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This discussion will feature prayer requests for the Persecuted Church, focused around Open Doors' World Watch List of the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted.  Other resources will also be added from time to time.

The WWL report is too large to attach as a file, but you can access it on Open Doors' website here:

2018 World Watch List

"If one part [of the body] suffers, every part suffers with it" (1 Cor. 12:26)

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Prayer Force Alert, January 2018

Click the link above or download the attached file for Open Door's daily prayer calendar for the persecuted church.

Attachments:

Attached is a map of the World Watch List countries for 2018.  You can find this map and other downloadable resources for the 2018 WWL here: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list...

Attachments:

Jan. 17: Forced to Marry a Muslim Sheikh–Christian Women in Somalia...

Out of the 14 million civilians in Somalia (ranked #3 on the 2018 World Watch List), there are an estimated few hundred Christians. For these few believers, their faith could mean death.

Ayan is praying for a miracle.

She knows that without it, her life will be a living nightmare. The 19-year-old young Christian woman from Somalia is set to be married off to an elderly Somali sheikh (patriarch in an Islamic tribe). The forced marriage is her Muslim family’s attempt to coerce Ayan into renouncing her Christian faith and return to Islam. 

For Ayan, the marriage to a man three to four times her age goes beyond marrying someone she doesn’t love. She knows that it will most likely mean a lifetime of abuse and most definitely will severely stifle any attempt to secretly gather with other believers. A 2014 report from Pakistan sheds light on the fate of women forced to convert and marry Muslim. The report says “forced conversion and marriage begets further violence as victims are subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking or sale, or domestic abuse.”

The 2018 World Watch List research found that throughout the world, especially in places where Islam is the dominant religion, women are doubly persecuted–for both their gender and their faith. The report shows that every day, six women are sexually harassed, raped or forced into ma... In 2017, Open Doors’ research documented 2,260 such incidences against women—and this number only covers those who had the courage to report such an incident, representing only a fraction of those actually raped and harassed in these ways.

Persecution Tactics

Ayan gave her life to Jesus in 2015 after her believing sister privately told her about Jesus beginning in 2009. Ayan kept her new faith secret but her transformed character, withdrawal from Islamic activities, and increasing closeness to her Muslim-background believing sister raised suspicions among her family members.

After her family discovered she had, indeed, converted to Christianity, they threatened to stop her education and marry her off. Though they allowed her to continue with her education, they denied any access to her Christian sister.  Throughout 2017, her family held her in solitary confinement. In November, Ayan finished high school, but as often is the case in Somalia and many other countries where persecution comes from the Muslim tribe, she was forced to attend daily classes under an Islamic teacher to become a teacher in a madrassa (Islamic school).

A few weeks ago on Sunday, January 7, Ayan’s family members forced her to undergo an Islamic blood ceremony where they sacrificed a goat, followed by sheikhs bodily surrounding her, aggressively speaking Quranic verses and spells over her. They also tied some amulets, or good luck charms, around her wrist–pieces she later threw them away.

Through it all, Ayan has held on to her faith in Christ. She also managed to find a way to contact and tell her sister of her family’s impending plans for forced marriage.

A Life or Death Decision in Somalia

In Somalia, the possibility of an open Christian faith without persecution is nearly impossible. Ayan undoubtedly counted the cost when she accepted Jesus. Ranked in the top three of the 50 countries on the World Watch List year after year, Somalia threatens violence against Christians by both tribal society and the Islamic terrorist group, al-Shabaab a splinter group of al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI). The group was spawned by the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a coalition of shariah courts that briefly controlled Mogadishu in 2006. Al-Shabab originated as the ICU’s militant wing, and when Ethiopian troops invaded Mogadishu in December 2006 and ousted the ICU, Al-Shabab began its war on Somalia’s government. In 2012 al-Shabab (Arabic for ‘The Youth”) formalized its ties with Al Qaeda as its militant wing in the Horn of Africa. This group of young Islamic extremists targets villages, slaughters resistance and enforces Sharia Law.

One believer shared with us, “In Somalia, there is no safe place to practice the Christian faith openly.” 

A World Watch List analyst adds, “Al-Shabab has made it clear on numerous occasions that there is no place for Christians in Somalia.”

The hope for a stronger central Somali government is a far-off goal, as there has been no central government in Somalia since the country’s civil war in 1991; all Somalians, especially those who have converted from Islam to Christianity, are left in dangerous waters.

Praying for Somalia

  • Pray with converts from Islam to be safe–a huge concern. Muslim background believers in Somalia daily demonstrate bold courage, and we pray that God would sustain them to bring more people to Him.
  • Pray for discipleship opportunities for these isolated brothers and sisters.
  • Pray for al-Shabaab members. Although they are steeped in the evil ways of Islamic extremism, ask God to miraculously save them–similar to a Saul-to-Paul Damascus Road conversion, for His glory and their joy. Ask God to raise up courageous laborers ready to go to these hard places.
  • Remember Ayan and young women like her facing forced marriages. Pray for God’s divine intervention in their lives and ask Him to embolden her faith in Christ with each of the enemy’s attempts. Pray that their families would come to faith in Christ, too.

Jan. 12: Understanding the 2018 World Watch List

How (WWL methodology) and why we rank the level of persecution in the Top 50 countries.

One of the main tools Open Doors uses to track and measure the extent of persecution in the world is the World Watch List (#WWL). We have been monitoring the worldwide persecution of Christians since the 1970s. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, the WWL methodology gradually evolved. In 2012, Open Doors’ research unit, World Watch Research (WWR), comprehensively revised the methodology of the WWL to provide greater credibility, transparency, objectivity and scientific quality. And in 2013 and 2016, we further refined the methodology. Each year, the World Watch List is independently audited by the only institution with academics dedicated to studying the religious liberty of Christians – the International Institute of Religious Freedom (IIRF).

Important (and Helpful) Definitions

Before diving into the details of the WWL methodology, it’s helpful to define some key terms:

Christian: For the purposes of the WWL, a Christian is “anyone who self-identifies as a Christian and/or someone belonging to a Christian community as defined by the church’s historic creeds.”

This definition is part theological and part sociological. It includes not only the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant denominations that define themselves based on theological creeds, but also all people who self-identify as Christians, including those who don’t belong to any specific denomination. The WWL methodology opts for this broad definition, following other institutions that report on worldwide Christianity.

Persecution: Any hostility someone experiences as a result of his or her identification with Christ. This can include hostile attitudes, words and actions towards Christians. While the inclusiveness of this definition presents its challenges, it seems best to cover the full range of hostility that Christians experience as a result of their Christian walk, rather than limit the term “persecution” to more overt forms of persecution or extreme forms of suffering. To say that persecution must be deliberate underestimates the implicit and indirect power of culture, which over time can create a society that excludes Christians from daily life.

Persecution engines: The eight persecution engines describe the distinct situations that result in the persecution of Christians, both violently and non-violently. They include: 

  • Islamic oppression – the state of countries, communities or households forced under Islamic control, either gradually through systematic Islamization and/or suddenly by militant force.
  • Religious nationalism – when countries, communities or households are forced under the control of one particular religion (other than Islam).
  • Ethnic antagonism – countries, communities or households forced to adhere to indigenous customs established by tribes or ethnic people groups.
  • Denominational protectionism – one church denomination persecutes fellow Christians in an attempt to be the only legitimate or dominant expression of Christianity.
  • Communist and post-communist oppression – a state system derived from Communist values controls and persecutes Christians and churches.
  • Secular intolerance – the Christian faith is forced out of the public domain, and if possible, out of the hearts of people.
  • Dictatorial paranoia – assisted by social movements, authoritarian government persecutes Christians who are seen as threats to their power.
  • Organized corruption and crime – groups or individuals persecute Christians in a climate of impunity, anarchy and corruption as a means for self-enrichment.

The Smash and Squeeze Factor

These eight persecution engines contribute to persecution in two categories we call “smash” and “squeeze.”

Smash is any act of violent persecution.

Squeeze is the pressure that Christians experience in all areas of life.

The squeeze factor occurs in the following five spheres of life:

  • private life
  • family life
  • community life
  • national life
  • church life

While it would seem that smash is the most prevalent and invasive expression of persecution, often it’s the squeeze that’s most prevalent and invasive.

WWL Data Collection

Open Doors collects data through the WWL questionnaire, a “field stream” survey completed by Open Doors field staff. These men and women gather information through a number of key contacts in the country who represent diverse networks of believers. Field reps send their key contacts (parts of) the questionnaire, through direct contact or other ways, depending on the specific country’s security situation. This organic approach gives the data-gathering process its “grassroots” character. Supported by input from several external experts who provide a cross-check for the results, the field stream questionnaire forms the basis for each country’s score, which determines their rank on the list. The persecution analysts of Open Doors’ World Watch Research group then put together all the information, giving feedback to survey respondents and following up on field reps’ responses.

How Countries Are Ranked

As a result of the WWL process, Open Doors is able to give each country a final score, which is the result of the impact of different persecution engines. For example, one country may score high due to “Islamic oppression” while another country has a comparable score due to “dictatorial paranoia.”

Because our starting point is the pressure and violence Christians experience in the five different spheres of life (listed above), the WWL methodology enables us to make comparisons between different persecution situations. Whether or not this pressure or violence originates from the same or different persecution engines is not relevant for the final scores, although it does provide insight into the daily lives of Christians in each country.

The WWL ranks countries according to their final scores. These scores are derived by measuring the squeeze (or pressure) that Christians experience in each of the five spheres of life, as well as the “smash” (violence) they experience as a result of their faith.

Why We Create the WWL

The most important reason for ranking countries is the ability to present to the broader public a complex reality of persecution against Christians around the globe. To effectively share the depth of persecution, we couple the WWL rankings with accompanying stories from the field–personal accounts that reveal the specifics of the persecution situation in each country.

Open Doors CEO David Curry calls the list a, “spiritual EKG showing the strength and vulnerability of the global Church–the body of Christ.”

“The World Watch List matters,” he says. “It matters because it is the most trusted measurement of religious persecution in the world today. This report helps us close the gap between us. It helps us understand how to pray, to support, to empathize and to stand with persecuted Christians when they suffer—and rejoice with them when conditions improve.

“In response, we call the Church to pray for, connect with and support our brothers and sisters who are both living and dying for their faith.”

Jan. 15: What Do We Pray for the Secret Church in Afghanistan?

Consider these 10 factors as you lift up believers in the second-deadliest country for Christians

What and how do we pray for believers in a country that almost tied North Korea for the #1 spot on the 2018 World Watch List (one point separation)? With more than 30 million Afghan Muslims and only several thousand Christians, these faithful followers of Christ are up against persecution from both government and tribal society. Because Afghanistan is an Islamic state by constitution, other religions such as Christianity are seen as alien.

10 specifics to pray for Afghanistan believers:

  1. There are no church buildings in Afghanistan and many Christians are cut off from underground networks of believers. They feel isolated and unsure whom to trust. Pray that the secret church there would grow in unity and in numbers.
  2. Afghanistan is second on the 2018 World Watch List for good reason. Christians are extremely vulnerable. Their families feel compelled to save the family honor by forcing believers to reconvert to Islam. If these efforts are unsuccessful, Christians may be disowned, banished, abused, kidnapped or even killed. The authorities and extremist groups form another threat to the lives of Christians. Pray for the safety of Christians and for strength to remain faithful in the midst of their persecution.
  3. Pray for peace negotiations with the Taliban, that their power would be broken and this war-ravished country would know peace.
  4. Women in Afghanistan have few rights; many are denied even basic education or medical care. They are often neglected, abused and mistreated, and authorities offer no protection. Pray that Afghan women would be protected and honored and that through the saving power of Christ, they would know the love of our Father in Heaven.
  5. Afghanistan is one of the biggest exporters of drugs. The corruption and drug trade threaten the country’s development, even as they bind countless people in dependence on this “shadow economy.” Pray that Christ would break the power of corruption and drugs, and that the Christians’ lives of godly integrity would be beacons of hope.
  6. Thank God for the many Afghans who are listening to Christian radio stations or downloading Christian materials from the Internet. Some are genuine, and often isolated, believers; others are disappointed with Islam and want to know more about Jesus Christ. Pray that God would change lives as the Word is preached through these media outlets.
  7. Each day, eight Christians lose their lives for their faith. Though “persecution incidents” often go unreported, the pain and trauma facing those who are left behind are immense. Pray that God would comfort the families of martyrs and strengthen their faith so they can endure in these difficult times.
  8. Join Afghan Christians in praying for terrorists, extremists and others who oppose Christianity there and in the West. Pray that God would touch their hearts and draw them to Himself through His great love and mercy, and that their zeal would be for the worship and service of Christ.
  9. Pray for awakening and breakthrough among Afghans. Pray that those who are lost will be saved by Christ.
  10. Pray that God will raise up mighty warriors among indigenous believers to fight for Christ’s kingdom by praying, preaching the Word, and making disciples.

Father, strengthen us to pray faithfully for believers in Afghanistan, that they would be encouraged and strengthened each day with your mercies that are new every morning. We pray for the lost that they might know Christ and turn their hearts to worship and serve Him. And we pray for the nation that it would be freed from the tyranny of the Taliban and extremists, and that the Word of God would be spread across the land in saving power. In the name of Jesus who reigns over all His creation, Amen.

Jan. 10: Battle of Two Persecution Hotbeds: North Korea vs Afghanistan

Why the two countries almost tied for the #1 spot on the 2018 World Watch List

For the first time since the inception of the World Watch List, the countries in the #1 and #2 spots on the World Watch List are within one point. North Korea scored 94 points, with Afghanistan scoring only one point less. The two countries nearly tied for the #1 spot. In this article, we examine the two persecution hotbeds. Both have maximum scores in all spheres of life. How is that possible considering these countries are so different?

What’s happening in North Korea and Afghanistan?

North Korea: Understanding North Korea means understanding its leadership and personality cult. In its early years, from independence in 1945, the country followed the Communist path and faced an early war against UN troops in the Korean War (1950-1953). Soon after that, it became clear that North Korea would not be a Communist country led by a collective leadership, but rather by one person, Kim Il Sung.

After his death in 1994, he was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong II, who was in turn succeeded after his death in 2011 by his son, Kim Jong Un. The country has two ideologies as its basis. One is called “Juche,” which basically says that man is self-reliant. The other is “Kimilsungism,” the worship of the leaders who are the all-powerful entities guiding North Korea. The 200,000 to 400,000 Christians in North Korea are seen as traitors of the state.

Afghanistan: Officially, there are no Christians in this 99 percent Muslim state, apart from international military staff, diplomats and NGO workers (who, if at all, are worshipping in highly secured military compounds and are not considered for the purposes of the WWL). Indigenous Christians (mostly those with a Muslim background) are in hiding as much as possible.

Some 90 percent of Muslims follow Sunni Islam, while a slim 9.7 percent adhere to Shiite Islam. Afghanistan faces a grim security situation due to the influx of radical Islamic militants in the form of the Islamic State group. The radical Islamic Taliban also seem to be increasing in strength and are present in more regions and provinces than in the last few years. The few thousands of secret Christians are seen as traitors to Islam and apostates.

Who are the persecutors?

In our World Watch Methodology, we make a distinction between persecution engines (what’s driving the persecution) and persecution drivers (who is driving the persecution).

Communism Mixed With Dictatorial Paranoia

In North Korea, persecution is driven by Communist and post-communist oppression. The country is run according to communist administrative customs. Christians continue to be seen as dangerous and their religion as “opium for the people”–as in classical Communist ideology–but they are also part of the hostile class in the country`s social stratification system.

However, this persecution engine is mixed with dictatorial paranoia. Everyone in North Korea must revere the leadership and because of this personality cult, Kim Jong Un is an irreplaceable figure in society–he rules the Worker’s Party, the army, the country’s administration and all strands of society. Even though his power may not be as absolute as his father’s or grandfather’s, no one can challenge Kim Jong Un’s authority. The godlike worship of the rulers leaves absolutely no room for any other religion. Consequently, anyone daring to revere anything or anybody besides the Kim dynasty is seen as dangerous and a threat to the state.

The obvious persecutor (the persecution driver) is the North Korean state, which uses a variety of national, regional and local institutions–such as the police and “national security services”–to find Christians. These government officials employ spies and informants to help them as well. Neighbors also spy on each other, and even children are trained from their early years to report their own parents if they note suspicious behavior.

A Lethal Mix of Forces at Play

In Afghanistan, we see totally different engines and drivers. At play is a lethal mix of Islamic oppression, ethnic antagonism and organized crime and corruption.

Islamic oppression: In this persecution engine, extremists adhere to a strict version of Islam to oppress the people. When it comes to Islamic oppression, Afghanistan is one of the most extreme countries. The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan neither allows any Afghan citizens to become Christians nor recognizes converts as such. Conversion is seen as apostasy and brings shame to the family and the community. As a result, converts hide their faith as much and as deep as possible.

Though the state is a driver of persecution, extremist groups, the local community and family members of converts are a much bigger danger in Afghanistan.

Ethnic antagonism (hostilities between different ethnic groups (tribes, etc.). The concept of nation is alien to the Afghan way of thinking. One’s own family comes first, followed by the clan and then the tribe–and all of these are much more important than the country. People are deeply entrenched in caring for their families, villages and tribes. When someone dares to turn from his tribe to embrace something new and maybe even foreign, pressure ensues. The person’s family and/or tribe will exert extreme pressure and even violence to make him return to traditional norms. If he doesn’t, he will be viewed as a traitor to the community, resulting in exclusion from family and society. While this protocol applies to all “deviations,” the pressure and violence intensify if it involves someone turning to  Christianity. The Christian religion is considered to be Western and hostile to Afghan culture, society and Islam. In this respect, conversion away from Islam is seen as treason.

Organized crime and corruption is alive and well in Afghanistan, an extremely poor country. One of the main economic problems the country faces is the fact that illicit drugs like opium are much more lucrative than virtually any other crop. Compared to wheat, farmers can earn 11 times the amount of money with poppy production. The Taliban are heavily involved in drug production; estimations indicate that 70 to 80 percent of all drug trafficking gains end up in the Taliban’s pockets.

Everyone who’s in the way of the drug lords will simply be pushed aside, a practice that has intensified. The situation is made additionally volatile by drug barons pressuring citizens and making parts of the country uncontrollable. In most cases, this pressure isn’t relegated to Christians only (they’re not visible anyway). However, believers are affected because they don’t have an alternative or someone to turn to for help.

What are the risks for Christians?

In North Korea: When a Christian is discovered, he or she will be taken away by the police. Not only the Christian, but also his or her spouse and children. Sometimes even his/her parents too. To North Koreans, anyone who knows a Christian is “guilty by association.” If you’re guilty, so are the people who live or even just know you. After arrest, a Christian will be locked up in a small but overcrowded cell in a detention center. There, he/she will be interrogated for hours and subject to “light” or even heavy torture. Prisoners hardly receive any food and water; many don’t survive their detention.

After a few months, the courts will decide if the Christian will be prosecuted. When someone must go to court, he/she will be sent to a re-education labor camp with his/her family members. Prisoners in these camps receive on average of 500 calories of food a day and must work 10 to 12 hours a day. They will receive one day of rest every 10 days. At night, lengthy ideological training sessions are testing for the exhausted prisoners.

If someone is not sent to court, he/she will be transferred to a political labor camp. There, the circumstances are even more gruesome than re-education camp. Here, the prisoners have no hope of escape or release; they don’t receive ideological training. These camps are like the Nazi death camps of World War II.

A last possible fate for Christians is execution. Until a few years ago, Christians were sometimes publicly executed by a firing squad. But civilians found those executions too upsetting. Nowadays, political enemies, such as Christians, are killed in prison or labor camp basements by North Korean soldiers.

In Afghanistan, the state is hostile towards Christians, as we reported above. However, the family, clan, tribe or local extremist group will “take care” of converts. Very often, there’s only one possible outcome for exposed and caught Christians: they will be killed. The family, clan or tribe must save its “honor” by disposing of the Christian. Extremist groups will surely not show mercy either.

Why do North Korea and Afghanistan score maximum points in 5 categories of the list, but are so different?

Our WWL methodology measures persecution in five spheres of life: private (your personal space), family, community, national and church. The reasons and actors for persecution are different, but North Korea and Afghanistan are simply so extreme in all these categories that they both received maximum points.

For example, Christians in North Korea are not allowed to have a Bible. If a Bible is discovered at someone’s home, the person will be arrested, tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment in a labor camp, which equates to a death sentence.

In Afghanistan, if a Bible of an Afghan Christian is discovered, the government will not take away the person; instead, that work will be done by family or local community. In the Middle Eastern country, torture with the purpose of forcing a believer to renounce Christ is the modus operandi. Again, just like in North Korea, if someone remains true to his/her faith, he/she will be surely killed.

Why do these countries score 94 and 93 points and not 100?

This relates to the violence category. An estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Christians live their lives inside North Korea’s vast prison system, where starvation, physical and mental abuse are part of every day. So there is a lot of violence in this country that we know of.

Because the church in Afghanistan is much smaller (several thousand believers) we cannot give specific details about violence incidents against Christians for security reasons. But we need little imagination to know that Afghanistan is a severely violent country.

However, both countries score zero points for several kinds of violence we measure, such as rapes or forced marriages for North Korea (which are unknown of), and shops and businesses or Christians destroyed in Afghanistan (where we lack reports.) Maybe, even most likely, this is happening, but a lack of reports in terms of scores counts in favor of the country.

Why is North Korea #1 and Afghanistan #2?

As mentioned above, the church in North Korea is much larger (200,000-400,000 compared to several thousand in Afghanistan) and in a way, more visible compared to that of Afghanistan. That means persecution takes place on a larger scale; so it’s easier and more likely to receive reports. Second, Afghan Christians are able to leave the country easier than North Korean refugees, who face repatriation if they’re caught in China. However, many (Western) countries do repatriate Afghan refugees, even when they’re Christians.

What is the good news?

In both countries, we know that there are faithful believers who will follow Jesus until death. Twenty years ago, the church in North Korea was much smaller. But during the famine in the ’90s, many refugees came to China, and heard and brought back the gospel to their own country. This allowed the underground Church to grow massively.

Twenty years ago, there were hardly any Afghan believers inside Afghanistan. Today, there’s a relatively small number of them–a miracle in itself.

How can we pray?

  • Pray Brother Andrew’s prayer that God will make “seeing eyes blind.”
  • Pray that believers are able to worship, meet and grow in faith together in secret.
  • Pray for unity among believers and more exponential  church growth.
  • Finally, don’t forget to thank the Lord for His faithfulness in these countries.

Jan. 16: Killed Over a Cup of Water–in Pakistan, Christians Are the...

Persecution against Christians continues to run very high, with Muslim youth being taught to treat believers with contempt

Throughout the Central Asian country of Pakistan (#5 on the 2018 World Watch List), persecution against Christians is rampant. Increasingly, Muslim youth are taught to treat believers with contempt and persecute Christians,  commonly regarded as an “untouchable caste.”

August 30, 2017. The day is indelibly marked into the memory of the Masih family.

It would be the last day Ilyasab and his wife would hear the voice of their 17-year-old son, Sharoon.

On that humid summer day in their Pakistani village, Chak 461, the Masih family learned that their son had been beaten to death in his classroom by another student—because Sharoon was thirsty and had drunk from the same cup of water as his Muslim classmates.

Hated ‘because of his religion’

For Sharoon, it was his second day of high school at MC Model High School in Berewala City in Pakistan; he had completed his lower education in his village. The first day at his new school hadn’t gone well. He wasn’t wearing the right uniform and wasn’t allowed to attend class. To add more insult, the teacher slapped him in front of everyone.

That day, Raza Ahmed, a Muslim student, stopped Sharoon, a Christian, from drinking water from the same cup he and his Muslim classmates were using. To them, Sharoon was an infidel who should have never even touched the same glass Muslims were using, much less drank from it.

Sharoon came home telling his mother that students hated him “because of his religion” and that “he was not comfortable to go to school.”

Reluctantly, he went back the second day. He was in Islamic Studies class (a course all Pakistani students are forced to take regardless of their beliefs), when Raza began to beat him–and continued to beat him, even when he fell to the ground–kicking Sharoon until he was unconscious. The class teacher had gone out of the classroom. Pakistani media reports allege Raza’s behavior (and possible negligence) of school staff contributed to Sharoon’s death.

An ‘Untouchable’ Caste

The Masih family is among the estimated 3.9 million Christians in Pakistan (#5 on the 2018 World Watch List #WWL2018) persecuted for their faith in Jesus. In the Central Asian country, Christians are often treated with contempt. To Muslims, Christians come from a downtrodden “untouchable caste.” Many Muslims refuse to drink and eat with them for fear of being defiled. Two months before Sharoon’s death, a Christian sewerage worker in Pakistan’s Sindh Province died after three doctors refused to touch him during Ramadan (the Islamic holy month), because they saw him as “unclean.”

In Pakistan numbering 196.7 million people, the main source of persecution is Islamic oppression, with violence against Christians scoring 99.8 on the country’s persecution profile. Much of the Christian persecution comes from radical Islamic groups that flourish under the favor of political parties, the army and the government. These radical Islamic groups run thousands of madrasas (Islamic education centers) where youth like Raza are taught and encouraged to persecute religious minorities like Christians.

Pakistan also has the most notorious blasphemy laws in the world—which have been used disproportionately against religious minorities. Pakistani Christians make up only 1.5 percent of the total population, but over a quarter (187) of the 702 blasphemy cases registered between 1990 and 2014 were against Christians.

Eight years after she was first arrested, the Christian Pakistani woman Asia Bibi still remains on death row for blasphemy, after she offered a cup of water to fellow workers in a field on a hot day. Two Muslims refused to take the cup, saying she had made it ‘unclean,” simply through her religion and caste.

Fear rising among Pakistani Christians

Sharoon’s murder has heightened fear among Pakistani Christians in the Vehari District, reports World Watch Monitor. The area is not so far known for religious extremism, but Sharoon’s persecution is the latest in a recent series of incidents in Pakistan:

  • Three weeks before Sharoon’s death, a 16-year-old illiterate Christian boy was forced to confess to blasphemy to escape mob violence in Gujranwala, 217 miles northeast of Vehari.
  • Last July, a 16-year-old Christian hospital cleaner near Gujrat, just north of Gujranwala, was charged with blasphemy after getting into a conversation with colleagues.
  • Last April, a Muslim student was lynched by a mob at a university in the northern city of Mardan for “sharing blasphemous content on Facebook,” an allegation that later proved wrong.

 

 ‘Extreme, hostile and intolerant’

The murder of Sharoon Masih exemplifies how extreme, hostile and intolerant radical Islam can be, says Open Doors’ Wybo Nicolai, director of external services.

“It also reminds me of the contrast in Scripture, where Jesus gives a promise to His disciples, that even when you share a glass of water to somebody else, another believer, you will receive a reward in Heaven,” he says. “It is such an act of God’s love, and it’s a huge contrast with this type of persecution.”

For Nicolai, Sharoon’s story of how he lived and died will not go untold.

“I made a pledge [to myself that] anytime I have an opportunity to speak out about the persecuted church, I’m going to remind people of Sharoon Masih, so that he will not be forgotten.”

Praying with Pakistan believers

Pray with Christian students and youth in Pakistan like Sharoon Masih who increasingly face ridicule and physical violence from Muslim classmates. Muslim students are taught to look down on and persecute Christians and others they regard as infidels.

Pray with Christian parents who must send their children to school for education, knowing they will likely be subjected to Islamic classes and persecution from Muslim classmates.

Pray with Pakistani converts from Muslim backgrounds who suffer the brunt of the persecution in Pakistan. Radical Islamist groups see them as apostates, and their family, friends and neighbors see their conversion as shameful to the community.

Pray for safety and protection for Christian women and girls in Pakistan who must live under the threat of abduction, rape and forced marriage.

Jan. 16: Chinese Government Blows Up Christian Megachurch–a Warning...

Systematic persecution continues for Chinese Christians as new religious legislation approaches

As many as 50,000 Christians in China lifted their voices to the heavens at the Golden Lampstand Church in Linfen, China (#43 on the 2018 World Watch List, #WWL2018). Now, that seems like a long, long time ago.

As of Tuesday, Jan. 9, the well-known megachurch, which reportedly was built with nearly $3 million in contributions ... was a pile of dust and rubble after Chinese paramilitary forces reportedly used excavators and dynamite to destroy the church, and with it, the hopes and dreams of many believers in the area. 

According to ChinaAid, a watchdog organization that keeps track of religious freedom in China, the police faction that destroyed the church reports to some of the country’s highest officials. China’s military police has been under the direct control of the central government since the head of the public security bureau, which previously commanded it, was arrested last year–indicating that the order to destroy the church came from China’s top officials instead of the less-powerful local authorities.

A Warning to Local Congregations

The attack underscores rising tensions between Chinese officials and Christians. In November, Open Doors reported on three troubling developments facing Christians in China and last month reported that in several areas of the country, Christmas celebrations were banned or highly discouraged. The destruction of the megachurch undoubtedly serves as a warning to local churches, as revised religious regulation will be implemented very soon. The revision provides the registration opportunity for unregistered churches. However, more and more local churches worry about the increasing restrictions after registration. The religious regulation covers restrictions on religious venues, religious activities, religious education, religious donations as well as involvement of overseas groups in local religious activities.

This newest persecution incident, directly from the government, is nothing new for the congregants of Golden Lampstand or most Christians in China.

During its construction, the church, led by evangelists Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli, was the target of a brutal raid in September 2009, when hundreds of police and hired thugs attacked church members at the construction site, ransacked the building, seizing Bibles, and later arrested and imprisoned church leaders, according to a report from ChinaAidAt the time, church leaders received long prison sentences, charged with illegally occupying farmland and disturbing traffic order by getting together, according to state media. Yang Xuan spent three-and-a-half years in prison, and Yang Rongli spent seven years there. Yang Xuan’s wife was sentenced to two years in a re-education labor camp where she was beaten.

Yang Rongli told ChinaAid, describing the destruction:  “ … the police surrounded the Golden Lampstand Church. Patrol wagons guarded the church. Workers smashed the church’s glass. At this point, excavators are digging into the church, but we are not allowed to enter or watch. The village head and the police from the local police station warned all the believers against entering the church. Now, we really have no idea what is going to happen.”

One of China’s state newspapers, the Global Times, called the church an “illegal building” in a report released Jan. 10, and said the demolition was part of a campaign to remove illegal structures in the city.

While it’s legal to be a Christian in China, the government keeps a close watch on religious activities, and many Christian communities and leaders have been increasingly targeted. Most of China’s estimated 97 million Christians worship in private, hoping to avoid interference by the Communist Party.

Many churches, like Golden Lampstand, do not register with the government, and many have been destroyed. Just last month, the government demolished a Catholic church in Xi’an, one of China’s historic cities, bringing protests from more than 100 church members.

As reported by Open Doors in 2015, government officials tore down more than 1,200 crosses and destroyed a number of churches in Zhejiang Province, saying they were illegal buildings.

Praying with believers in China:

  • Pray with the leaders of Golden Lampstand Church, Wang Xiaoguang and Yang Rongli, as they make future decisions about their ministry and battle to share the gospel amid perscecution. Pray that God would give them next steps and strength and wisdom to deal with the authorities.
  • Pray that Chinese church leaders would continue to carry out the full functions of the church in a dynamic manner and lead the believers to closely follow God despite the uncertainty;
  • Pray with church congregants that they will contine to gather for worship and fellowship, supporting each other in this huge loss. Pray that God would give them courage and protect them from rising intolerance to Christians.
  • Pray with Christians in China as the country’s Communist regime enforces a new set of regulations on religious affairs, effective February 1. The laws retain language targeting unregistered religious activities, unofficial religious schools, unauthorized religious instruction, and religious believers going abroad for training, conferences, or other activities. If fully enforced, the new regulations could mean major changes for China’s unregistered church, not only in its worship and meeting practices, but also engagement in areas such as Christian education, media, and interaction with the global church. Pray that they would prepare themselves to follow God faithfully under the tightening restrictions and various challenges in urbanized China.

Photos provided courtesy of ChinaAid

Jan. 19: Faith in the Crossfire–How Sudanese Believers Are Living B...

In the Africa’s third-largest country where Islam is the main religion, Christians in Sudan (#4 on the World Watch List) must be extremely cautious when interacting with Muslims; as any mention of their faith could be construed as an “act that encourages apostasy against Islam.”

She gave birth shackled to the floor on death row.

Mariam Ibrahim, a Sudanese Christian and mother of two, had been charged with apostasy and adultery for marrying a Christian man. As punishment for her crimes, she was to be lashed 100 times and hung by the neck until dead.

Like Ibrahim, pastors Michael Yat and Peter Yen were sentenced to death in a Sudanese prison–all for professing faith in Jesus.

Ibrahim was released in 2014, thanks to an international outcry and advocacy by Open Doors and other organizations, and the pastors were released in 2016.

But their harrowing stories of imprisonment offer a glimpse into the harsh reality of persecution in Sudan, which has remained on Open Doors’ World Watch List since 1993, coming in at No. 4 on the newly released 2018 World Watch List–up one spot from No. 5 in 2017.

‘One Religion-One Culture’

In Sudan, persecution is systemic. At times, it’s reminiscent of ethnic cleansing. Deeply rooted in Islam, the government strictly implements a “one-religion, one-culture” policy, resulting in bitter conflicts between Arabs and Africans, Muslims and Christians.

For decades, religious conflicts have fed the fires of war in Sudan. For more than 20 years, a conflict between North and South Sudan centered around implementation of Sharia law. And, when South Sudan seceded in 2011, the Sudanese government once more confirmed its commitment to Sharia.

Conflicts among other groups continue today.

For believers in Sudan, Islamic oppression and dictatorial paranoia are the primary persecution engines. Religious tension is felt in all spheres of life, but most of all in Christian communities. Some Christians are arrested on charges of espionage, and in areas with ongoing conflict, Christians are attacked indiscriminately. Believers are losing churches they have gathered and worshipped in for years. Many churches have been demolished, with others on an official list awaiting demolition. The government regularly arrests and intimidates Christian leaders and has demanded on at least one occasion that leadership be handed over to a government-supported committee.

In the World Watch List 2018 reporting period, the government closed down more than 20 churches. In the same period, at least three Christians were killed, although exact numbers have been difficult to obtain.

Open Doors comes alongside the almost 2 million Sudanese Christians (out of a total population of 42 million) through local partners in Sudan to provide much-needed provisions: discipleship training, persecution preparedness, theological training, trauma care and other services for people like Ibrahim.

 A special visit

Persecution is especially harsh in the Nuba Mountains, home to the Nuba people, who fought for independence alongside South Sudan and were left in the north after the conflict.

Today, they continue to hope and pray for independence and freedom to worship.

The Nuba people have occupied the mountains that stretch across south and central Sudan for generations. Despite efforts by the Sudan government to uproot them and keep outside help at bay, the Nuba have remained resilient and carried on with normal life as much as they can.

Thanks to your support, Open Doors has provided much-needed help to the group.

Fikiru*, a team member on the ground there, recently visited a Bible school supported by Open Doors in the Nuba region. About 18 students graduated in an emotional ceremony. Open Doors gave each student a bicycle–a gift that saved at least one student five or six hours a day in travel time.

With help from Open Doors, the college has managed to train hundreds of evangelists and missionaries. Its on-the-job training approach has helped students learn while they minister and stay focused on serving the people of the Nuba mountains.

Hunger gap

Since August 2016, the Sudan government has honored a ceasefire with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, a rebel group in the country fighting to maintain independence.

Many people in the Nuba Mountains wonder how long the ceasefire will last. Recently, a presidential decree extended the ceasefire through March 2018; it was originally scheduled to end by December 2017.

Though the sound of constant bombing has stopped for now, life in the region is far from easy. Indiscriminate bombardments in prior years have left many people displaced, with the blocking of humanitarian aid and access to local markets keeping the Nuba people in hunger. A severe drought affecting most of East Africa further exacerbates the plight of the people in the region. Basic services like medical support and education are non-existent.

Children and widows are suffering the most.

 “There was no rain, and we are facing a food shortage,” one church leader in the region said. “We are very concerned that our people will not be able to sustain themselves for much longer. Eventually, some will cross into government-controlled areas, and that will be disastrous. They will run into inhumane soldiers. Young girls are especially at risk. That is our fear and anxiety.”

 A resilient people

Resilience, sacrifice and servitude remain as hallmarks of the Nuba community. They always ask for prayer and help to extend the Kingdom of God. At times, they have asked for seed so they can plant and grow their own crops. Hardly ever have they asked for food.

But recently, the situation has become so dire, they have had no choice but to ask for help–specifically, the most vulnerable among them.

Open Doors provided emergency food (sorghum and beans) to 12,500 widows and children in five different areas, along with basic medicine and mosquito nets. In addition, we’ve been able to supply schools, train teachers and pastors, and visit as regularly as possible to encourage these fellow believers.

For people in the Nuba region, education is essential–and they have had to overcome many challenges to get it. They have lacked proper shelter, textbooks and other school supplies, even facing the threat of violence. But they have not stopped. Children have studied in creek beds and in the wild–but through it all, they’re taught in their own area by their own teachers, many of whom have taken training courses offered by Open Doors.

In the Nuba region, families are still able to live together, which strengthens the church and the community. Food production has increased, and the Bible college is able to support the local church in its need for trained pastors.

Jan. 21: “Yes, I Am Christian”–Egyptian Believer Boldly Proclaimed ...

From early childhood, Bassem Herz Attalhah loved the church and was a man of prayer and worship.

Our persecuted family in Egypt (#17 on the World Watch List) continues to see increased violence and bloodshed. The war on Christianity in Egypt is intensifying. In 2017, 130 Christians were reportedly killed for their faith, including an attack on a church south of Cairo on Dec. 29, 2017. 2018 begins with the death of a devoted Christ follower and a vow from militants to kill more Coptic Christians. 

“Are you Christian?”

The 27-year-old husband and father of five Bassem Herz Attalhah didn’t hesitate to answer.

“Yes, I am Christian,” he told his attackers and then immediately proclaimed his faith a second time in a loud voice:  “Yes, I am Christian.”  

A Visible Reminder and Sign of Faith

Bassem was on his way home from work in El-Arish, where he and his brother, Osama, had opened a mobile phone shop. He was with Osama and their neighbor and friend Mohamed when three men stopped them and asked Bassem to show them the wrist of his right hand (Coptic Christians “wear” a small black tattoo of a cross on their right wrist–a visible reminder and sign of their faith and also a form of identification since many churches station security at their doors to check that those entering are Christians).

When the men saw the tattoo of the cross, they asked Bassem the fatal question.

The men then asked Mohamed his name and made him show his wrist. When they saw he had no tattoo, he was allowed to leave. Then they turned to Osama, a common name, also among Muslims, and the men didn’t know he was Bassem’s brother.

“Bassem told them that I had children,” Osama recalls. “They asked me to show them the wrist of my right hand and, when they didn’t see any cross, they thought that I was Muslim.” (The men didn’t see the cross that Osama has tattooed on the top of his hand because it was hidden under his sleeve.)

“We lost a person dear to our hearts,” Osama said. “My brother Bassem was a very good and kind man. He had a strong relationship with God. He was always reading in the Bible, praying and going to the church. He was loved by all people.”

Militants Warn: There Will Be More

When Bassem’s close friend Milad Wasfi heard he had been killed, he couldn’t believe it and called his friend’s phone. His call was answered, but not by his friend.

“The terrorists answered me and said they belong to State of Sinai and promised to kill more Copts before they put down the phone,” he told World Watch Monitor.

After a string of killings in El-Arish last year, scores of Coptic Christian families left for Ismailia and Suez. In March 2017, an estimated 70 percent of the 160 Coptic Christian families living in the city had left.

Bassem, Osama and their parents had been among those who fled the city. Struggling to find work in Ismailia, however, the two brothers left for Cairo, and when things didn’t work out for them there either, they decided to return to El-Arish in September.

Prayers for Comfort and Protection

Bassem’s friend Milad, who is still living in Ismailia, fears for his own future and for the other displaced Christians families of El-Arish.

“The hope and the dream of [one day] returning to our homes in El-Arish has become very difficult, especially after this incident,” he said. Bassem is the second Christian to be killed by extremists after returning to al-Arish.

In February 2017, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered his government to “take all necessary measures” to help resettle Christians fleeing North Sinai. But as attacks against Coptic Christians have continued, they have found it more and more difficult to believe their government could protect them.

“Bassem was a very good man,” Milad says. “Honest, quiet, modest, a light-hearted person and close friend to me. From early childhood, he loved the church and he was a man of prayer and worship. He didn’t renounce the faith and didn’t deny his Lord Jesus Christ. He didn’t fear death. Actually, he didn’t die but has won the real life in Heaven, enjoying being with Jesus. We pray that God will comfort us [and] thank God for saving the life of Osama, to care for his five children and his parents.”

Father, we pray with Bassem’s family and community for comfort, protection and justice. God, we pray with Christians in Egypt who are being targeted by militants for their faith. We pray for protection and wisdom for responding to these threats. And God, we ask that you would reveal Yourself to these persecutors, just as You did for Saul on the road to Damascus-that they would be touched and transformed by Your unconditional love.

Jan. 24: Why There Are No Christian Children in North Korea

Lee Joo-Chan, now a pastor in China, grew up never knowing the "family secret."

Lee Joo-Chan* (now in his 50s) is one of the thousands of North Koreans who grew up in a Christian family without knowing it. In this country (#1 on the 2018 World Watch List), parents can’t risk telling their children about their faith–perhaps the saddest consequence of North Korea’s high “squeeze factor.”

Some parents wait until the children are old enough, then let them in on the “family secret.” Others, like Lee’s parents, never feel that freedom. 

30 Years of Secrets Revealed

“I knew my parents were different. Everybody called them ‘Communist parents,’ because they took care of the sick, the poor and the needy. At night, they read from a secret book, which I wasn’t allowed to read from. But I heard them whisper the words, and I knew it was their source of wisdom. I also knew that if I ever talked about this to someone else, our family would be taken away.”

Lee Joo-Chan’s mother came to faith before the Second World War during the time that Korea was one country and Japan ruled it. When dictator Kim Il-Sung came to power after the war, Christian persecution started in North Korea, and churches were closed down. Lee escaped from his native country in the late ’90s. His mother came out after some time too. He describes their meeting.

“It was a very emotional moment to meet her in China. For the first time, my mother could tell me all these things that she had kept a secret from me for over 30 years. She took my hand and brought me to an empty house church. There, she told me how she became a Christian in 1935 when she was nine, that her parents had been Christians too, and how everybody served each other during the Japanese occupation of Korea. She longed for those days. She explained how Christ came to this world and died for us all. She told me everything I needed to know about our faith: that she gave birth to me, but that I was actually ‘God’s child,’” she said.

”He will protect you, and He will give you a place to live. Believe in Him. Be faithful. Your eternal life starts from here.”

Lee’s mother started to pray. Aloud. Shouting even. She prayed for three hours, sweat covering her entire body. “She prayed for me, for North Korea and the people of North Korea,” Lee says. “She pleaded with the Lord to save her people.”

Later, Lee’s mother and his brother, who had also come to China, went back to North Korea. They had no idea someone had betrayed them, and when they crossed the river, four hidden soldiers appeared. One hit Lee’s mother with his rifle and killed her instantly. His brother was stabbed to death with bayonets. Lee witnessed the murders from the other side of the river. He later learned that his father and other siblings were arrested and murdered too.

The young man who had been prayed over by his mother was able to reach South Korea, eventually fulfilling his mother’s wish by becoming a pastor and following Jesus.

Three reasons for silent faith

Based on our secret conversations with North Korean believers, there are three reasons why North Korean parents don’t share the gospel with their young children:

  1. Ongoing indoctrination: From cradle to grave and from morning till evening, every North Korean citizen is subject to indoctrination. All day, through television, radio channels, newspapers and even loudspeakers, propaganda is poured out on them. One of the first words North Korean parents must teach their children are the words “Thank you, Father Kim Il-Sung.” At school, they learn about the Kim family and their wonderful deeds. They bow in reverence to statues and images. Through books and animation movies, they are taught that Christians are evil spies who kidnap, torture and kill innocent North Korean children, and then sell their blood and organs.
  2. Too risky: “I was afraid every day for my life in North Korea,” shares Lee Joo-Chan. But children are not always aware of security. They can accidentally sing a song or tell their friends a particular Bible story. At school, teachers may ask if their parents read from a certain black book. Sharing the gospel is extremely dangerous.
  3. They have nobody to tell them: Sadly, in North Korea, tens of thousands of children (maybe more) have become homeless because their Christian families were torn apart by death, arrests or other tragedies. Sometimes someone is able to reach China but unable to return. The hard, North Korean life has broken up countless families, scaring the surviving children for life.

Are there no Christan children in North Korea at all?

By God’s grace, there are a few. Oftentimes, they accidentally discover the gospel.

“In our house was a hidden closet,” says Kim Sang-Hwa, who grew up in North Korea. “When I was 12, I accidentally found it. I don’t know why, but I started to feel inside the cabinet with my hand and when I felt a book, I pulled it out. I opened the book and began to read: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.”

She began to shiver and dropped the book.

“I was so scared. I was taught about the evolution theory, so I knew this book was illegal. My discovery could cost me my life. I was afraid to touch the Bible, but I couldn’t just leave it there. I closed my eyes, picked up the book and put it back. I weighed my options: Should I tell my teacher? Should I visit the local security official? For 15 days, I couldn’t think of anything else. I knew it was my duty to report this illegal book. But it was my family that was involved. And I also had all these questions: ‘Who is this God? Or ‘what’?’”

Finally, Kim Sang-Hwa had the guts to confront her father about her discovery.

“He was very surprised and sat next to me. He asked me: ‘Do you see those old trees?’ I nodded. ‘Who made those?’ he asked. I said I didn’t know and he explained the story of creation to me, including how God had made Adam and Eve. Then he turned to me and asked me another question: ‘What is the most dangerous animal?’ I did not know why, but I answered, ‘the snake.’

‘That’s right,’ he replied. He told me how sin came into the world. It was the first of many conversations we had about the Bible, about God, Jesus and the gospel. He explained many Bible stories to me. I was not a real believer yet, but they did make a lot of sense to me. I felt sorry for all those people who didn’t know the truth. Even my older siblings were unaware.”

Slowly, Kim’s family taught her about the Bible. “My mother taught me to memorize Bible verses and the Apostolic Creed and also explained the full gospel to me. My grandfather showed me how to pray: ‘It is just talking to God,’ he said. ‘Nothing more, nothing less.’”

Kim’s grandfather spoke a lot about Jesus’ second coming. He really longed for that, Kim said.

“To me, all those stories and ideas were so interesting. I also read the Bible for myself. But I realized it was dangerous. My father always emphasized not sharing anything with anyone else. Then he would start to pray in whispers, almost inaudibly: ‘Father, help the North Korean people to seek Your Kingdom first.’”

God works through the generations

After helping thousands of North Koreans who come from Christian families,  Open Doors continues to discover that God seems to never let go of these families.

“I remember my two grandfathers,” says Choi Yong Sook who also grew up in North Korea. “When I was doing homework, I listened to their conversations and heard them say weird stuff. They spoke about the second coming of Jesus and also how Esau sold his birthright for just one stew meal. I remember thinking to myself: That must have been very, very nice stew. And I also thought that part of growing older meant talking about strange things.

“Later, my grandfather and father were arrested for being part of a Christian network. They were able to talk their way out but had suffered tremendously in prison. We were banished to a remote village. My grandfather told me to believe in God.”

But life was hard, and Choi received no teaching about God. She only rediscovered the Lord after going to prison for trying to escape North Korea. Yong Sook didn’t think much about the God of her grandfather in prison. This changed when an old lady was imprisoned for stealing food. She had also demolished an old pig stable and built a new one without the permission of her mother.

“I could hear her praying. ‘Sweet mother, please forgive me, forgive me…’” Choi recalls. “It was actually out of boredom that I also started to pray to my mother. I prayed that mother would help me get out. Then I realized that my father was probably stronger, so I started praying to him. Perhaps my grandfathers were even stronger, so I started praying to them.

“Then I asked myself: what is the most powerful person I can pray to? I came to the conclusion it was the God of my grandfather. So I prayed and asked Him to release me. I still was not a believer, but I firmly believe that thanks to those remarkable prayers in that dark prison cell, I have been blessed so much ever since. I remembered a novel in my youth. I had actually stolen that book. The main character was a Christian, and he also prayed to God. So I repeated what he said: ‘Almighty, holy, holy Father, merciful, merciful Father…’ I repeated this sentence every morning.”

When she was released after spending several torturous months in prison, Choi was able to escape to China. For the first time in her life, she had the opportunity to read the Bible. She came across some stories her grandfather used to tell.

“Then I realized my grandfather had been right all along. God existed and had answered my prayers.”

The first time Choi went to a Chinese church was an incredible experience for her: “I just wanted to experience church and to see what it looked like,” she remembers. “At the door stood a man, and he greeted me [Hello] in Korean: ‘Annyung haeseo.’ From that moment on, my mind was turned upside down. I felt safe. I felt like I could really trust these people. Grace came over me. When I sat down, I closed my eyes and had an image of myself crying. I knew I was indeed about to cry. If I opened my mouth, I would never stop crying and from my screams, everyone would know that I was a North Korean defector. With all my might did I keep my jaws shut. After the service, my face hurt from the tension.”

Choi told the woman who had taken her to the church what had happened.

“It was because God really loves you,” she explained to Choi. She came to faith and now she says, “I am the fruit of my grandfathers’ prayers.”

Praying for North Korean Parents and Children

Without a doubt, the most important prayer point for North Korean Christian parents is that one day they are able to share the gospel with their children. Please pray for:

  • Opportunities to live out the gospel, even when parents can’t talk about their faith.
  • Opportunities to safely share the gospel when children are old and mature enough.
  • Protection of Christian families, that children will not be used to lure their parents into a trap.
  • That God would continue to hold families in His hands throughout the generations.

Click the image below or download the attachment for Open Doors' monthly prayer calendar for the persecuted church.

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