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Worship in the open air this Sunday

Christians in the UK and Ireland are being challenged to leave the comfort of their chairs this Sunday (May 24) and brave the elements in a show of solidarity with the Persecuted Church ...

Christians in the UK and Ireland are being challenged to leave the comfort of their chairs this Sunday (May 24) and brave the elements in a show of solidarity with the Persecuted Church.

Release International, which supports Christians suffering for their faith around the world, is encouraging churches to observe the Great Outdoors Church Service. The aim is to stand with the many believers worldwide who are forced to hold their services in the open.

"Many Christians in Asia, Africa and elsewhere have no other option but to worship in the open air," says Release Chief Executive, Paul Robinson.

"They’ve been barred from their buildings, or refused permission to have a church of their own. And in some cases, their churches have been bulldozed by the state or burnt down by militants. For others, it is too dangerous to be seen together in a public place.

"This Sunday is a chance to stand in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe."

2015 is the fourth year of the Great Outdoors Church Service. "Churches who have taken part tell us it’s been a helpful reminder to pray for the persecuted, as well as great fun," says Paul Robinson.

Release International has a range of resources on its website for churches. These include a prayer for the persecuted and a recorded message from Shouwang Church in China. Shouwang members have been forced to meet outdoors in all weathers under the suspicious eyes of the often hostile authorities.

A Shouwang member says: "Thank you so much for continuing to pray for our church. I believe that God has strengthened us and that Shouwang Church is still in existence because of your love and prayers. Thank you for taking part in the Great Outdoors Church Service, and through this standing together with your brothers and sisters in China."

Although May 24 is the designated date for the service, Release is encouraging churches to pick any date that suits them to gather outside.

"This is a simple but powerful way to show our solidarity - and an opportunity to be a witness to our communities," says Paul Robinson.

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.

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