As a supporter of the charity Open Doors, who work to alleviate the suffering of persecuted Christians world-wide, the verse on the latest magazine caught my eye:
‘For when two or three are gathered in North Korea… one could be a spy’
That of course isn’t quite the verse we know and love, which gives us comfort and hope, a sense of the Lord’s presence with us when we are together. For Christians in N Korea, meeting with other Christians is dangerous, because they may be government informants. Even Christian parents there can’t tell their children of their faith. Schools impress on children that it’s their duty to tell on parents if they find a hidden black book. Christians who are discovered are sent to brutal labour camps.
On 15th January this year, Open Doors launched their annual world watch list in Parliament, with 123 MPs attending, the most they’ve ever had. MPs learned that 260million Christians are at risk of persecution world-wide today. As there are now 2.4billion Christians world-wide, that’s 9.2% of Christians being persecuted, nearly one in every 10. Just think of that as people in your Church. Imagine one out of every 10 were suffering like that.
Of course, in countries where persecution is strongest, like N Korea, that would be everyone in the congregation. No, sorry, there is no congregation, because they cannot dare to meet together. Imagine yourself in that place.
For us, maybe it’s unimaginable. Our imaginations can’t even scratch the surface of what it must be like. And yet, they keep faith in Jesus Christ. Even though they may not be able to be sure when they meet with just two others whether they are safe, they still know the presence of Christ with them as individuals, seeing them through, giving them a peace in their situations that can only come from the Lord. That is the same presence as we experience in our own much lesser troubles, the same Lord who touches our lives.
As we can’t be the safe Christians with those who suffer, maybe we can commit to holding them in prayer.
Rev Clare Davison