Imagine if belonging to a church in the UK was a really risky thing to do. If we thought twice about church, because someone might be watching and report us to the authorities; we might wake up to find our property vandalised or the police arresting us in the middle of the night, or we couldn’t get a job, or our neighbours banded together to try to force us out of Burnage; or worse, we found our church building vandalised beyond repair: all because we love Jesus and meet to worship Him.
Thankfully the worst kind of persecution any of us are likely to face is being thought a bit odd, or being ridiculed for our faith, but for many Christians in the world the reality is so much worse. 245 million Christians in the world experience high levels of persecution, and in 2018 over 4,300 Christians were actually killed specifically for their belief in Jesus.
Open Doors is an organisation which supports the church in countries all over the world where Christians are persecuted. They provide practical help, food, medication, trauma care, and advocacy in prisons, and support community development and income-generating projects; they train believers and pastors and distribute Bibles and other Christian literature, and set up Christian radio programmes; they organise prayer and financial support from believers in the UK; and much more.
And the amazing thing is that the church in countries where there is persecution is growing; people are standing firm in their faith in Jesus and are praying for their leaders to come to faith. What an incredible example for us, and how we should value our freedom here to worship and meet together and read the Bible and have it explained to us.