How do you reach persecuted Christians?
MPower Director Mark Lyndon-Jones reports following an undercover mission with humanitarian organisation Open Doors, where he heard stories of persecution first-hand.
Open Doors first began in 1955 when God called a young Dutchman to take Bibles behind the Iron Curtain for people who were desperate for the Word of God. Brother Andrew became known the world over as ‘God’s Smuggler’.
Today, Open Doors works in over 60 countries and still provides (and smuggles) Bibles but, as well as supplying copies of the Scriptures and other Christian materials, their ministry to persecuted Christians has broadened tremendously to include training of pastors, youth workers, Sunday school teachers and discipleship classes along with a wide variety of secular training, including computing, accounting, hairdressing, dressmaking and horticulture.
Thousands of Christians are helped each year with education, health, housing and employment, while microloans are provided to enable people to get back on their feet. The organisation also provides emergency aid – 26,000 families in Syria and Iraq are currently being supported with essential supplies.
Open Doors also advocates for our persecuted brothers and sisters in their own countries as well as with the UK government and authorities in Europe and the United Nations.
Each year Open Doors publishes the ‘World Watch List’ which details the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous or difficult to be a Christian.
North Korea has topped this list for the last 16 years. Whereas in the early days much of the work was centred on the communist world, in recent times the emphasis has been in the Islamic world – eight of the top ten in 2017 are Muslim majority countries.
The last year or two has seen a new and worrying trend with a significant rise in national and ethnic extremism across the Indian sub-continent.
Stories of individuals help us to understand the plight of many. Yong Sook was imprisoned in North Korea – kept in solitary confinement and in complete darkness for 23 hours each day.
She was not allowed to speak and survived on a few grams of rice and a cup of water each day. On her release she weighed just three stone, but when her health improved she managed to escape to China and was eventually helped to get to South Korea.
Milad had been working in Homs, Syria when a car bomb detonated outside his shop. As well as losing a leg he lost the ability to work. “After my injury, I became upset and felt depressed. I asked God, ‘Why did this happen?’”
For 18 months Milad was unemployed, and his relationship with God weakened. But through prayer and support, Milad’s faith began to grow again.
“Our life won’t stop because of the incidents,” he says. Thanks to Open Doors supporters, Milad is now able to work again at a new furniture factory, opened by a local partner. He and his younger brother are amongst 30 Christians employed at the factory.
“I thank Open Doors for giving me the chance to work again in this project of the church because I can’t work in any other place,” says Milad. “Despite all that happened to us, my hope in God remained big. God won’t give up on us.”
The Middle East will continue to need both prayerful and practical support for many years to come.
To find out more visit www.opendoorsuk.org
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