I’ve read many stories of Christians being persecuted for their faith. My girls are currently studying Ancient Rome, and learning about how the apostles and other believers were beaten, beheaded, crucified and otherwise creatively killed for their faith. In researching the lives of the North American Martyrs for my first kids’ book, I read about how the missionaries were treated with suspicion and hostility and even tortured for trying to share God’s love. And yet there’s something comfortable in reading about persecutions that happened five hundred or two thousands years ago. It’s deeply unsettling to realize that Christians are being persecuted today.
Open Doors Canada is a non-profit organization that provides support to persecuted Christians around the world and seeks to raise awareness of their needs to Christians in the free world. They do this by supplying Bibles and Christian literature, training Christian leaders, facilitating social/economic projects and uniting believers in the West in prayer for Christians, who are the most persecuted religious group in the world and are oppressed in at least 70 countries. Every year, they create a World Watch List, an an annual report on the global persecution of Christians, which ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith.
Learning more about their work through their website and other resources has caused me to realize that we are privileged to enjoy great religious freedom here in North America. It has also made me want to help my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
Christians in India
India Illustrated is a graphic magazine from Open Doors that tells the stories of Christians being persecuted in India. I grew up reading stories about Amy Carmichael and sponsoring a child in India, so I was immediately interested in this magazine. I was shocked to learn how Christians are treated in this Hindu country. The magazine shared that “Christians make up a tiny minority here —less than five per cent of the population” of India. Thus a “Christian who has decided to leave the traditional faith of their community and follow Jesus could be the only Christian in their family, or their village.”
India Illustrated tells the story of sisters beaten for believing in Jesus… a widow whose faith is blamed for her son’s and her husband’s death… a teenage boy whose entire family was persecuted because they are Christians. These aren’t the stories of missionaries who willingly walked into a hostile place to speak of God’s love hundreds of years ago. These are stories of ordinary people today who have had their families and communities turn against them because they chose Jesus.
“I know the names of the people who persecuted and beat us. I pray for them daily.” ~ Sunita
Reading this stories made me realize how blessed we are to enjoy the religious freedom we have here in Canada. We have more Bibles in our house than we can read at once, yet there’s a woman in India who can’t even read a Bible and has still placed her trust in Jesus. I have friends I can ask for prayers, spiritual podcasts and books and inspiration at my fingertips, while so many Christians in India are isolated from each other and attacked by their neighbours. I can put up icons and religious artwork all over my walls, while a family in India is beaten for taking down their Hindu gods.
“Jesus himself had to suffer for our sake. When persecution strikes we can identify more with him.” ~ church leader in India
India Illustrated is not just a magazine full of stories. Each story ends with a Bible verse and questions for reflection to help you go deeper. These questions help you (or your church group) to reflect on the story and what you can learn from it. You can grab a copy for yourself from the Open Doors Canada store.
What You Can Do
Reading about the early Christians or the North American Martyrs is comfortable because it requires nothing of me. They lived hundreds, thousands of years ago; their lives can provide faith inspiration to me and I can ask them for their intercession in my life, but my involvement in their pain goes no further than that. Reading about Christians who are still being persecuted today is a bit more uncomfortable because it demands a response. What will I do with this new information?
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12, 26
Here are a few ways you can support Christians being persecuted today.
1. Attend Open Doors’ national virtual event on Facebook and YouTube on January 16th at 4 pm Pacific (7 pm Eastern). Across Canada, Christians will gather for a time of learning, worship and prayer for our persecuted family. During the event, you’ll discover where Christians face the most danger for their faith in Christ and the most recent persecution trends.
2. Download the World Watch List for free and read more about countries where it is dangerous to live as a Christian.
3. Write a letter to a persecuted Christian to encourage and support them. Open Doors has several stories of men and women around the world who have been persecuted for their faith. You can read their information and choose which you’d like to connect with. Meena and Sunita are two sisters whose stories are shared on the website and in India Illustrated.
4. Get your kids involved. Open Doors provides resources for children and youth on their website, to help you talk to your kids about helping Christians in other countries. Children often have a deep sense of empathy and fairness that makes them want to respond to situations like these. (We can learn from them!) I remember my mom reading God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew to my brothers and I when I was a kid, and I’m excited to dive into it again with my daughters.
5. Shop the Open Doors online store. You can deliver 10 or more Bibles, provide trauma counseling or urgent help for refugees, give a woman in need a livelihood, or support a safe house. You can also buy books and magazines to learn more about the difficult lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.
Over the last year, we’ve faced unprecedented events and tragedy. Most of us were eager to move on to a new year, in the hopes of a better year. And yet as we face our own struggles and traumatic events, it’s helpful to look beyond ourselves. My little trials seem trivial when I read Meena and Sunita’s story and realize that even in a pandemic, I’m still surrounded by people who love me and support me and encourage my faith. I might not be able to change some of my own circumstances, but I can reach out to help a fellow Christian.
Were you aware that Christians are being persecuted for their faith around the world today? Will you do something to make a difference for them?