MPs who signed the letter.
  • Central Asia: A new way to celebrate Ramadan

    When Nadia’s* children told her they had become Christians she was angry and upset: “I thought my children were attracted to a sect. I was so worried for their safety because we had a lot of relatives and they were all Muslims. I thought my daughter and sons could be beaten or even killed by their Muslim father and uncles.”

    Sadly, it was Nadia, a Muslim from Central Asia, who began to threaten and mistreat her children because of their new faith.

    “I tried to stop them visiting church and forced them to stay at home,” she says. “I threw away their Christian books and Bibles, talked to them with a lot of threats and even beatings… I didn’t know that God protected them; now I feel so sorry about that. I can see that Jesus came to save our family through my children and I am so grateful.”

    But after a while her whole outlooked changed. After a period of ill-health her children prayed with her, and that’s when she chose to invite Jesus into her life. “Since then, my life has completely changed,” she says.


    Image is illustrative.

    A new way to celebrate Ramadan

    For several years after becoming a Christian, Naida didn’t celebrate Ramadan – a festival which used to mean so much to her. Like most Muslims, she had respected Ramadan as holy, fasted for several days during the month, and celebrated with her wider Muslim family. She would visit neighbours and relatives, cook many traditional dishes and host a lot of guests in her house during Ramadan.

    When Naida stopped celebrating Ramadan, it made her relatives angry. They stopped inviting her to their homes, and wouldn’t come to her house. Naida became upset and worried. While she felt that Christians couldn’t follow Muslim traditions, it was important for her to reach her Muslim sisters and brothers, cousins and other relatives with God’s love.

    After a lot of prayer, study and advice from her pastor, Naida decided to celebrate Ramadan again, but this time it was in a completely new way. During the festival, Naida cooks different traditional dishes and invites her Muslim sisters, brothers, cousins and neighbours. In this way, she shows them her respect for their religious traditions and values, and at the same time she is able to share the gospel. She has found these celebrations a really effective way to reach her Muslim friends and family – while remaining true to her faith and to Jesus.

    This year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, she won’t be able to hold a big gathering – but is hoping to have a small celebration with a neighbour, and to share the good news of Jesus. Praise God for Naida’s courage!

    Pray now…

    • That God would use Naida to continue to courageously share the gospel with her Muslim friends and relatives
    • That God would guard and protect secret believers during the month of Ramadan
    • For Open Doors partners in Central Asia as they strengthen more believers like Naida.

    What you can do now?

    Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly.

    *Name changed for security reasons…

  • How persecuted Christians view Easter

    Over the past few years, Easter has become a dangerous time for my Christians around the world. For members of the persecuted church Easter is a time to celebrate, but also a time to be vigilant. It is a time when the church becomes much more visible – and therefore more vulnerable to attack. In 2019 more than 350 Christians lost their lives, and thousands more were injured as suicide bombers attacked three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka. There have also been Easter attacks in Pakistan in 2016 and on Palm Sunday, 2017 in Egypt. And sadly, this year, a church in Indonesia was attacked on Palm Sunday.

    So, how do our persecuted family view Easter, the time we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection? Here’s three quotes from Christians around the world on what Easter means to them:

    Algeria


    
“I remember what the death of Jesus brought me. I remember the cross, the bloodshed, His broken body. But it is also about freedom. If the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.”
    An Algerian believer

    The majority of Christians in Algeria are converts from Islam. These believers are at risk of persecution from their family and from the wider community. They face harassment, beatings, threats, and imprisonment, as well as pressure to adhere to Islamic customs. Churches are under pressure from government, with several being closed in recent years.

    Iraq


    
“We could close our churches to protect ourselves… Or we can hold all the celebrations and maybe we will receive some bombs or attacks. We try to stay here and love like Jesus Christ. We try to give this meaning of Christianity: that love and life are better than death and killing.”
    A church leader from Mosul, Iraq

    In Iraq, Islamic extremist groups, continue to influence a society that is healing from conflict. Christians are pressured to conform to the Islamic way of life and are often faced with physical abuse or the threat of kidnapping.

    Jerusalem


    “We remember that God showed His love for us by sending his Son to die for our sins. He brought down the walls between us and Himself. He made our relationship with Him complete. By being raised from the dead, Jesus conquered death. He reassures us that we don’t have to fear death anymore.”
    A believer in East Jerusalem

    Pray now…

    • Pray for protection: Whether they gather in big churches in cities, small churches in remote villages, or secret churches in places where Christianity is forbidden – ask that God would be their strength and their shield and that they would be safe from harm.
    • Pray for hope: Ask God to bring Easter hope to communities who are suffering. Please pray particularly for communities who are rebuilding in places like Iraq and Syria. May they feel safe and secure as they seek to rebuild their homes.
    • Pray for courage: Ask the Holy Spirit to bring courage to believers so that, where possible, they will boldly proclaim the truth. And that those who need to encounter the love and life of Jesus would encounter it in the celebrations of Christians.

    What you can do now…

    Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Try these things:

    Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly. Do that here…

    Blackout – get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money and prayer for those who have lost everything because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up here…

    Sign a letter to your MP asking them to act on behalf of persecuted Christian women and girls. Follow the link to a simple form that will find your MP and contact them for you…
    Sign the letter now…

  • Vietnam: ‘My parents still despise me’

    You might remember the story of Poh (not his real name), a Hmong believer from Vietnam who was attacked by his father for boldly proclaiming his faith. We shared his story of brave faith last year as part of the Blackout challenge. He was forced to leave his village because of his faith in Jesus, but thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors local partners were able to buy a piece of land where Poh built a new home for his young family.


    Image: Poh and his family outside their new home (their faces have been blurred to protect their identities)

    Recently, a year after we first met him, Open Doors local partners called to see how Poh is doing now.

    “I thank God for His grace and blessings,” Poh says. “My family and I have been experiencing a more stable life now that we are living in a Christian community and with our house just nearby the church.

    “I had the opportunity to share the Gospel to my brother. He was sick and I told him about Jesus being the greatest healer. I introduced the Lord to him, and he converted. But immediately, the villagers threatened to kick him out of the village if he will not deny his newfound faith. The villagers told my brother that they will do the same thing that they did to me if he will not recant. He was afraid and had no choice.”

    “My parents still despise me…”

    “A few months ago, I went back to my old village to visit my parents and siblings, but my family and the villagers still hate me – they forbade me from going near them. My parents still despise me and have renounced me as their child.

    “Covid-19 has also been a hurdle. Although I can now farm, I do not have the money to buy the seeds and fertilizer. I also cannot go to the town and look for a job there because of the restrictions. Pray that God will provide me and my family with our needs and that I will have a stable source of income.

    “Despite these challenges, I am now serving the Lord. I am now a fulltime church worker. The Lord has also blessed us with another baby last year.”

    “We want to say thank you…”

    Quan*, Poh’s pastor, whom we also met in 2020, cannot contain his thankfulness, especially after hearing the letters of encouragement and prayers Open Doors supporters sent to Poh and his family.

    “We want to say thank you my brothers and sisters in Christ who have been praying for Poh and his family. By the pureness of your hearts, you made a family become strong in their faith and now, they are serving Him. If not for your prayers and practical support, I do not know what would have happened to Poh’s family. We are grateful to the Lord for all of you. We will continue to serve the Lord and fulfill our mission to share the Gospel to our tribe.”

    Through Poh’s local church, Open Doors local partners will continue to help to Poh’s family. They will provide the family with rice and clothes for the children, and ensure Poh has what he needs to get back to farming so that he will have a more stable livelihood.

    Pray now…

    • Poh says, “Pray that God will provide me and my family with our needs and that I will have a stable source of income.”
    • Pray that the Lord will continue to open doors for Poh, Mai, and the children to be bold witnesses to their tribe, especially to Poh’s unbelieving parents.
    • Pray for forgiveness and reconciliation between Poh and his family.
    • Continue to pray for Poh’s church and their pastor as he leads and disciples his congregation. Pray that they would grow in their love for Jesus and obedience to Him.

    What you can do now…

    Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Try these things:

    Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly. Do that here…

    Blackout – get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money and prayer for those who have lost everything because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up here…

    Sign a letter to your MP asking them to act on behalf of persecuted Christian women and girls. Follow the link to a simple form that will find your MP and contact them for you…
    Sign the letter now…

  • Indonesia: Palm Sunday attack

    At 10:28am on Palm Sunday (28 March 2021), an explosion happened as worshippers were on their way home from mass in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Indonesia. Please pray with us for the church in Indonesia.

    “Some believers have been severely wounded, and all present have been traumatised. Their lives will never be the same. We ask the worldwide church to pray for their brothers and sisters in Makassar,” says Sam*, Open Doors’ coordinator for work in South East Asia.

    None of the worshippers were killed – Covid-19 restrictions meant that not many people were attending church. It’s reported that 20 people were wounded, and are being treated for burn injuries in several hospitals in Makassar. A least one of the suicide bombers died in the attack.

    Police say the other suspects are two men on motorbikes. A priest from the church told local media that one bomber tried to enter the church but was stopped by a guard. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, though Indonesia has seen an increase in church attacks by militant Islamic groups in recent years. Indonesia is currently number 47 on the World Watch List, up two places in the past year.

    “In Indonesia, the situation for Christians has been deteriorating in recent years, with Indonesian society taking on a more conservative Islamic character,” says Brother Sam. “Christians who grew up in a Muslim home often experience persecution from their families. At the same time, Islamic militants carry out attacks from time to time. Many share the ideology or are even affiliated with global terrorist movements such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.“

    Brother Sam continues “It’s important that we come alongside when they are suffering. They must know that they are not alone.”

    Pray now…

    • For protection for other Indonesian churches and courage for believers
    • Thank God that no worshippers were killed in the attack
    • That God would change the hearts of those who seek to persecute the church
  • Burkina Faso: Extremism and Covid impacting the church

    Pastor Michel is the President of the General Council of the Assemblies of God (AoG) in Burkina Faso and this year, the AoG celebrates 100 years of presence in the country. Recently he spoke to Open Doors about the issues facing the church and how things have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

    “During these 100 years, the Lord has worked powerfully in the Church.” It has become one of the most prominent denominations in Burkina Faso. But with its large footprint in the North of the country, where jihadist violence has accelerated across northern regions since 2015, they have been hit hard.

    “Many villages do not have Christians anymore… they have fled… these people kill without any pity. They slay and behead without pity, stealing people’s lives. That is why mostly in the north, you will find villages with (empty) church buildings… because Christians have left,” he explains.

    “The displaced believers really suffer… They are used to living in community but now they have to live with people they don’t know.”

    The impact of Covid-19

    “The second difficulty we faced, and which really surprised us is Covid. Automatically like everywhere, churches were completely closed,” says Pastor Michel.

    While pastors were finding new ways to reach believers and continue sharing the Gospel, there was little or no income in the form of tithes. “The Church really suffered due to lack of offerings and tithes… it also affected the widows and orphans that the Church was supporting.”

    “…The Church really did participate in her own way with the little she has, showing her love and her presence despite these difficult situations.”

    This reality makes the help that came from the wider global church all the more significant. Thanks to your sacrificial giving, we were able to help 1,000 families with aid packages that included food (rice, maize, beans, cooking oil) to last them at least 3 months.


    Image: Essential aid being delivered to those who have had to flee extremist violence.

    “I will build my church”

    Despite the difficulties the Church has been facing over the past year, Pastor Michel is full of hope about the lessons the Church learned through their persecution. He can see purpose in the persecution. “Wherever (Christians) end up, the Gospel is still being preached. People are not afraid to share Christ, they are not tired of talking about Him, about His love, and His grace. And the pastors who are there, do their best to be a light, a siren despite persecution and difficulties.”

    “Do not forget this Church… I’m asking you to pray for us: for the Lord Himself to be our defender, the one watching over us, protecting us, His people. Continue praying and His Church will not sink. The Lord himself said: ‘I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against her’. And I am sure that if you continue praying, these words of the Lord will come to pass. The Church will live and become a strength for the sub-region, for Africa. And why not even for the world?”

    Pray now…

    • Thank God for the church in Burkina Faso. Ask that God would strengthen and build His church in the country.
    • For church leaders – that they would have wisdom in knowing how best to support and serve their congregations during the pandemic.
    • For those that have fled due to extremist violence. Ask God to bring comfort, peace and provision.

    What you can do now…

    Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Try these things:

    Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly. Do that here…

    Blackout during lent – get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time in the run up to Easter and raise money and prayer for those who have lost everything because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up here…

    Sign a letter to your MP asking them to act on behalf of persecuted Christian women and girls. Follow the link to a simple form that will find your MP and contact them for you…
    Sign the letter now…

  • India: New laws restrict sharing about Jesus

    In India becoming a Christian can be pretty tough. In a country where being Indian means being Hindu, the room for other religious beliefs is decreasing. And for many, the journey to faith in Jesus is becoming harder and harder. New ‘anti-conversion laws’ aim to protect people from being forced to convert to another religion, but in reality, the laws are used to accuse and discriminate against Christians.

    India has a Hindu majority (72.5% of the population) and indigenous religious movements such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism have been present for centuries. Since the 1990s, Hindu extremists have gained momentum, putting forward the narrative that Muslims (14.4% of the population) and Christians (4.8%) are not true Indians. Anti-conversion laws are used as a weapon in this fight. While the wording of the law in each state varies, they generally state that ‘no person should convert or attempt to convert, either directly or indirectly, any person from one religion to another by use of force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means’.

    New versions of anti-conversion laws were passed in Madya Pradesh on 8 March and Utter Pradesh a couple of weeks earlier – these laws are additions to the growing number of similar legislations that restrict the rights of Christian and Muslim minorities in many Indian states – despite there being no data about forced conversions taking place. And of course forced conversions are wrong. But, in practice, these laws are used to attack to make false accusations of coercion against those who have genuinely become Christians from a Hindu background and those who have told them the good news about Jesus.

    Gagan’s story


    Image: Gagan sitting in the grounds of his college

    The hostility that is leading to the rise in anti-conversion laws is something 21-year-old Gagan* is very aware of. He’s the only Christian in his family and his community.

    “I first heard of the name Jesus Christ from some of my Christian friends while I was living in my school hostel away from my village,” remembers Gagan. “During my final year of high school, I attended a youth camp and there I accepted Jesus Christ and decided to follow Him.”

    Gagan was luckier than many Christians from a Hindu background, because his family didn’t reject him. “Their opposition mellowed when they saw that I had become a better person after accepting Christ,” says Gagan. “My family themselves, however, refused to come along with me in my journey of Christian faith. The reason is: they live in fear of society.”

    Gagan understands where they’re coming from. “Their fear is very real for me also, because to accept Jesus Christ and to follow Him means becoming an outcast from the community.

    “I fear for the safety of my parents, because their son is following a different faith from them. The general outlook on Christ in my community is that He is a foreign god and everyone who follows Christianity is a traitor to our original religion.”

    Open Doors partners in India were able to financially support Gagan in his education, thanks to the gifts and prayers of Open Doors supporters. In his case, his family couldn’t afford it – for other isolated believers, even if their family have the resources, they are denied help.

    New laws open to abuse

    Open Doors partner Heena (named changed for security reasons) is worried about the news laws.

    “These new laws are harsher than their previous versions, increasing the amount of money offenders have to pay and lengthening jail time. These laws are problematic for many reasons, but one glaring reason is because they’re incredibly vague. They use words like ‘allurement’ or ‘coercion’ as things they say they’re trying to protect against, but they don’t define what those mean.

    “In practice, the laws are used to intimidate and restrict even the peaceful exercise of religion for non-Hindus. They create a culture of intolerance towards religious minorities – Christian and Muslims specifically.”

    And what’s more, is that the anti-conversion laws don’t seem to apply to those who have chosen to follow Jesus but are pressured to go back to Hinduism. There is far more evidence of family or community members forcing Christians or Muslims from a Hindu background to ‘re-convert’ than there is of forced Christian conversion – but it is not an offence. In the eyes of Indian lawmakers, it is a return to the religion of the fatherland. Even coerced conversions to Hinduism are apparently considered something to celebrate.

    They say that they can’t leave Jesus…


    Image: A mosque in Agra, India

    Heena is also worried about the impact of these laws on the church – specifically, relating to violent attacks. “These laws have made the church in India more vulnerable,” she says. “Because of this set of laws, people just barge into churches and the churches live in fear.

    “There are so many instances where churches have gathered, and angry mobs have broken in and they chased the Christians out of the community… Professing the fact that you believe in Jesus is so risky.”

    In spite of this, courageous believers in India are remaining faithful. Heena adds: “They say what they have found in Jesus is what they’ve been searching for all their lives. They say that they can’t leave Jesus. I haven’t met anyone who has wanted to deny Christ!”

    Pray now…

    • That anti-conversion laws will be repealed in states across India, and no further laws will be introduced
    • For God to give to give His strength and resilience to Christians facing attack and discrimination because of these laws
    • For wisdom and equipping to Open Doors partners in India, to serve the persecuted church as they need.

    What you can do now…

    Want to respond and help your persecuted family around the world? Try these things:

    Get our World Watch List prayer map and resources to learn more and pray regularly. Do that here…

    Blackout during lent – get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time in the run up to Easter and raise money and prayer for those who have lost everything because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up here…

    Sign a letter to your MP asking them to act on behalf of persecuted Christian women and girls. Follow the link to a simple form that will find your MP and contact them for you…
    Sign the letter now…

  • GCSE Schools Lessons

    Not strictly a youth leader resource, but these two lesson plans come with PowerPoint presentations and videos to introduce a GCSE class to issues around religious freedom and persecution – both part of the current UK GCSE syllabus…

  • NANO: Simple, themed youth session material

    NANO is a new series of themed youth session material you can use and adapt for your youth and small groups. Every few months we’ll release a new session on a specific theme, exploring the issue through the lens of the persecuted church. First up, we’re launching with a short series on how to pray, including videos from Pete Greig.

  • We support people who are beaten, tortured,
    imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.