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22 April 2013

Open air church services to remember the persecuted

Open air church services to remember the persecuted

Christians are being encouraged to hold open air services to stand in solidarity with persecuted believers.

Alliance member Release International, which services persecuted Christians worldwide, has set 19 and 26 May as the dates for this year's Great Outdoors Church Service.

The aim is to remember those persecuted believers whose churches have been destroyed or who have been banned from meeting in their own buildings.

Through its international network of missions Release International serves persecuted Christians in more than 30 countries around the world, by: supporting pastors and Christian prisoners, and their families; supplying Christian literature and Bibles; and working for justice.

Paul Robinson, chief executive of Release International, said: "This is a great opportunity to stand with courageous Christians who remain true to their beliefs despite opposition.

"The Great Outdoors Church Service is our chance to join with our brothers and sisters in their very public witness."

In China, worshippers at Shouwang Church – one of the largest house churches in Beijing – are banned from entering their building. They are routinely arrested as they meet outdoors. Shouwang Church has now held more than 100 services in the open air after being refused official recognition by the authorities.

In Nigeria, Christians meet in the ruins of churches burnt to the ground by extremists, and in Central Asia Christians have to gather in the deserted countryside to avoid surveillance.

"We have amazing freedom of worship here in the UK," says Paul Robinson.

"Our brothers and sisters under fire for their faith are cheering us on to use our freedom to the full. The Great Outdoors Church Service is a fantastic opportunity to come out of our church buildings and into the open air and stand together in public witness.

"As well as praying for persecuted brothers and sisters, it is also a rare opportunity to taste just a little of what it's like for those who don't enjoy the comforts we do, yet are determined to be true to their beliefs."

To find out how your church can get involved, please visit the Release International website.