Big Tea Party to Highlight Persecution in Tea-Producing Countries

LONDON – Persecution watchdog Open Doors is to hold its first ever "Great Big Tea Party" this summer in an effort to raise awareness in the United Kingdom of the rising persecution against Christians in the world's great tea-producing nations.

The big brew will take place on Sunday, June 10, and Open Doors is appealing to thousands of people throughout the United Kingdom "to put the kettle on" for the estimated 200 million Christians worldwide that are persecuted because of their faith.

In Birmingham, a brass band will stir up some noise against persecution at a major event for the nationwide tea party expected to draw more than 300 people, while hundreds of tea parties have been planned for all over the country. Other tea parties will feature English folk dancers and choirs, as well as the traditional tea and cake.

"Through the great British tradition of drinking tea we hope to break down the 'wall of persecution' that many Christians face," said Jenny Cornfield, Open Doors' Regional Manager for the Midlands

Open Doors has produced a "party pack" for those wanting to take part in the Great Big Tea Party to help them get started. It includes personal invitations for friends and family, paper serviettes, a fairtrade tea bag, a tea trivia quiz and a Tea for Thought booklet which contains information on six countries and personal accounts from Christians in those countries of the persecution they are currently facing.

China is currently the world's leading tea producer, generating 934,857 tons of tea – equivalent to 28.7 percent of world production; while India comes in at second place, accounting for 28.5 per cent of the total world production. Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam are also major producers of the tea that goes into one of the nation's most famous traditions – the cuppa.

Yet all of these countries have a "shameful" record of discrimination and persecution of Christians, said Open Doors, and are featured prominently in Open Doors' World Watch List of the 50 worst countries for persecution against Christians.

Open Doors hopes that the Great Big Tea Party will raise awareness and much-needed funds to help support families such as Waty and Abraham "Abe" Bentar and their young daughter living in Indonesia.

Abe was arrested one year after converting to Christianity in 2005 and charged with defaming Islam and Muhammad and is now serving four years in Tasikmalaya prison, West Java, while his wife, Waty is struggling to make enough money to pay for food and medicine for her husband.

The Tea for Thought booklet also highlights the volatile situation for Christians in Turkey, which came to international attention in April when Muslim extremists slit the throats of three Protestant Christian Bible workers in a Christian publishing house in the south east province of Malatya.

"This tragic incident is the latest example of a worsening trend of persecution against Christians in Turkey, that we cannot ignore any longer," said Eddie Lyle, CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland.

"We must ask ourselves the question, 'What is it that causes young men to act with such violence and hate towards innocent people, living simply and going about their daily work?'"

He added, "The circumstances which generated such heinous crimes can not be allowed to exist, so that Christians in all countries are free from the fear of persecution and attack."

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