Write a letter to support persecuted Christians

Write a letter to support persecuted Christians
[At Westminster we have small groups that we call ‘Vine Groups.’ Recently, the groups were invited to engage in a service or outreach project of some kind. The Monday evening group is working on a letter-writing project for persecuted Christians. What follows is the background information and guide.]

Persecution?

In Canada, most Christians are not overtly persecuted for their faith. Even though society seems to be becoming more hostile (or at least indifferent) toward Christians, we are able to express our faith openly and worship freely.

Christians in other parts of the world do not always have this same level of religious freedom.

What is persecution?

Open Doors is an anti-persecution organization. They say:

“Christians remain one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world. While Christian persecution takes many forms, it is defined as any hostility experienced as a result of identification with Christ. Christians throughout the world continue to risk imprisonment, loss of home and assets, torture, beheadings, rape and even death as a result of their faith.”

What does the Bible say about persecution?

Persecution was a reality for the early church. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10). He also noted that people who were ultimately loyal to him would face challenging repercussions. As a result, he tried to comfort his followers: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18).

The apostle Peter wrote that Christians should not be surprised when they face trials because of Christ. This was at a time when the persecution of Christians was ramping up in the fierce Roman Empire. He said:

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).

And the apostle Paul, when writing to his young protégé Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, said that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”

Praying for persecutors

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to “pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). Paul echoed this when he wrote, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14). Talk about believing in the power of prayer!

If one suffers, all suffer

Some anti-persecution organizations cite 1 Corinthians 12:26 which talks about the church being one body. Because of that, we are all connected to our fellow believers who are persecuted: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” Hebrews 13:3 also says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.” In this sense, fellowship isn’t just talking with and encouraging other Christians during coffee hour after church or singing songs together. It involves a true togetherness which includes hardship. It’s a part of the biblical mandate to love each other, including those who share our faith in Christ.

Letter Writing

In addition to prayers, letter writing can be a proactive way to help and raise awareness. Here are three kinds:

First: You can write a letter to a persecuted Christian in a specific situation to offer encouragement and hope.

One example is Eldos who was attacked at his home by radical Muslims. They attempted to force him to convert to Islam. He didn’t and is still in hospital. Another example is Esther, a woman who was raped multiple times and by members of Boko Haram. They tried to make her renounce her faith. She didn’t and became pregnant as a result of her rape.

A local woman from Oro named Anne has spent time writing letters of encouragement to persecuted Christians. Recently she said this: “I vividly remember about twelve years ago when I heard that one of the Vietnamese pastors I had written to had been released. [It was] one of the best days of my life!”

If you’re interested in writing a letter of encouragement, find out tips and precautions, and also who to write to and how here: https://www.prisoneralert.com/vompw_writing.htm. Information about specific prisoners can be found here: https://www.prisoneralert.com/. This is a website connected to a reliable source—Voice of the Martyrs Canada.

Second: You can write a letter to the media to raise awareness.

This is helpful because it raises awareness. A lot of people get their information about what is going on in the world through the media. So keeping the issue at the forefront of the minds of those who report news can help raise awareness. Tips to do this are found here: https://www.vomcanada.com/writemedia.htm

Third: You can write a letter to the government/your MP.

This is important because governments can raise concerns with other governments about the persecution of Christians and the importance of religious freedom. They could also pressure governments who may do business with Canada to free Christians because it is a concern to us as a people.

Some nations where persecution is high according to Voice of the Martyrs Canada are: Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, China, India, North Korea.

If writing a letter like this interests you, I suggest you take a look at pages 6 and 7 of this document: https://vomcanada.com/download/advocacyguide.pdf. It includes tips for writing such as being polite, ensuring your letter is clear and concise, including a statement about why this is important, and requesting a response. Plus, remember that it doesn’t cost anything to mail a letter to your MP!

If you are writing to your own MP, it’s important to write to the correct one. If you don’t know who your MP is, here is the address to find out based on your postal code: http://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/constituencies/FindMP

If you want to highlight the plight of a specific prisoner, you can consult the list here: https://www.prisoneralert.com/.

Why does it make sense to write a letter at Christmas?

Letter-writing can happen any time. But Christmas can be a great time to explore the issue further in light of the nativity story. Jews and Christians in New Testament times lived under the continual threat of the Roman Empire. Remember how Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem as a part of a census? Do you remember the evil King Herod’s murder of the innocents because he didn’t want a rival to his throne? Jews were often tolerated as a small religious sect. So were Christians. But as Christianity started to grow, Christians became increasingly persecuted. One of the reasons was because they refused to worship the Emperor—they would only worship God alone.

Does it make a difference?

Sometimes it can! Here is a testimonial by Voice of the Martyrs Canada:

 “The reach of your letter should never be underestimated. Once our mission managed to get three Vietnamese pastors released from jail after serving only a third of their sentences because thousands of Christians the world over flooded the Vietnamese government with cards and letters. In another case, letters of protest to a Middle Eastern government resulted in a death penalty being commuted for a Muslim convert to Christianity. Days later he was released from prison. These are only two of many examples that demonstrate how significant this ministry of writing letters can be!”

What do persecuted Christians think of all this?

They appreciate it! From what I’ve read, they mostly request prayers. And then they request that Christians in free countries raise awareness about their situation.

Is there hope?   

Always! In Romans 8:37-37 the apostle Paul writes:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39).

Nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, even extreme hardship!

As we approach Christmas, one of the ways we can make it more meaningful is to stand in solidarity with and write a letter to support our fellow persecuted Christians.

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