Archive

  • Central Asia: Something special is happening

    When Open Doors researcher Stefan* first visited Central Asia in the 80s, the church of local believers was tiny. But in the years since then, God has been powerfully at work – and not always among the people you might expect to come to faith in Jesus – ex prisoners and former drug addicts have found God’s grace and are building a new church.

    It’s a difficult situation for the church in central Asia. Russia is no longer in control, so these are independent states – but in order to build a national identity, they are using Islam. And that means that when you are not a Muslim, you have problems, especially when you are active in evangelism. So it’s difficult for churches who are reaching out to Muslims, and it’s even more difficult for nationals who have converted to Jesus Christ – but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t at work.

    ‘I would like to know your secret’

    It’s exciting how God is building his church in this area of the world. By now tens of thousands of nationals, of Uzbeks, of Tajiks, of Turkmen people, have come to faith. Each of them has their own unique story. The Lord is reaching out in special ways and he’s often taking care of people who are at the fringes of society – people we don’t think very highly of.

    I know one very active believer who used to be a criminal. He described himself as ‘a really bad person’. And for that reason, he ended up in jail. He spent many, many years in jail because of his crimes.

    But during his time in jail, he was visited by a lady who would bring him and the other prisoners food. She could not talk about her faith in Jesus Christ, it was not allowed, but she would simply enter the prison and give food.

    He really loved her for doing that. So when he was released, he went looking for this lady. When he found her he asked, ‘I would like to know your secret. Why have you been visiting us in this prison for such a long time and giving this food?’

    She said, ‘Because I love Jesus.’ In response the man said, “I would like to know more about Jesus.” And she shared her faith and he came to faith as well. And since then he’s been visiting prisoners trying to help them.

    By now they have a whole community of people who have been in prison. It’s very special when you can join one of these meetings, because this is the way they greet one another: ‘Hi, my name is Vladimir Nine’ or ‘My name is Ali Eight.’ The figure they are giving is the number of years they spent in prison.

     

    ‘Complete peace’

    The Lord is building a special communities across Central Asia – and not just among prisoners. There are many people in the church who have struggled with drug addiction. The region is close to Afghanistan, a major production house for hard drugs, and they are smuggled into the region. Many people fall victim to this. A number of Christians are trying to reach out to drug addicts.

    One Christian I met told me his story. He used to be an addict himself – first to alcohol, then to cigarettes, and then to hard drugs.

    He was desperate. He tried to commit suicide twice. Miraculously, he survived and he wanted to start a new life, but he didn’t know what to do. A friend of his told him about a special rehab place, saying, ‘there is a special place here in town where they take care of drug addicts. The only bad thing is that the people who are running this house have this strange faith in Jesus. But if you just let that go in one ear and out the other, you’ll manage. They will really try to help you.’

    He went to this place, and was taken in on the condition he didn’t drink alcohol, take any drugs and stopped smoking.

    This man said, “I stopped with the drinks. I tried to stop with the drugs. But smoking… I was smoking all the time. I continued smoking in this house. And one day I was caught. I was called in for a meeting, and they told me: ‘You’ll be out the next time we see you smoking again.’”

    “I went into my room and I was desperate. I wanted to break free from all these addictions and to have a new life. But how would I quit smoking? And I just cried out. I said, ‘Jesus, if you really exist, help me because I can’t do it alone.’

    “That moment something happened. I felt something on my shoulders, very heavily. I did not know what to do. I went down to my knees and I stayed on my knees for a long time. I lost sense of time. I was just sitting on my knees and something touched me. From my head to my feet, something happened inside my body. And I got peace, complete peace. And I knew this is was something of Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus.

    “I didn’t know what was happening to me. I didn’t have any explanation. I just had peace. So after this I went back to the leadership of the house. And I said, ‘I would like to join your services.’ They prayed with me. And then the next morning I woke up and all of a sudden it dawned to me: ‘I’ve had no intention of smoking’.”

    He was set free – and he’s still free. Today he’s an evangelist among his own countrymen. It’s just fantastic to see how he’s doing.

    God is building a new church in Central Asia. Yes, there’s a lot of persecution, but there’s also hope for the church in Central Asia.

    Pray now…

    • Thank God for the people in the stories. Ask God to continue to transform their lives and use their stories as ways to show many others God’s powerful love.
    • Pray for the church across Central Asia. Ask that despite persecution it would stand strong, grow and be able to offer practical hope to communities struggling with poverty, addiction and more.
    • Pray that governments across the countries in Central Asia would become more tolerant and open, endorsing freedom of religion or belief and ending restrictions facing the church.

    Act now…

    1. Get a free World Watch List map and learn more about the places where faith costs the most.

    2. Take on the Choose to Lose Challenge and get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money and prayer for those who have lost much because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up to get a free pack.

  • North Korea: What happens when those who flee, get caught?

    North Korea is the most dangerous place on the planet to be a Christian. Simply owning a Bible or Christian materials will almost certainly mean arrest and imprisonment, and it could also mean your entire close family are arrested and interrogated too. Prison sentences are long, often within prison or labour camps, where people are treated horrifically.

    So, it’s understandable that Christians would want to flee. But, it’s not just Christians. Lack of food, extreme poverty or having political views or beliefs contrary to the current government also mean many others try to escape the country too. It’s just that North Korea doesn’t want its citizens to leave. The easiest route is to China, but it’s dangerous, you have a to cross a river that is watched by soldiers, then if you make it across, there are police and secret North Korean agents trying to identify and track down escapees.

    Many are forced to return. On Wednesday 14th July, China repatriated 50 North Korean escapees to North Korea. They will be asked if they attended church services or prayed while they were in China. This is the most important question for North Korean police, as they can’t allow any Christians to end up in normal prison cells in case they share the gospel with others. Any suspected Christians go to political prison camps where they will face a re-education programme alongside brutal conditions and forced labour.

    Whatever answers they give, these North Koreans will end up in prison camps, where they will likely die either by execution or as a result of the dire conditions and mistreatment.

    There are several hundred more North Korean escapees in Shenyang, Tumen and other detention centres in China, who are also expecting to be sent back to North Korea and will face the same fate.

    There has been a long campaign from the international community to raise the issue with the Chinese authorities, and to call for North Korean escapees to be deported to South Korea, where they will receive citizenship as part of the ‘One Korea’ policy, rather than back to North Korea, where they will face almost certain death.

    Numbers of escapees is severely down

    In the second quarter of 2020, just 12 North Koreans had reached South Korea. It seemed hard to imagine the numbers getting any lower than that – they were the lowest ever recorded. And yet, they have. Between April and July this year only 2 people managed to get to South Korea from the North.

    Part of the reason for these low numbers is likely to be the route these escapees must take, travelling through Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, or Thailand, and during the covid-19 pandemic there have been travel restrictions and lockdowns in many of these nations.

    However, the major cause is North Korea’s complete lockdown of its borders in an attempt to keep out covid-19 infections, including shoot-to-kill orders, making it very difficult for people to escape.

    How are Open Doors helping?

    Open Doors secret workers are keeping 90,000 North Korean believers alive with vital food and aid through networks in China, as well as providing shelter and training for North Korean refugees in China. ​

    Pray now…

    Please continue to pray for North Koreans who are trying to survive the complete lockdown in North Korea, especially for secret believers.

    • Ask God to keep them healthy, to provide for their needs, and to keep the secret believers strong in their faith.
    • Pray for the repatriated escapees, especially those who may have found in Jesus whilst in China, that God will comfort them.
    • Continue to pray for the hearts of the North Korean authorities, and that they will finally begin to care for the millions of people living under oppression, persecution, and starvation under their watch.

    Act now…

    1. Get a free World Watch List map and learn more about the places where faith costs the most.

    2. Take on the Choose to Lose Challenge and get sponsored to give up something you love for a short time to raise money and prayer for those who have lost much because of their faith in Jesus. Sign up to get a free pack.

  • India: ‘It was Christ who healed me’

    Like many believers in India, Shanti came to know Jesus when she was healed of an illness. Her whole family also chose to follow Him – but their local community and close relatives were not happy. Sadly, Shanti no longer has contact with her extended family after they cut her off.

    “It was Christ who healed me on whom I haven’t spent any money – all He wanted was my heart.”

    The family then moved to another town – but persecution followed them. One day, when they were returning from a prayer meeting, they were ambushed by Hindu extremists. Angry with them for leaving Hinduism and converting to Christianity, the extremists beat them badly. Sanjiv, Shanti’s son, sustained a broken nose.

    Imprisoned and persecuted

    The situation went from bad to worse when the same extremists who attacked them lodged a complaint with the police against Shanti and her family, stating that they were forcibly converting people in their village. The police arrested them and put them in prison, where the officers refused to listen to their side of the story, and shockingly even beat them further.

    Incredibly, Shanti continued to stand firm in her faith. “I have experienced the love and peace of Christ in my life,” she says. “I have been to temples and other worship places, spending money to get healed. But it was Christ who healed me on whom I haven’t spent any money – all He wanted was my heart. My family and I can never leave Christ for the mere pressures of humans.”

    What is it like to be a Christian in India?

    Not content with the harm they had already caused to Shanti and her family, the extremists continued to spread their anger throughout their community. Eventually, Shanti, Sanjiv and the family took shelter with another Christian in a neighbouring village.

    “Thank you for all your assurance and prayers”

    Thanks to your prayers and support, Open Doors local partners helped Shanti and her family with medical assistance for Sanjiv, who had to have surgery on his broken nose. They also provided the family with groceries.

    Shanti says, “I am so grateful to God for the organisation, who stood by us in this difficult time. God indeed places encouragers during tough times to build up our faith. I also thank you all for your assurance and prayers.

    “God indeed places encouragers during tough times to build up our faith.”

    “The Bible warns us we will face persecution, so we are prepared for any situation. Worse may happen to us, yet at the same time we are reminded of the verse from 1 Peter 2:4 which says, ‘As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him.’ This verse strengthens us and encourages us.”

    Shanti’s enduring faith is inspiring. Please pray for her and her family, that they will continue to follow Jesus despite the persecution, and that their witness would soften the hearts of their persecutors.

    Pray now…

    • That Shanti and her family will heal from the attack, and will be able to return to their home soon
    • That the truth and love of the gospel will triumph over lies and hatred in Shanti’s community, and more people will come to know Jesus
    • For Open Doors local partners in India, that they will be able to continue to meet the needs of other Christians like Shanti.

    Three things you can do now…

    1. Act now: Stand for truth by emailing Nigel Adams, Minister for Asia, asking him to do something about persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in India. You can do that below, it will only take a few minutes.

    2. Walk with Them: Organise a sponsored walk. Choose your route and distance and start raising money and prayer for Christians facing intense persecution in India. Sign up and download our Walk Guide with stories, prayers and actions to take as you walk!

    3. NANO – Truth or Lies: We’ve written a special NANO session outline that leaders can use with youth and small groups to help them understand some of the lies that are being told about Christians in India. Includes a video story, Bible reflection and activities.

  • Central Asia: ‘I can pray for you as well’

    Across Central Asia, Christian young people are facing threats, violence and exclusion because of their choice to follow Jesus. Many of these states have large Muslim populations, or have oppressive government systems that try to stifle free speech and the rights of people to choose what they believe. Christianity is often seen as a western religion, and therefore Christians are traitors.

    In this context, Christian young people can face some pretty harsh treatment. We’ve heard recent reports of discrimination at school from teachers and violence from other young people – towards children and teenagers. But despite the darkness, there is light. Young people are shining God’s love and showing others who Jesus is.

    ‘I can pray for you as well..’

    In one central Asian country, a police officer had been tasked with finding and arresting a Christian pastor who had been holding underground church meetings. The policeman had identified the pastor and went to his house, ready to arrest him.

    On arriving at the house the policeman was greeted by the pastor’s young daughter daughter – she was no more than 10 years old. He asked the girl if her father was home.

    The girl answered, “No, my father isn’t home… Would you like to come in and wait for him?”

    The man agreed and was shown into the house where he could wait for the father.

    After some time the girl approached the police officer and said, “My father is obviously going to be longer than I thought. I have already begun to prepare dinner – would you like to have some food while you wait?”

    The man gratefully accepted the invitation.

    After the girl had served dinner for them both at the table she said, “we usually pray before we eat – do you do the same?”

    The commander looks at her and says, “No, I don’t pray before I eat”.

    The girl said, “Never mind, I can pray for you as well.”

    So she starts to pray – “Heavenly father. Thank you very much that you are taking care of us. Thank you very much for this food in front of us. Also, thank you Lord, for bringing this good man into our house. Will you bless our fellowship. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

    The police officer was amazed by this prayer. This girl is thanking God for him! He knew that he wasn’t a ‘good man’ – he had done many bad things. And he knew the real reason that he was there to see this girl’s father.

    A little while after they had finished eating, the pastor arrived home. Instead of taking him away, the police officer told the man about the little girl’s prayer and how much it had touched him. He then began to ask questions about their faith.

    Before the police officer left that evening, he had become a follower of Jesus Christ as well!

    This story happened a few years ago, and for security reasons we can’t share the names of anyone involved – the policeman is still protecting the underground church that the pastor still leads!

    Pray now…

    Heavenly Father, be with children in Central Asia, especially those whose parents have made the decision to follow You. Lord, You know how they are being treated, You know how they suffer from discrimination and how much pain they experience.

    But Lord, we know that that You can come alongside them, that You can bless them and You can help them to stand strong. Bring them peace and comfort, bless them and let them know your love and protection.

    Help them to stay strong to endure persecution. Let them experience Your are close to them. In Jesus name, Amen.

    Want to know more?

    1. Order a free 2021 World Watch List map and learn about the places where following Jesus costs the most.

    2. Join us at our first ever youth Standing Strong Online Live event and hear stories of brave faith direct from young Christians in places like Laos and the Middle East.

  • India: How social media is fuelling hate against Christians…

    The last few years have seen a rise in the persecution of Christians in India – and an increasingly contributing factor is social media. It’s one of the key findings to emerge from an alarming report called Destructive Lies, commissioned by Open Doors, which documents the extreme persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in India.

    When an extremist Hindu mob attacks Christians in India, one of the first things they’ll do is snatch the victims’ phones. This is to stop them from documenting the incident as evidence against their attackers. However, the mob will take out their own phones and record the violence, before adding it to various social media platforms in way that serves their agenda.

    The driving force behind this is Hindutva, an ideology that disregards Indian Christians and Muslims (and other religious minorities) as true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India, and asserts the country should be purified of their presence.

    Posts of attacks are shared widely by the persecutors, showing them to the bold Hindu nationalists who are protecting India and Hinduism – but they also incite others to do the same and act as a warning to other Christians.

    The mobs will also use the posts to share disinformation about their victims. For example, Christians will be accused of forced or paid conversion. “[The perpetrators] therefore frame their violent attacks against minorities as a form of ‘civic’, patriotic and religious duty to prevent such attributed behaviour,” the report states.

    Social media platforms have failed India’s religious minorities

    The report adds that posts act as ‘social evidence’ because of the compelling way they are presented. Victims are unable to provide their side of the story, whilst the persecutors embellish the posts with text or commentary to reinforce the disinformation. A routine Christian private prayer meeting, for example, is labelled as a ‘secret meeting to convert Hindus to Christianity’.

    It’s here that social media platforms have failed in their responsibilities. By and large they have failed to address the spread of such disinformation at a local and national level (e.g. through the removal of posts or suspension of accounts). The posts therefore go unchecked, which perpetuates the false narrative that religious minorities, including Christians, are guilty whilst the attackers are innocent.

    Media outlets recycle disinformation which further buries truth

    Sadly, the mainstream media in India cannot be relied upon to shed light on the truth. Outlets will systematically exclude victims’ accounts from reports. Even if a local reporter captures the real story, the final edit will be edited so the story is spun against religious minorities.

    Ultimately, the mainstream media reinforces the lies spread on social media.

    “Discriminatory, dehumanizing and inciting speech flourishes on social media because users are able to operate with a sense of impunity which in turn has become normalised amongst far-right users,” the report concludes. Whilst responsibility for this partly falls with the police, local authorities, courts and ruling party, blame also lies with social media platforms whose failure to prevent the spread of false and inflammatory information cannot be excused under a commitment to free speech.

    Mainstream and social media platforms called to make urgent changes

    In response to the findings, the report lists eight recommendations for social and mainstream media outlets. This includes more moderators, the implementation of specialised training in international human rights and the complex and diverse use of different languages and dialects, and a more rigorous approach to removing hateful content.

    Thanks to you, the voices of India’s Christians are being heard in power

    At the launch of Destructive Lies in Parliament, 38 MPs and representatives confirmed their attendance (find out if your MP attended here). Earlier this week, Brendan O’Hara MP confirmed that he has put a motion to Parliament, calling on the UK government to urgently raise the plight of India’s religious minorities to the Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi and the High Commissioner.

    The role played by social media in the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities – along with the other findings from the report – is hugely troubling, and change will not happen overnight. However, the voices of our family in India are being heard in power, thanks to you. Progress is being made, but there remains a long way to go.

    Pray now…

    • That the information and stories from this shocking report will stir MPs to decisive action that represents real change for Christians and other religious minorities in India
    • That all eight recommendations will be quickly put into place by all social and mainstream media platforms
    • That the Lord will heal, strengthen, encourage and protect all believers in India who’ve been cruelly targeted through social media.

    What you can do…

    This does sound bleak, but this summer you can act. Here’s three things you can do.

    1. Act now: Stand for truth by emailing Nigel Adams, Minister for Asia, asking him to take action. You can do that here, it will only take a few minutes.

    2. Walk with Them: Organise a sponsored walk. Choose your route and distance and start raising money and prayer for Christians facing intense persecution in India. Sign up and download our Walk Guide with stories, prayers and actions to take as you walk!

    3. NANO – Truth or Lies: We’ve written a special NANO session outline that leaders can use with youth and small groups to help them understand some of the lies that are being told about Christians in India. Includes a video story, Bible reflection and activities.

  • Nepal: ‘You’re dead to us’

    Pradip is from Nepal. He was brought up in a poor Hindu family – his upbringing was pretty tough. One of his sisters had become a Christian, but he wasn’t impressed – he didn’t like Christianity and so began to treat his sister pretty badly. His family was already struggling and Pradip and his parents thought his sister’s choice to become a Christian was just making things worse.

    One day, his cousin, who was also a Christian, asked Pradip to go with him to Church – knowing the church often shared food after the service, Pradip agreed to go as he was really hungry – he wasn’t bothered about finding out more about Jesus.

    A flash of light

    At the end of the service, the pastor prayed for him. That night, as he was thinking over what he had heard in the church, he suddenly he saw a flash of bright light in his room. He didn’t know what it was, so he asked his mother, but she hadn’t seen anything. But in his heart, Pradip was curious to know about the bright light.

    He tried asking other people about the experience, but no-one could give him a decent response, so he decided to look to the Bible. He found his sister’s New Testament and began reading – he read for some time, but, understandably got a bit switched off reading the genealogy of Jesus.

    But a few days later he tried again. He opened the Bible to the book of John. As he continued reading, his eye caught sight of the verse ‘I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’ (John 8:12).

    When he read this, he suddenly remembered the light he saw inside his room. He’d found the answer that he’d been searching for – he felt peace in his heart and accepted Jesus as his Savior.

    Image: The Himalayan Mountains in Nepal.

    ‘Dead to us…’

    When his parents came to know about his faith, they weren’t happy – they treated him pretty badly, telling him to never call them his father and mother again. They said that he ‘was dead to them’ and expelled him and his sister from the house. The whole village found out and supported Pradip’s mum and dad.

    Pradip and his sister had no other choice but to leave, they had no money or support from their parents. Their only options was to go and stay at their church. In those hard times, the verses from Isaiah 41:10 and Joshua 1:9 gave Pradip and his sister strength to stand strong in faith.

    A new beginning…

    Thanks to your support, that isn’t the end of Pradip’s story. Through a local partner in Nepal who have been helping Pradip,his faith has grown and grown, and he’s now studying in a Bible College.

    “I am very thankful to God for answering my prayers. I am also thankful to the organisation who encouraged me and gave me assurance that they are with me in my difficult situations. When I decided to join Bible College, I didn’t have money but by faith and prayer, I joined the College. I kept praying to God to fulfill my financial needs. Eventually, God blessed me through your organisation and now I am able to complete my course. The support has helped me move closer to my vision.”

    Now, with a qualification, Pradip has a dream to help and strengthen other young people who have chosen to follow Jesus. He’s keen to make sure others stand strong, no matter what they face!

    Amazing.

    Pray now

    Father God, thank you for Pradip and his sister. Be with Pradip as he continues to serve You and share about Your love to young people in Nepal. I pray his family would come to know You too, and that they would be reunited. And I pray Pradip would know Your favour and find his words and plans are met with positivity and not hostility. Thank you for his brave faith and help me to follow You with the same courage and belief. Amen.

  • #standfortruthindia

    Christians in India are facing ‘imminent existential threat’ under a systemic campaign of violent Hindu nationalist persecution. This is a finding from Destructive Lies, a shocking new report from the London School of Economics (LSE), commissioned by Open Doors, which has bene presented to Parliament. Thank you so much to everybody who invited their MP to attend this vital briefing, to find out more about the situation facing Indian believers.

    The driving force behind this increasing persecution is Hindutva, an ideology that means people look down on Indian Christians and Muslims (and other religious minorities), claiming they aren’t true Indians because they have allegiances that lie outside India. The theory goes further, saying the country should be purified of their presence. This is leading to a systemic, and often carefully orchestrated, targeting of Christians and other religious minorities.

    There are four key findings in the report:

    1. Persecution pervades everyday life: Many have experiences of persecution, including exclusion, bullying and violence, where Christians have not hidden their faith.

    2. Covid-19 has made persecution even worse: Not only have Christians been deliberately overlooked in the distribution of Covid-19 government aid, they have also been the subject of disinformation relating to the pandemic.

    3. State officials are increasingly hostile: Some Indian states have anti-conversion laws that are used to accuse Christians of forcing people to convert to Christianity.

    4. Attacks are shared as warnings on social media: OBefore attacking Christians and other religious minorities, extremists snatch the phones of their victims to prevent them documenting the incident. But the perpetrators themselves will record the attack and post it on social media to promote their own reputation amongst Hindutva groups and politicians and to warn religious minorities to stop practising their faith.

    “Really shocking…”

    “What is really shocking is how un-seriously this is being taken by [social media] platforms and companies who … support human rights,” adds one of the authors of Destructive Lies, who have published the report anonymously for security reasons. “They should deal with it as seriously as if Christians were being persecuted like this in the U.S. or in the UK. I think they would have a different reaction to it then.”

    Pray now:

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the opportunity to present the disturbing findings of this report to Parliament. Powerfully use its words to compel those in power to use their influence to make life better for Christians and other religious minorities in India. May every single recommendation be fulfilled, leading to welcome change for people in India. Let this report and launch be a watershed moment. Amen.

    What you can do…

    This does sound bleak, but this summer you can act. Here’s three things you can do.

    1. Act now: Stand for truth by emailing Nigel Adams, Minister for Asia, asking him to take action. You can do that here, it will only take a few minutes.

    2. Walk with Them: Organise a sponsored walk. Choose your route and distance and start raising money and prayer for Christians facing intense persecution in India. Sign up and download our Walk Guide with stories, prayers and actions to take as you walk!

    3. NANO – Truth or Lies: We’ve written a special NANO session outline that leaders can use with youth and small groups to help them understand some of the lies that are being told about Christians in India. Includes a video story, Bible reflection and activities.

  • Nigeria: Mary graduates, seven years after being kidnapped!

    Mary Katambi was one of the ‘Chibok girls’ – one of 276 girls kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok State, Nigeria, by the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram. But over the past few years, she’s worked hard to develop a different identity – she’s just graduated from university! Here is her extraordinary tale of courage and faith.


    Image: Mary has recently graduated with a degree an accounting, seven years after she was kidnapped by Boko Haram

    Abductions are sadly all too common in Nigeria, but there was something about the kidnapping of the Chibok girls that made the world take notice. Sadly, 112 of the girls – now young women – remain missing and in captivity. Those who have returned home often face discrimination and persecution from their own communities.

    But for Mary, now is a time of celebration. Despite all she has been through, she is celebrating her graduation from American University in Yola, Adamawa State, with a degree in accounting. (Because of the pandemic, her ‘Class of 2020’ graduation was delayed.)

    “But God did it”

    “Honestly, I never thought that my daughter would come out of the hands of Boko Haram,” says Katambi, Mary’s father. “As I watched Mary collect her certificate, tears dropped from my eyes. All I could see was God’s grace and favour. I never imagined that my children will ever study at American University because I am just a peasant farmer, trying to provide for my family. But God did it. He did the unthinkable and unbelievable.”

    “I am overjoyed today, and this joy is from the depth of my heart,” adds Saratu, Mary’s mother, who cried tears of happiness as she watched her daughter graduate. “Once, I never thought I would see Mary again. But the prayers of believers have brought her out of captivity and now she has graduated from university. Yesu na gode – thank you Jesus! Thank you to everyone who prayed for Mary. God bless you!”


    Image: Mary’s proud parents, Katambi and Saratu

    Abducted in the middle of the night

    It would be amazing for anybody from Mary’s community to graduate from university – but it is particularly astonishing, given what Mary has survived.

    In the early hours of 15 April 2014, about 30 men burst into the school dormitory and rounded up the girls, telling them “We are Boko Haram.”

    “They set the school on fire,” remembers Mary. “They told us to move. We didn’t know where we were going. We just followed the instructions because we knew, if we tried to run, they would definitely kill us. We were so afraid.”

    An extraordinary escape

    The girls were taken to a forest hide-out. As soon as they arrived, Mary started planning her escape. When the men guarding them were distracted, arguing among themselves, Mary and a girl called Deborah escaped together – it was about 3pm on the same day they were taken. They walked for hours, eventually finding a hut where a Fulani woman gave them water to drink and directed them. After many more hours of walking, they reached a village where the village leader received them, and they took a motorcycle taxi.

    “We rode on a motorcycle for hours, but by around 9pm the motorcyclist got scared and abandoned us in the forest. He had already been given all the money we had, so he left us in the forest. We kept walking until we found another Fulani hut. Even though we did not speak the same language, they gave us a place to sleep and promised to direct us on the road home in the morning.

    “They gave us masa for breakfast. Then they showed us the path and advised us to hide if we heard any strange noise. We walked past about three deserted villages that Boko Haram had destroyed. At the fourth village, someone offered to take us on his motorcycle to my uncle Ba-Lawan’s house in Chibok,” Mary says.

    The news of the girls’ return spread like wildfire. It was bittersweet, because so many others were still in captivity. When Mary’s father took her home her mother, Saratu, broke down in tears of joy, thanking God for her safe return.

    Image: Dusty streets in a village in Chibok

    You are standing with the Chibok community

    Though the world news sometimes seems like it has moved on, Open Doors partners continue to stand alongside the Chibok community as they wait for the return of their daughters – thanks to your prayers and support.

    “I want to say a big thank you to Open Doors for standing by us from the beginning of the kidnapping till today,” says Yakubu Nkeki Maina, the Chairman of the Chibok girls’ parents’ association, who was also celebrating at Mary’s graduation. “Your constant visits to Chibok, even when the place was still under attack, is something I cannot understand. Indeed, you have showed that we are one through Christ. Thank you for being there and standing with us through prayers, trauma care, food support and financial support. May God bless you.”

    This is a time of rejoicing for Mary and all she has achieved – but Mary’s father reminds us that we must keep praying for the 112 girls who remain in captivity: “Today, I am here to testify that God has answered the prayers of His children. Mary is a testimony. Please don’t stop praying for the other girls and other children that are in the hands of the abductors, that God will bring them out and, one day, we will come and celebrate more graduations.”

    Pray now…

    Lord, we join with Katambi in praying for the safe return of Your daughters who are still held captive by Boko Haram. Please bring them home. Pour Your peace and love on all those who still suffer trauma from their ordeal, and show them their true worth in Your eyes. We also praise You for Mary’s achievements – may she shine as a testimony to Your grace and love. Amen.

  • North Korea: Christians share food despite shortages

    North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian – but it’s also pretty bleak for most of the people that live there. Recently, Kim Jong-un, leader of North Korea, has publicly admitted to serious food shortages in the country. Timothy Cho – a North Korean escapee whose name we’ve changed for security reasons – lived through the previous famine in North Korea, known as ‘The Arduous March’. Here, he shares the information he has received about the situation in North Korea, and how we can be praying for our church family there, as well as for the whole nation.

    Food shortages in North Korea are becoming more severe, as Timothy Cho reports: “Kim Jong-un has publicly admitted to serious food shortages in North Korea, telling a meeting of senior leaders on Wednesday 16 June, ‘The people’s food situation is now getting tense.’”

    In April, the leader told his officials to prepare for ‘another difficult Arduous March’ – a period of famine in the 1990s during which millions of people died of starvation.

    But the secret church in North Korea knows the living God and His sustaining hope. Timothy says, “Many North Korean believers continue a practice known as ‘holy rice’, which means sharing what they have, even if it isn’t much, with those in need. Translated into Korean, ‘holy rice’ means ‘renewing your life’. Believers know that it comes from God and that it is shared by Christians outside North Korea.”

    North Korean government clings to ‘self-reliance’

    Timothy explains how these food shortages are already impacting millions of North Korean citizens. “Chronic food shortages and rising prices are hitting many North Korean families hard, from farmers to urban families. This desperation for food is leading to an increase in homelessness, with many families now living on the streets or at railway stations.

    “Access to international food aid is almost zero. The UN estimates that 10 million people, or 40 per cent of the total population, are in urgent need of food aid. ‘Self-reliance’ is Pyongyang’s most prized attribute, but this attitude has seen the country fall into its darkest times. Despite millions of ordinary people needing assistance, the country’s leaders are unlikely to ask for help.”

    This where you come in. Thanks to your prayers and support, and the goodness of God, Open Doors is able to supply persecuted North Korean believers with emergency relief aid through secret networks in China, and these vital supplies will help to keep our brothers and sisters who receive them alive.

    North Korean authorities ‘can’t destroy believers’ faith’

    “Christians are experiencing the same difficulties and hunger as other North Korean people,” Timothy says. “But they pray for others. They find peace in their prayers to God. North Korean authorities learn that they can’t destroy their faith in God by imprisonment, torture and execution. In the darkest land, continually facing hunger, holding on to their faith in God and following Jesus is their strength, hope and light.

    “Please continue to cry out to God for North Korea and its people. In Matthew 19:26, Jesus says, ‘With God, all things are possible.’ It is God whose mighty power can break through any barrier, even those that seem impossible in man’s eyes. Please pray for this dark situation in North Korea. Pray for the secret believers, who are crying out to God for this situation. Pray for North Korean leaders’ hearts to feel the fire of the Spirit. Pray that this is done in the name of Jesus.”

    Pray this now…

    Please join Timothy in his prayer for North Korea:

    Heavenly Father, please hear our prayers! The great darkness of this prison country of North Korea continues, and in tears we cry out to You. Today many are facing starvation and persecution, and the country’s leaders’ eyes aren’t focusing on their primary role, to protect their own people. Please answer our prayers, and touch the Kim family and their hearts. Help them to listen to North Korean people’s crying for food, freedom and justice. This is a land that once praised Your name greatly, by declaring the Pyongyang as the Second Jerusalem of the East. This land is built upon Your name. May Your name be freely praised there again. I pray, in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

    What can you do now?

    1. 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.

    2. Walk With Them this Summer. Sign up to do an interactive sponsored walk and raise money and prayer for Christians facing persecution and the effects of Covid-19 in India.

  • India: ‘If you renounce your faith then we will help you’…

    Aman, an Open Doors local partner in India has been helping to provide our persecuted brothers and sisters with Covid-19 aid. Below he tells us what it has been like working with persecuted believers. All names have been changed for security reasons.

    “Usha lives in a slum and works as a daily labourer. Around 20 years ago, she gave birth to a son with physically disabled feet. At the time, she was experiencing financial difficulty and was unsure how she’d cope. After meeting a pastor, she went to church where her son was miraculously healed. Usha became a Christian and began inviting other villagers to church. Many gave their lives to Jesus, and Usha’s whole family are now Christians.

    “Even before the pandemic, Usha faced persecution. As a daily labourer, people would agree to pay her a certain amount of money, but on discovering her Christian faith they would underpay and threaten her for ‘abandoning’ her traditional faith.

    “And as often happened to believers in India, Usha was refused government aid during pandemic because of her faith. There was no such directive from the government, but it’s been practised by the local authorities. Usha was taunted, ‘Your God is not helping you, but if you renounce your faith then we will help you.’

    “After Usha called me for help, I visited her home and was deeply saddened that I have brothers and sisters who are living in such a state. The condition of her home and neighbourhood was not good, but Usha is very firm in her faith.

    “Seeing the situation of Usha and other Christian families, our team and volunteers collected 200kg of rice and distributed it among nine families. We’ve been back a further six times to distribute food to these families.

    “Usha expressed her heartfelt gratitude towards us, saying, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for sending Your people to our aid.’ We are planning to help Usha start a new business, if possible.”

    Pray now…

    • Give thanks for Aman and all Open Doors local partners who, despite risks, bravely serve the needs of persecuted Christians in India
    • That Open Doors local partners will soon be able to resume all activities and initiatives that have had to stop due to the pandemic
    • That all believers in need of physical, spiritual and emotional support at this time will receive it.

    What can you do now?

    1. 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.

    2. Walk With Them this Summer. Sign up to do an interactive sponsored walk and raise money and prayer for Christians facing persecution and the effects of Covid-19 in India.

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