We serve Christians around the world whose brave faith in Jesus means they are, beaten, threatened, imprisoned, tortured, falsely accused, disowned and hated.

Miracles were how Narendran first came to know Jesus. “I belonged to a traditional Hindu family. Our family came to know about the Lord after experiencing miraculous deliverance from our problems and sicknesses,” he says. “I committed my life to the Lord’s ministry.” 

These interventions continued when Narendran and Kavita moved to their village. Narendran shares one of many examples: “A cancer patient, whom doctors had given up hope for, received healing through our prayers. People began to believe in Jesus, and the church grew.”

Word spread about this miraculous God, and before long there were 40 new believers attending the church. Almost everyone in the village was Hindu, but the church didn’t face opposition or persecution for many years. Sadly, that slowly began to change.

Persecution begins in the village

“Even before things started happening, I was being guided in spirit to pray this prayer: ‘Lord, please keep us safe from all troubles,’” Nerendran said. “I had questions in my mind, but I continued praying this prayer. I know now that this prayer was for a purpose.”

Persecution began during a New Year’s service. At first it was just that some young Hindus came and cut up the shoes left in the entrance of the church by members of the congregation. But things escalated. They were stopped in the midst of a funeral from burying a Christian who had passed away in the local burial grounds.

A few days later, Narendran and Kavita were gathered with a few other Christians for a night of prayer. Some young men came to the church gate and started shouting at Kavita: “Why are you making so much noise? You cannot conduct such prayers here?”

The Christians concluded their prayers and started for home – but were violently intercepted.  “They shouted abusive language at the believers and started to beat my husband,” says Kavita. “All the gathered Christians fled to their homes.”

Narendran had to go to hospital because of the attack, but the attackers pressured doctors to refrain from helping him. Only when other pastors and a lawyer intervened were the couple given the necessary medical care. 

Because of their injuries, and the delay in treatment, they were hospitalised for a week. While they were there, the extremists took the opportunity to smash up the church.

Open Doors partners stand by Narendran and Kavita

While Narendran and Kavita were in the hospital, local Open Doors partners heard what had happened. They rushed to pray with the couple and encourage them. Thanks to Open Doors supporters like you, the partners were able to provide groceries to the couple as they struggled to afford their family’s basic needs.

The persecution has had a significant impact on the church community. Narendran can’t go out for outreach or to visit members of the congregation because he fears extremists. And the church has shrunk after the violence.

Long-term support and hope

Narendran and Kavita have a much lower income now, as they relied on offerings from the congregation. Fortunately, your gifts and prayers were once again able to help with this long-term need. When Open Doors partners learned about the couple’s situation, they bought them a sewing machine which led to them opening a tailoring shop.

“We would have been living in fear and anxiety if you had not come to our aid. We realised we are not alone. God’s people stand with us in our troubles and support us through prayer.”

Despite the ongoing challenges, Narendran and Kavita are determined to stay close to the Lord and not let anything pull them away from their calling. They continue their ministry in the same village, trusting in the Lord that He will be with them and lead them.

“We were sad thinking about why these things had happened to us,” Kavita says, still suffering from the physical and emotional impact of the attack. “We thought that we could not continue the ministry, but the Lord strengthened us through His Word, which said: ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you.’ (Isaiah 41:10) We were encouraged, and we know now that persecution helped us to become stronger in faith – and that God will use it to bless our ministry.”

“Scripture says, ‘In this world you will have troubles. But take heart, I have overcome the world,’” Narendran says, referring to John 16:33. “I believe God will not leave us alone and that nothing can separate us from the love of God. The more we face persecution, the more the Lord will bless our ministry. We have hope in God for our future!”

*Names changed for security reasons

Christian persecution can be difficult to comprehend. But we can pray for persecuted christians boldly knowing God hears us, and He can do all things.

“Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”

Ephesians 3:18

BOLDLY PRAY FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS

This challenge from the apostle Paul to the church of Ephesus comes right after the familiar passage describing the pieces of the armour of God. Paul knows that prayer is essential to winning battles because it connects us to God’s power, and Paul wants to make sure the churches he has planted get that!

Sometimes the magnitude of Christian persecution can be difficult to comprehend and even harder to understand what we can possibly do to move the needle. But that’s when we pray, consistently and boldly, knowing that we have been called to “be alert and keep on praying.”

Will you commit to praying these bold prayers with us for God’s people, our persecuted family?

1. PRAY FOR A RESILIENT CHURCH IN SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Almost daily we get reports of attacks on our family in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Open Doors’ 2024 World Watch List research, Nigeria remains the most violent country in the world for Christians—and Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s deadliest region for God’s people. The statistics are horrifying. Out of every 10 Christians murdered for their faith, nine are killed in this region. Out of 2,700 Christians kidnapped in 2022, 92% were in Nigeria.

Pray boldly that our family in this region will be resilient, that they “would walk and not grow weary” (Isaiah 40:31). 

2. PRAY FOR MIRACULOUS PROVISION FOR PERSECUTED BELIEVERS

In North Korea, food is most scarce during the winter. In internal displacement camps filled with tens of thousands of people, food can be difficult to find, and Christians in these camps have shared with us that they are often at the end of food distribution lines, discriminated against for their faith.

Please pray for provision for God’s people, for unexpected miracles in the inhumane prison camps and anywhere Christians struggle to find food. 

3. PRAY THAT CHILDREN RECEIVE AN EDUCATION AND THAT NO CHILD WILL BE BANNED FROM SCHOOL BECAUSE THEY AND THEIR FAMILY FOLLOW JESUS

We continue to hear how extremists use school and education as weapons of retaliation and coercion. When a family leaves the local or national religion to follow Jesus, their children can be banned from school. When threatened, Christians must flee their homes to avoid attack, and shelter, food, and basic needs in displacement camps are higher priorities than education. The lack of education becomes another tactic to cripple the Church.

Pray that persecuted children would “soar on wings like eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). 

4. PRAY THAT OUR PERSECUTED FAMILY, MORE THAN 360 MILLION PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD, WILL KNOW THEY’RE NOT ALONE.

Isolation and feeling as if you’re the only one in the struggle can be one of the Enemy’s most powerful tools, especially in places where following Jesus makes you a target for discrimination and attack. Saad (not his real name), a secret Christian in Afghanistan, shared, “We feel disoriented and alone.” Our local partners tell us they often hear from Christians, especially new converts, “I thought I was the only one.”

Pray with us, asking God to give His people like Saad visions and dreams of the worldwide Church standing with them. Ask Him to place unexpected people and situations in their lives as constant reassurances and comfort that that they are not alone.

*Names changed for security reasons

Pastor Laxman* won’t abandon the vision that God has given him. That’s not a commitment he makes lightly. His church in north India has been destroyed by extremists. He’s been imprisoned, beaten and falsely accused. But he is determined to serve God in his community. With your help, he can keep going.

“I was born and brought up in a strong Hindu family,” he says. Nothing challenged this faith until his wife, Latika*, got very ill. Doctors couldn’t help her, and the prayers of Hindu priests and occultists made no difference. Finally, reluctantly, he took his wife to a church. Latika was already a believer, but Laxman was very resistant. What happened at the church would forever change Laxman’s life.

Christians prayed over Latika – and she began healing! “When my wife received healing with just one prayer at the church, I understood that her God was a God who answered prayers,” Laxman says. “As I began to understand the power of this God, I was determined to spread His message of truth to as many people as possible.”

God’s vision

Laxman was keen to start a church. “God showed me a vision about a place – I had never seen that place before,” he says. As the couple prayed, it became clear this was where God wanted Laxman to build.

The church started out small – just three people. But Laxman knew he was telling people about an active, living God. Having witnessed a miracle in his own life, he started praying for miracles for others.

The Lord blessed this ministry. “I met a man who was suffering from epilepsy,” Laxman remembers. “He used to have attacks five times a day. I met and prayed with him – After a few months, he was completely healed.” The man decided to follow Jesus.

Church growth

Word spread about what God was doing in Pastor Laxman’s church. From a handful of believers, the church grew to hundreds. Across India, many churches are reporting the same extraordinary growth. But growth has a flipside: it catches the attention of extremists.

In the area where Laxman lives, Hindu extremists are trying to eradicate Christianity. People like Laxman and others in his congregation, who’ve chosen to leave Hinduism and follow Jesus, are particularly vulnerable to persecution. These extremists were angry – and had an underhand method of targeting Laxman.

“They made a police complaint against me, accusing me of luring people to Christianity using money,” he says. He was taken to the police station where the police threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop his ministry, but he defiantly told them he would build a church!

“They can break the church building and send us to jail and beat us up. But they cannot separate us from Jesus or stop us from following Jesus.”

PASTOR LAXMAN, INDIA

“Sign this paper”

When the police couldn’t find any evidence against Laxman, they decided to fabricate some. “The extremists called a believer from my church to the police station,” Laxman says. “He was threatened that his house would be destroyed unless he signed a blank piece of paper.”

He was terrified and agreed to sign. The persecutors now had all they needed to fake a confession. “The ‘confession’ said I had lured him to Christianity, promising him money,” Laxman says.

The next day, the police came to the church to seize Pastor Laxman. He remembers: “We were conducting a prayer meeting with 250 people when six or seven policemen came all of a sudden and arrested me. They started beating me.” Laxman was put in jail, where police continued to beat him brutally. While he was in prison, extremists destroyed his church building. “They attacked it the same day I was arrested,” he says.

God’s faithfulness

Laxman’s hope for his ministry was under threat. But God had given Laxman a vision for his church and wasn’t going to abandon him now. In his cell, Laxman heard the Lord speaking.

“I heard a sweet voice, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, for I am with you,’” Laxman remembers. God used the words of Isaiah 41:10 to encourage and sustain Laxman. “I felt a rush of peace inside my heart, and I found strength to go through all the pain.”

After six days, Pastor Laxman was released. Most of his congregation had dispersed – fearful of what the police or extremists might do to them. When Open Doors local partners heard what had happened, they came immediately. It was vital to show Laxman he wasn’t alone and provide spiritual and physical support.

“I would like to thank God firstly, who sent strangers to help me in such a way – and these people who are helping us so much, I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart.”

With your support and prayers, Open Doors partners can continue to sustain Pastor Laxman and his family with encouragement and have helped him set up a chicken farm, for ongoing income for him and his community. Laxman has hope that his church building will eventually be rebuilt. For now, he is still shepherding his congregation. “There are only 40 people now, who secretly gather for prayers,” he says. They meet in small groups, because the police continue to monitor Laxman and his church.

You can support Pastor Laxman’s vision

Laxman remains defiant and faithful. “They can break the church building and send us to jail and beat us up. But they cannot separate us from Jesus or stop us from following Jesus,” he says. “It is only in my God that you can find peace, joy and healing. The church is closed but my ministry continues. This is God’s work. No one can close it or shut it down. It is for the Kingdom of the Lord.”

Extremists are trying to destroy the church in India. You can join courageous Indian believers like Pastor Laxman in making sure they don’t succeed. Follow the links below to pray, give and even write to Pastor Laxman!

*Names changed for security reasons

Women of the persecuted church often face the double persecution of being Christian and being a woman. Like many women of the persecuted church, Simin’s story is one of hope.

“They said if I return to Islam, I could have it all… But how could I forget what Jesus had done for me? The price was huge, but we wanted to pay it; He was worth it.” As Simin* remembers the day she met Jesus, the miracles, the house church, the arrests, the pain of separation from her daughter and the urgent flight across the border during the COVID-19 pandemic, but her sacrifices haven’t been in vain. Being a Christian woman in the Middle East means that Simin’s sacrifices for Jesus have been unfathomable. Why, then, does she continue to pay the price? 

A SILENT CRY IN THE FACE OF PERSECUTION 

Looking back, Simin recalls the beginning of her relationship with Jesus. It all started when her husband, then just a friend, gave her a Bible as a gift. Page after page, she began to discover a world beyond her own — a world of possibility for what life with God could look like, despite what she knew of religion living in a staunchly Islamic nation. Exploring how God related to women in the Bible changed everything for Simin. 

“The Bible became very attractive to me because of its attitude toward marriage; it was very different than the world of Islam,” she explains, “In the Bible, women have so much value, we are seen.” 

The persecution began immediately. Her family rejected her beliefs, churches were closed by the authorities in front of her eyes, and she was at risk of losing her job due to her faith. 

WHEN TRUSTING JESUS IS THE ONLY OPTION 

One summer morning in 2019, Simin and her husband awoke to the authorities in her house. One official grabbed her husband by the arm and put him in handcuffs. Screaming, she ran to grab her little girl, and as she held her, she too was arrested and taken to the police station, simply for being a Christian. Their home, once filled with prayer and worship, was now filled with fear. 

Simin was interrogated for days, separated from her husband and daughter, and told that they should be thankful that the abuse wasn’t worse. Their sick daughter was held by authorities and refused any medical attention. She was afraid, but God’s love gave her courage. She knew God was with her. 

“It was just me, my little daughter’s socks, and Jesus in the cell,” she remembers. It gave her hope. 

A CHANGED WOMAN IS A CHANGED COMMUNITY 

After 18 days, Simin and her family were eventually released, charged with “propaganda against the regime.” Because of this charge, they had to flee their home country, starting their lives over completely. Being in a new place meant that Simin and her husband were disconnected from their community, but this has only inspired their ministry of inclusion of women of God in the body of Christ, by showing them they are seen and loved by God and by His people. 

After connecting with Open Doors’ partners, she started to teach the Bible online to the women of the persecuted church in the Middle East, equipping them to lead home churches. 

“I’m not completely in a safe zone yet, but I understand the pain of those women. I want to comfort and serve them!” 

Simin knows that there is nothing more healing for a lonely, tired heart than knowing that God sees you, especially for the women of the persecuted church.

“In the journey of my life, I experienced persecution a lot,” she adds. “But I always witnessed God at work!”

*Names changed for security reasons

Have you ever wondered what Easter looks like for the persecuted church? It is a time of increased pressure and violence, as Christians become a target for extremists and government crackdowns. However, as they gather, they are strengthened. They count the cost to commemorate the price that Jesus paid. And just as He did, they persevere in the face of persecution.  

A PRICE WORTH PAYING 

For many Christians worldwide, Easter is a time of celebration. Lent ends, and believers gather for a time of prayer and communion. For the persecuted church, however, pressures rise, targeted attacks increase, and for some, it is illegal to even celebrate.  

Persecution has been part of the Christian experience since the beginning of Jesus’ ministry; it is guaranteed. The early Church scattered due to persecution and shared the gospel as they went, but the good news of Jesus is as true today as it was then. There is hope because Jesus is risen.  

COUNTING THE COST IN CENTRAL ASIA 

An increase in targeted attacks is one of the most common forms of persecution during Easter Sunday celebrations amongst the persecuted church. During the Easter season of 2023, in Uzbekistan, a worship service was brutally invaded by local authorities. Ten men were arrested, and many other believers were left injured.   

Uzbekistan is number 25 on the World Watch List 2024. The treatment of Christians in Uzbekistan is exceptionally violent, and believers are severely restricted. They are seen as extremists by the government, which results in fines, arrests, and abuse. During Easter, churches must be more cautious. But this does not deter their faith.  

Pastors like Azamat continue to gather their community despite the risk. They count the cost.  

“Please, tell people who pray that we can feel their prayer. Sometimes, when I’m in difficulty, I think: ‘This is the end.’ But suddenly, I feel someone taking care of me. And I know that someone is praying for me.” 

“Please, tell people who pray that we can feel their prayer. Sometimes, when I’m in difficulty, I think: ‘This is the end.’ But suddenly, I feel someone taking care of me. And I know that someone is praying for me.”

Pastors Azamat, Central Asia

A HOPE FOR THE FUTURE 

This Easter, persecuted Christians will be reminded that there is hope. Through reflection on the Easter story, where Jesus suffered until death and rose again in victory, they will remember the promise of His resurrection. A promise of hope that gives them the strength to persevere and stand firm in their faith in the face of extreme suffering.   

We believe that no Christian should suffer alone. Just as Paster Azamat expressed, he could feel the prayers of supporters carrying him through. The global body of Christ can pray for and support their persecuted brothers and sisters. 

When Sara* became a Christian, her father said: “I would have preferred if you ran away with a man to get married, and not done this,” he told her. 

It’s hard for many of us to understand quite what a brutal statement this is. Being from a Muslim family in Iraq, Sara’s dad was effectively disowning her – calling her worthless. It was terribly painful for a young woman who had always enjoyed a close and loving bond with her dad to hear. She says, “I felt very scared and shocked, as my father has always been kind to me.”

Finding Jesus as a teenager

Sara grew up in a Muslim home, but faith wasn’t discussed much. She hadn’t expected such a strong response, especially since her father didn’t regularly read the Quran or go to the local mosque. Sara grew up in a neighbourhood with many Christian families – before conflict and Islamic extremist violence caused many believers to flee. And Sara has always been curious.

When Sara was 15, she decided to go to church with her Christian best friend – just to find out more. The security guard on the door wouldn’t let her in. Muslims weren’t allowed. In Iraq, anybody converting from Islam to Christianity is likely to face significant pressure – and anybody encouraging Muslims to convert is equally vulnerable. Sara’s presence in the church could have caused them danger.

But Sara’s curiosity wasn’t thwarted. Her friend gave her a Bible, and she eagerly read it. “I felt confused about what I read,” she remembers. “Many questions started building up in my head: how can God have a son? What does it mean that Jesus died for my sins?” She went to her father for answers – but he refused to discuss it. “Leave it, and don’t read it anymore,” he demanded. But she couldn’t stop.

Rejection by family

Despite these obstacles, Sara continued to explore Christianity. Her friend taught her the Lord’s Prayer, and Sara started praying and worshipping. Eventually, she decided to give her life to Jesus. It was so transformative that she wanted to share her new faith. She was excited to tell her parents about Jesus. She took a chance during a family dinner.

“God loves you, and He wants you to come to Him.” Those are the words she shared – and that’s when her dad first showed her his anger. He flipped the dinner table over. “All this time you are asking about Christianity, I thought it was just some teenage phase,” he shouted. “But apparently I did not raise you right!”

Sara was put under house arrest immediately. Her dad took her phone and locked her in her bedroom without food. “Let’s see how your God will get you out,” he taunted her. Sara wasn’t allowed out for ten days.

GOD PROTECTS SARA

Sara’s father put her under house arrest and organised for her to be married to a Muslim man against her will – but on the day of the wedding, she was miraculously rescued. After refusing to go home, she was a vulnerable single woman in Iraq’s conservative culture. God protected her, but she was anxious and worried, until she was in a restaurant and shared her story with the owner. It turned out he was also a Christian, and took Sara in as part of his family.

Throughout all her ordeals, Sara never stopped believing God would support and comfort her. He has been her true Father, when her earthly father disowned her. She even found out that her father had erased her name from the family record. Losing her family continues to be extraordinarily painful for Sara, but she still knows that choosing to follow Jesus was and is the right decision.

“Before knowing Christ, my life was empty,” she says. “I didn’t have the joy and peace that I have now in my heart. Yes, in my old life all material things were provided. But I had no real stability.

“After I found Christ, my life transformed completely. I started to know love.” Despite what she’s experienced, Sara praises God. “I am grateful for all the bad things and experiences I’ve been through. I got to know Him better, and I was transformed into His image. I have never regretted the decision I made.”

Open Doors support

Today, Sara is thriving on a discipleship course for women, run by an Open Doors funded Centre of Hope in Iraq. “My ministry is to taxi drivers,” she says. “I talk with them about God and distribute Kurdish Bibles to them.” Her prayer is that she’ll be able to change her legal status – a very difficult barrier in Iraq: “My hope and dream is that I get an identity card that says I am a Christian; that I belong to Him in my ID as well.”

Show Sara she’s valued today

Sara’s future can look more hopeful, thanks to the ongoing support of people like you. She now has a new family – at the Centre of Hope, but also Open Doors supporters around the world. There are countless other women and girls in Iraq and many other countries who need the same help.

People told Sara that she was worthless. There will always be persecutors to tell Christian women that they’re worthless. Today, will you show women like Sara that they are valued?

Xuan* lives in a remote tribal village in central Vietnam. There is a church there – not that you’d see it if you visited. “There are Christians in my area, but we worship God in secret, in our homes,” she says. “It is impossible for outsiders to visit us in the village because local authorities monitor us.” 

Xuan’s love for Christ shines out in her words and actions – and it’s her mission to tell others about Jesus. But this mission comes with a high price. She is known – and begrudgingly tolerated – as a Christian in her village, but the local authorities have forbidden her from evangelising. Not that that stops her. 

Image: Xuan secretly meeting with a pastor to study the Bible

“I did not follow their demands,” she says. “They cannot stop the gospel from being shared. However, I only evangelise in secret. Sometimes, I visit people in their houses at night. In other cases, I set up the time to meet with those who live farther. I drive my motorbike to meet them and gather them in a less suspicious place. I do this because I love them.” 

Like Xuan, most believers belong to ethnic minority groups, like the Hmong, and face social exclusion, discrimination and attacks if they convert to another faith. Their homes are sometimes destroyed, and they are forced to leave their villages. Church meetings face constant surveillance and frequent raids.

Xuan became a Christian after God healed her and her child from an illness through the prayers of a Christian man in the village called Tomo*.  

But not long afterwards, Tomo was expelled from the community. Xuan and another woman were the only Christians who remained. “We were downhearted, yes, but it did not stop us from sharing the gospel,” Xuan says. “Every day, more and more people came to know Christ. 

“But the local authorities were also quick. They knew all of those who converted; they tried to punish us. They tried to kick us out of the village, but we were unyielding. We stayed in the village no matter what.” 

Prepared to give her life for JESUS 

Image: Open Doors partners make the risky journey to meet Hmong believers

Despite the pressure against her, and the danger of her mission, many Christians in her village came to know Christ because of Xuan’s perseverance. Her courage is phenomenal. “I will not forsake my mission, my calling,” she says. “Even if the authorities catch me, I will let them do everything they can to stop me – even if they kill me. I know I am going to die for the Lord.” 

Thanks to your prayers and support, Xuan knows that she is not alone. Open Doors local partners in Vietnam help equip believers like Xuan through leadership and biblical training and financial aid.  

Xuan will never go back to how things were before she knew Jesus: “I find that my life has already changed so much after allowing Jesus to rule my life. I know that I can directly pray to the Lord and He will answer me. I know that my Lord is alive!” 

*Name changed for security reasons 

“We are thankful to those women who tried to kill her.” That’s what Ayesha’s* uncle told the authorities, after she was stabbed for being a Christian. Can you imagine your own relatives being grateful to your would-be murderer?

Ayesha is a Somali Christian, living in the Horn of Africa outside Somalia. The attack happened one Sunday when Ayesha was returning from work. “I came home, in front of my door, and a woman stabbed me in the back with a knife,” Ayesha remembers. She turned to face her assailant. “She stabbed me again, near the heart. I fell and was taken to hospital.”

Ayesha underwent life-saving operations. Later, she learned that three women had attacked her, not just one – but even more shocking was her family’s cruelty. “My uncle went to the authorities and told them, ‘She is my niece, and we are happy that she was about to be killed, because she became our enemy.’” The women were all released. Ayesha has been to court three times, but the authorities will not punish the people who tried to murder her.

Rejected by her family

Why did Ayesha’s family consider her ‘our enemy’ – to the point where they wanted her dead? It’s because she decided to follow Jesus. Like most of the small number of Somali Christians, Ayesha converted from Islam. It wasn’t a decision she made lightly. She knew it would cost her a great deal.

She quickly learned that this choice came at a price. “When I received Jesus, I also received many problems – I lost my family, my husband and my people.”

Her family are even trying to take her children away from her. “They say, ‘We are a wealthy family. We will give you a good life, we will take you to a very expensive school, we will take you to the Islamic school – the Quran is the truth, and you can be forgiven and earn paradise.’”

Ayesha is proud to say that her sons, Hussan, Hassen and Ali refuse these offers. They have also chosen to follow Jesus, and continue to do so despite this opposition and ostracism.

All this pressure and the violent attack have taken their toll on her faith. She says: “I decided 100 times to leave Jesus and not to follow Him – but I couldn’t do it,” says Ayesha. “The person who believes and receives Jesus cannot go back, no matter what.

“We see what Jesus went through, even though He is God,” she continues. “They persecuted Him; He endured all this. When you remember this, it motivates you to be strong.”

“Do not be afraid; you are stronger than any situation. You are a child of God. We are saved.”

AYESHA, SOMALIA

Ayesha
Ayesha’s three sons support her and also follow Jesus, despite opposition

Ayesha’s empathy for persecuted Christians

Ayesha’s painful experiences help her to encourage and have empathy for other believers going through similar situations. “I remind all my brothers and sisters, who are Christian converts from Islam and are persecuted, of the verse that says those who follow Jesus must carry their cross,” she says, referring to Luke 14:27. “He did not hide anything from us. He told us the truth: if you want to follow Him, take up your cross. That is the decision you make the day you choose Christ.”

She adds: “Do not be afraid; you are stronger than any situation. You are a child of God. We are saved.”

Open Doors partners are standing alongside Ayesha, and have done for years – from paying some medical bills to helping her start a small business to providing trauma care.

“I want to give thanks to Jesus,” she says. “He showed me the light, and I thank Him – and I thank you all.”

*Names changed for security reasons

Planning on sending a card this Valentine’s Day? Hoping to get one back? Valentine’s Day has become a big commercial celebration of love and relationships, but the stories surrounding the original Saint Valentine, who has the honour of having February 14th named after him, are pretty far from love-hearts, chocolates and soppy messages. 

What we know about Saint Valentine, who lived in the third century, is pretty limited, but February 14th commemorates his martyrdom. He was, apparently, beheaded. Some say he was killed because he was healing the sick in the name of Jesus. His ministry would have been controversial in a Roman world of multiple gods that hadn’t yet embraced Christianity. According to the story, he even prayed for the healing of the daughter of the guard who was keeping him in his cell – she was healed!

Others say he was arrested and killed for trying to convert the Emperor, whilst other stories say he was imprisoned for ignoring a ban on Christian marriage – instead he secretly performed weddings for Christian couples.

The stories all point to one thing. Valentine was a victim of persecution. He believed in Jesus, and it seems in living out his faith he became a target for those with different religious views. The ruling Roman theology included multiple gods and goddesses and the idea that there is just one God (and that He became a man, lived, died and came back to life) would not just be shocking or blasphemous, but dangerous too.

Religion was, and is, big business. Back then, as today, religious ideas can be used to give people power, influence, income and more. Preaching something different to the status quo is a dangerous act – especially when Jesus is the focus. His teaching is revolutionary, even today. And when taken seriously, his words and presence with us can change the world.

Like then, today many Christians and Christian leaders are facing intimidation, arrest, violence, torture and death because of their love of Jesus. They are the real, modern day Saint Valentines, living out a message of undying, true love with their lives. They really do know that love costs. So, today, remember them (as well as the person you have a crush on). Try praying for those in our church family that…

1. Are in prison, facing long or unknown sentences because of their faith. Dozens of Christians were arrested in Iran last year, many were church leaders.

2. Are facing exclusion and violence from their loved ones because of their choice to follow Jesus. Many are excluded, kicked out and threatened by family because of the shame of changing religion.

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