• Iran: ‘When you walk through the fire’

    Saghar was in the airport when she spotted the secret agent. Only three days earlier, he and several other members of the Iranian secret police had raided her home. They were the reason she was making a quick escape from Iran, the country she’d lived all her life. Now she didn’t know if she would even make it onto the plane – or if, instead, she’d end up in one of Iran’s infamous prisons.

    Miraculously, she wasn’t spotted. It wasn’t until she was on the plane that security called her name – a warrant for her arrest had been issued. But they were too late. Saghar had gone. Write a letter to encourage Saghar now…

    The raid

    Saghar knew, as a Christian from a Muslim background, that organising a secret house church was dangerous. She had grown up in a Muslim family and, like many believers from a Muslim background, first encountered Jesus through a dream. He used the same words as He spoke to the disciples Simon and Andrew in Mark 1:17: “Follow me.” That simple, powerful call changed Saghar’s life forever.

    Saghar gathered with other Christians, worshipped and prayed. It was always risky but, as Saghar says, “Fellowship is essential for growth.” They shared their lives together, and became family. Eventually Saghar even decided to take the most dangerous job in church: the pastor.

    Saghar was prepared

    Iranian house churches are regularly raided, so Saghar knew it was a scary possibility. Dozens of Christians are imprisoned for their faith each year, and the prisons they’re sent to are truly appalling. Saghrar says: “The first thing the security services want is to de-unify us,” says Saghar. “But staying together will really help us in these times.”

    Increasingly, Iranian Christians meet to share advice and knowledge on how to withstand persecution from secret police – including both practical and spiritual tips. Saghar had been to a meeting like this just a few months before the raid and, despite being understandably terrified, she had an idea.

    As her interrogation was about to begin, she asked to go to the toilet. Door locked, Saghar took a selfie, and sent it to the outside world: “Please pray for us; our church is being raided!” She started deleting evidence from her phone that would link her to other believers, as she’d been advised when meeting with other believers.

    Saghar knew her rights

    This meeting was also extremely useful when Saghar was back with the interrogators. She knew her legal rights and so, when the officers told her she was going to be arrested, she asked to see their warrant for arrest. They didn’t have one, and so she avoided being taken away immediately. The secret police continued to search the house, seized items including Saghar’s Bible, and left – crucially, she had time to escape.

    “At the gathering with the other believers, I learned how to manage my emotions and what my rights are,” remembers Saghar. “I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my preparation.”

    Three days later, Saghar was at the airport. She knew that at any moment she could be intercepted by the secret police – but God reminded her of a verse from Isaiah 43: “When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned.”

    And she walked through the airport, and onto the plane, without being burned. Thanks to being prepared and to God’s intervention, Saghar managed to get out of Iran – and now she lives safely in another country. It’s been extremely hard – with flashbacks, nightmares and missing her home – but Saghar knows she has escaped something much worse.

    When asked what Christians around the world can do for Iranian believers, Saghar immediately knows the answer – it’s the same thing she asked for in the middle of the raid: “Pray! No Christians should face persecution unprepared, and no Christian should go through it without prayer from the worldwide church.”

    Pray now…

    • Give thanks for Saghar’s miraculous escape
    • That Saghar will continue to experience God’s healing, strength and provision
    • That house churches in Iran will be protected from raids and believers kept from imprisonment.

    Write to Saghar now…

    You can write a letter of encouragement to Saghar – she would really love to hear from her church family in the UK and Ireland.

  • Bangladesh: Teenager Nupur facing threats

    Please pray for 17 year-old Nupur (not her real name) who is facing threats from extremists after she was recently kidnapped, but rescued.

    On the evening of April 2nd, 2021, Nupur and her cousin, Rekha*, were walking home from their college classes. While walking, the two girls were stopped and kidnapped by a group of Muslim men. Three days later, both Nupur and Rekha were rescued by the authorities. The girls were found in two different parts of the country, one in the capital city, and the other in a neighboring district.

    By the time they were rescued, the two girls had already been forced to converted to Islam. Rekha was also legally married to one of the kidnappers. As heart-wrenching as it was, Rekha had to return to her husband as she was legally married to him, whereas Nupur was able to go back to her family.

    “Nupur and Rekha were very bright students,” said Nupur’s uncle, “They are very good at music and dance. They have goodwill among the local people. The Muslim people do not like this, because they are Christian. For this reason, they intentionally have done this to them. Now, their lives are destroyed.”

    But the kidnapper has not stopped tormenting Nupur and her family. He wants to marry Nupur and is now threatening to kidnap her again. The young man has called on the phone, threatening to snatch Nupur away from her family. Nupur does not want to marry him, neither do her parents want her to marry him.

    The kidnapper said to her parents, “If you don’t give her to me, I’ll just take her myself!”

    Unsurprisingly, Nupur is very fearful. She does not go out at all – instead she’s staying in the safety of her family home.

    “We cannot guard her all the time,” said Nupur’s uncle, “We have to go out for work. We do not know how many days we can protect her. Every single moment we live under fear and insecurity. We are depressed and frustrated. On the other hand, it is very difficult to fight with the Muslims.”

    Nupur’s father said, “We don’t know what to do now. He is constantly calling over the phone and threatening us. We are guarding our daughter, but we don’t know how many days we can do this. They are Muslim and they are powerful. We cannot fight with them.”

    They have now filed a case on this matter.

    Kidnap, forced marriage and the continuing threats highlights the fact that in many places, young Christian girls are doubly vulnerable to persecution because of their faith and gender. Please pray for Nupir and Rekha now…

    Pray now…

    • For God’s protection for Nupur
    • For the family, that they will find strength and draw wisdom from the Lord on what to do about this situation. Pray that they would lean in to the guiding of the Holy Spirit.
    • For the authorities, that they will take the issue seriously and take proper action in order to protect Nupur.
    • For Rekha, trapped in a marriage to her kidnapper. Pray for hope and comfort for her.

    *Names changed for security reasons.

  • Run for their lives!

    Can you help bring vital food and aid to those who need it most by running for their lives? Whether you’re organising your own run or joining an event, every £56 you fundraise could equip a Rapid Response team to bring emergency food aid to a family of persecuted believers.

    Virtual London Marathon 2021. Your race. Your way.

    Date: 3 October (00:00:00 to 23:59:59)
    Location: wherever you are on the planet
    Minimum age: 18
    Registration fee: £0

    Join 50,000 other virtual runners for your chance to be a part of the biggest marathon ever staged anywhere in the world. The virtual Virgin Money London Marathon will return this year, giving participants the opportunity to take on the world’s greatest marathon on a course of their choice wherever they are on the planet.

    As well as allowing you to track and log your run and earn your medal and finisher T-shirt, the official London Marathon app will help bring the virtual experience to life, with an exclusive audio commentary featuring famous voices providing a memorable soundtrack to the day.

    Not over 18?

    If you’re under 18, sadly you won’t be able to register with the London Marathon. But if you want to set yourself a sponsored run/walk challenge to raise money, then please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you and help you get run for their lives too!

    Got your own place?

    Got your own place for a running event? Or even an idea for a different running challenge?

    Great! Fundraise your chosen amount for Open Doors and we’ll support you all the way. Just tell us about it here and we’ll be in touch.

    “It’s been a blast – a massive thank you to everyone who donated, cheered me on and ran with me. When we hear about the persecution of our brothers and sisters worldwide, it can sometimes feel a hopeless situation we can do nothing about. But all of us can do something – and for me, that ‘something’ was using my legs to run a half marathon!”
    Mike Walker, Bristol

  • Laos: The cost of faith

    Stephen* lived in a small mountain village in Laos. Growing up, he knew no other belief but Buddhism, which watchful authorities would ensure was followed at all times. It wasn’t until he was well into adulthood that Stephen discovered Jesus through a Christian radio station.

    “I wanted to convert,” Stephen said. “Then I met a man who invited me to his house and gave me a book: the Bible. I read it and understood it. Then I accepted Jesus into my life. I then began to lead a small group, and we started to gather and worship God.”

    Soon, Stephen’s small group was discovered and his cousin, the village chief, confronted him.

    “He got so angry at me and punched me many times on my head until I fell on the ground,” Stephen remembered.

    After the brutal beating, Stephen’s cousin gave him an ultimatum: abandon his faith or be cast out.

    Stephen chose to leave his home village right away, but not before his community beat him once more and set his home alight.

    Opposition again

    In his new village, it wasn’t long before Stephen’s Christian faith was discovered again.

    “The village chief kept on telling me, ‘You are stupid!’ He was very mad. He said, ‘We don’t want you to convert people and tell people about your religion. Your religion is from the foreigners!’”

    But Stephen refused to stop sharing the gospel and even began hosting worship gatherings.

    “I am always reminded that if people try to kill me for my faith, the Bible says not to be afraid. They can kill my body but not my soul. If they want to kill me, I have no problem with it for I know where I’m going after.”

    Hope that cannot be shaken

    Stephen’s journey has been full of suffering, isolation and violence. Following Jesus has nearly cost him everything. But, because of faithful supporters like you, he and his family have been equipped to face this persecution with courageous faith.

    “There are times when I feel like the world is against me,” Stephen shared. “But God sent people. He used Open Doors.”

    Stephen recently joined a church leaders gathering with other persecuted Christians and is learning how to empower the Laotian church to face the future.

    His wife has also received literacy training and now teaches believers in their new village.

    Even during the pandemic, Stephen’s family have continued to house believers who have been ostracised. And although COVID-19 is making everyday life increasingly difficult, Stephen trusts that God will provide, just as He did before.

    Pray now…

    • Thank God for Stephen’s faith and his passion to stick with Jesus and show others God’s love
    • That Stephen would see many come to know God and that he’d continue to be a blessing to his community
    • For provision for Stephen and the community in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    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…

  • Laos: ‘Our church is growing’

    “I declare the Lord’s power over you! In His name, I command you Satan to leave this body!”

    Sop* prayed this prayer over a troubled man who had been locked up by people in his village. No one could calm him – he would wail at night, curse the villagers and cause all kinds of trouble. But just a week after Sop’s prayer, the man was completely changed.

    It’s this sort of thing that has bought Sop unwanted attention. He is Lao believer living in a strongly communist village in the northernmost region of the country. Because of their faith, and the fact they have seen many come to know Jesus, Sop and his wife Dara* have faced violent persecution – they have been forced to leave their village, had their pigs poisoned, had their rice farm set on fire, and their children have faced discrimination at school.

    But thanks to your prayers and support, Sop was able to join in a house church leaders’ gathering in 2019 which has now evolved into a group of Christian leaders who equip Lao churches and prepare believers for persecution. Through Open Doors local partners, Sop and Dara were also able to attend train as literacy teachers – they now hold classes helping local people learn to read and write.

    Healings, caring for the community and literacy classes…

    Sop explains how things have changed in the last few years…

    “Compared to before, we are no longer physically persecuted. From time to time, we only receive mockeries and verbal discriminations from the villagers because we are Christians.

    “Our church is growing. Since the covid-19 lockdown has been lifted, together with other believers, we have been going around our area preaching the gospel and planting churches. We also pray for people who are sick, and demon-possessed.

    “My family is still taking care and providing shelter for people who were kicked out of their homes because they have become Christians and people who have become jobless because of the pandemic.

    “Since the lockdown, we have paused our literacy classes and focused on helping our community put food on their tables. However, through the classes we conducted before covid-19, my wife’s mother and several others can now read the Bible.”

    A new tractor

    Although Sop and others in his village are now relatively freer to move from village to village, the impact of the pandemic to their livelihood has been significant. Through local partners, Open Doors was able to provide a tractor for Sop and his church that will hopefully help them get back on their feet.

    “On behalf of my church, thank you for the hope you have given us. For over and again, supporting us. Thank you for the tractor you provided for our house church which not only benefits us but our entire community, Christians and non-Christians. We have been using it to plow our fields, carry sacks of rice from our fields to our homes, transport firewood from the jungle to our kitchens, and other tasks.”

    In late 2020, Sop attended two Standing Strong Through the Storm training courses where he got to learn more about helping others when they experience persecution and about his legal rights as a Christian living in a Communist country.

    Image: Sop being prayed for…

    “We are one body and one family in Christ. When our brothers and sisters are hurt, we are also hurt. More and more persecution take place in our provinces, so we need to do something to encourage the house churches to not fear persecution.”

    Pray now:

    • For God’s provision for Sop, his family, and his church’s daily needs. May the Lord provide them with wisdom and the right skills for them to earn a living.
    • For protection over Sop and his disciples who go around from one village to another sharing God’s word. May those who hear the gospel through Sop come to know Jesus and see their lives transformed.

    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.

    *Names changed for security reasons…

  • Vietnam: “Pray to your God! He will take care of you!”

    When Chien* and his family came home from leading a Bible study in another village in northwest Vietnam, they had a terrible shock. The villagers had burned down their house and all their belongings and food stores. “Let’s see if you can still live here!” one villager shouted.

    Finding Jesus and trying to spread the word

    Chien’s community follows traditional tribal religious beliefs, and Chien shared those beliefs faith for many years. But, in 2018, a relative told him about Jesus – which led to Chien and his family deciding to become Christians. After going on a Bible course in a local city in 2019, he was filled with enthusiasm for sharing the good news of the gospel with his neighbours – but it was received very badly. The village chief threatened to expel Chien and his family if they continued sharing about Jesus.

    While his own community wouldn’t listen to what Chien had to say, a neighbouring community did – he was able to start a house church there, and that’s where he was leading a Bible study while his house was being destroyed.

    Relentless persecution

    The attack on their house was a shock, but not a complete surprise. Even though Chien’s ministry was in a nearby village, his community were furious about it. They’d twice previously tried to evict the family and, when that didn’t work, subjected them to continuous taunts and threats. They’d blocked the water to Chien’s farm so he couldn’t irrigate his crops, severely damaging the family’s livelihood. His daughter was bullied at school. But this arson attack was the hardest thing the family had faced.

    Even worse, when Chien reported the incident to local authorities, he was ridiculed: “Pray to your God! He will take care of you!”

    Image: Chien and his family infront of their new house

    You’re support means Chien has been able to rebuild

    Despite the mocking and taunts, God did take care of the family. And He did it through your support and prayers.

    A local church provided them with a piece of land and a few materials to build their new home – and Open Doors partners in Vietnam were able to provide Chien and his family with roofing materials and money to pay the builders. The house is now nearly complete.

    “I thank the Lord and I thank you for helping our family during this time,” says Chien. And he hasn’t given up on sharing the good news, even after the persecution he has faced – he adds: “Please pray that my family will be able to plant a church in our area.”

    Pray now…

    • Praise God that He loves to rebuild, and ask that the home would soon be complete for the family
    • For God’s guidance as Chien seeks to plant a church
    • That the truth of the gospel would become clear to those who persecute Chien and other believers in Vietnam.

    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…

  • 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…

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