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Churches Hold Worship Outdoors to Stand With Persecuted Christians Worldwide

Churches Hold Worship Outdoors to Stand With Persecuted Christians Worldwide

Villagers stood at a mass grave in Dogon Na Hauwa, Nigeria, in 2010. | (Photo: Reuters/Credit Akintunde Akinleye)

Churches in the U.K. and Ireland held their services in the open air on Sunday to stand in solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world and to pray for them.

"Choosing to meet outside come rain or shine really brings home how precious our freedoms are," said Paul Robinson, the CEO of the U.K.-based Release International, which is behind the annual campaign called Great Outdoors Church Service. "Taking time out to pray for the persecuted can spur us on to use our freedom to the full."

Charity's spokesperson Andrew Boyd told Premier Christian Radio that Christians in the U.K. have "amazing freedom in this country to do whatever we like really without the risk of persecution."

"It's ever so easy to take that freedom for granted, so why don't we just take a very small risk; the really small risk is that it's probably going to rain but never mind," he said.

Not all churches participating in the campaign held outdoor services this Sunday, as the charity has encouraged them to set aside any date that would be suitable while just suggesting that it could be held May 27.

The charity said Christians around the world continue to be persecuted under Islam, militant Hinduism, authoritarian regimes and communism.

Last month, Nigeria witnessed a mass wave of slaughter of Christians at the hands of radical Muslim Fulani herdsmen. At least 58 Christians were slaughtered in April, according to a statement by the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Nigeria, which called for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign.

"We are sad. We are angry. We feel totally exposed and most vulnerable. Faced with these dark clouds of fear and anxiety, our people are daily being told by some to defend themselves. But defend themselves with what?" the statement said.

In China, authorities are demolishing churches, tearing down crosses and seizing properties used for worship.

ChinaAid said earlier this month the local governments of Wenzhou and Shaoxing had banned all religious gatherings under the guise of fire safety inspections.

Wenzhou, which is known as "China's Jerusalem" due to its large Christian community, has been especially targeted by the atheistic Communist government, which has banned Sunday School for Christian children.

In India in April, the state of Uttarakhand became the eighth state in the country to pass legislation that is officially named the "Freedom of Religion Act" but has the allegedly hidden intent to punish those who facilitate religious conversions, especially conversions from Hinduism to Christianity. The law carries a jail term of up to two years.

Christian persecution, which includes violent attacks, destruction of Christian property and false accusations, has risen in India since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won the general election in 2014. A report by an evangelical group in India described the year 2017 as "one of the most traumatic for the Christian community" in 10 years.

North Korea also continues to be the most hostile place in the world to be a Christian, and in Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Christians are being accused of blasphemy as a way of settling scores and driving out Christian minorities, Release International said.

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