In 1955, a Dutchman, known as Brother Andrew, followed God’s call and started smuggling Bibles into communist Poland to give to Christians who were facing discrimination there. Over the decades since, this work has become Open Doors, a ministry to support persecuted Christians across the world, providing practical assistance across the world, helping the suffering and persecuted church with food, medicine, health care, as well as resources such as Bibles and training for church leaders. Every year in January, Open Doors publishes its World Watch List where is provides analysis of the persecution and difficulties facing the Body of Christ in countries all around the world, listing the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian. The list looks at six areas:
Private life. What freedom does a Christian have to worship and own religious material? Is conversion to Christianity allowed? Is freedom of thought permitted?
Family life. How free are Christians to express their faith within their family? Is it possible to hold Christian family milestones, such as Christian marriages and funerals?
Community life. Can Christians live without harassment and discrimination in their local communities? How does their faith affect their education or employment?
National life. Does the government allow Christians to express their faith? Can converts call themselves Christians on official documents? Do the police target Christians?
Church life. Are Christians allowed to meet together? Can they build churches? And if they can, are they heavily monitored? Are Bibles freely available?
Violence. Are Christians attacked mentally or physically? Are they arrested, abducted, tortured, imprisoned or even killed? Do they face sexual harassment?
The global pandemic has been an additional challenge. In various countries, Christians have been excluded from local relief efforts by the authorities, mocking believers for trusting Jesus for everything. In India, this is literally adding insult to injury. Here at St Paul’s we know the truth of Brother Andrew’s words that our prayers can go where we cannot. Each week on the notice sheet, there is a brief prayer for one of the countries where persecution is the most extreme, which we can all pray, lifting up our brothers and sisters to God, remembering them and asking for God to intervene directly into their sufferings. The world watch list provides information about each of these countries, informing our prayers. Some of us will have visited some of these countries when we could travel. We may have visited the places on holiday and been unaware of the plight of the church there. Now as we cannot travel, we can pray and learn more. Through the Open Doors website it is possible for us to write messages of hope and support to our persecuted family. Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily when we follow him. Peter speaks of sharing in Christ’s suffering and in time seeing His glory when it is revealed to the world. We have been spared these sufferings here in Belgium, but we can try always to remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are going through them new, even to death, and lift them up to our loving heavenly Father, who has promised never to leave us or forsake us, and who has promised to bring us into his everlasting kingdom if we endure faithfully to the end. Adam chairs our Mission Interest Group here at St Paul's