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Truly heartbreaking: plights of the persecuted church

God has broken my heart for the persecuted church, says Open Doors youth advocate Emily Jolie

The biblical narrative is no stranger to persecution. In fact, the apostle Paul, one of the major contributors to the New Testament, was arrested and put in prison because he was a Christian. And, before his own conversion, he inflicted such pain and suffering on others, as someone who was, in his own words, “so obsessed with persecuting” followers of Jesus.

In the time of Paul’s ministry, there was disharmony and opposition coming from all sides. So, Paul’s primary reason for visiting the churches he founded and writing to believers was to remind them of what Jesus said, of who they were made to be, and to urge them to love and look out for each other. His exhortations are very applicable to Christians today.

Break my heart for what breaks yours” is a well-known line from the worship song Hosanna. We sing it all the time, but how many of us actually invite God into our heart with intent to break it for the hurting people who He cares so passionately about? 

Over the years I’d heard of various organisations working with the persecuted church and had an awareness of the injustice our brothers and sisters in Christ face. I’d wear the wristbands and read the news. However, I hadn’t really honoured them in my prayers or engaged in any kind of advocacy. I didn’t let the reality of the situation into my heart.

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Until, that is, last year, when a speaker for Open Doors gave a presentation at a discipleship year hub’ organised in partnership with New Wine. God truly broke my heart for the persecuted church and convicted me of the freedoms we have in the UK and the lack thereof for many Christians around the world. 

There wasn’t any one specific story that did this; perhaps it was more the overwhelming reality that it’s impossible to choose just one story of the persecuted church. Not simply because every persecuted Christian experiences something different – violence, anger, exclusion, rape – but because there are far too many for one to stand out.

Millions of Christians are persecuted because they’ve heeded God’s call for redemption in Christ Jesus. Knowing that there are approximately 80 million people in the UK and almost three times this number of Christians (245 million) are being persecuted around the world (according to Open Doors 2019 World Watch List), made me realise this is not a small issue we can push to the back of our mind and simply carry on with our days. 

We cannot be a people of God in the UK who just go to church on a Sunday, in our Sunday best, read the word and act lovely, but not let the reality of the persecuted church change us. I, personally, couldn’t live unchanged by the reality of persecution any longer. 

If we are truly to be people of Christ, truly members of the body of Christ, then it’s not enough to push the pain of our family to the back of our mind. Open Doors does incredible work reaching the lives of millions of persecuted Christians, supporting and upholding them. And I feel truly blessed to be a part of this work.

One of the simplest ways to stand with us as we fight for the persecuted church is through prayer or intercession. Prayer is the greatest weapon we have been given, so, if nothing else, please be encouraged to pray for the persecuted. Pray for freedom, for hope and for mercy. 

The subject of the photo is Yousif Basim Kassab from Qaraqosh, Iraq. In 2014, his family fled the ISIS invasion with no belongings to a refugee camp. They recently returned to Qaraqosh only to see that they had lost everything. Through local partners, Open Doors helped them repair their home.

In the May-June 2019 edition of idea magazine, Olivia Watkinson from Christian Solidarity Worldwide writes of the paradoxical existence many persecuted Christians face, as the same faith in Jesus that can cost them their life is what enables them to persevere.

About the author

Emily Jolie has been serving as a youth advocate with Open Doors since May 2018. She’s currently living and working in London.

See more from Emily Jolie

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