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Churches urged to worship outdoors

Churches in the UK and Ireland are being invited to stand with persecuted Christians around the world who are barred from meeting indoors, by holding an open air church service in May.

Churches in the UK and Ireland are being invited to stand with persecuted Christians around the world who are barred from meeting indoors, by holding an open air church service in May.

Christians in China, Indonesia, Central Asia and elsewhere are forced to worship outside in all seasons because the authorities have closed down their church buildings. Release International is launching the Great Outdoors Church Service to encourage Christians to hold their services outside in an act of solidarity.

“Would you be willing to worship in the open air in all weathers if the authorities closed down your church?” asks Release CEO Andy Dipper. “And would you be prepared to risk arrest – every single week – just for gathering to praise God together?”

Members of Shouwang Church, one of Beijing’s largest house churches, are barred from entering their building. And churchgoers are routinely arrested as they hold services outside. The authorities have refused to register the church despite its leaders going out of their way to seek official recognition from the state.

A church spokesman said: “Even though we’ve been through months of battles and are feeling tired in body and soul, our desire to worship God is unchanged.”

In Indonesia, the Filadelfia Batak church near Jakarta was closed down after mass protests by Islamist hardliners and was forced to worship outdoors. And the Yasmin Protestant church of West Java has also had to worship in the open air after the mayor opposed construction plans.

In Central Asia, Christians are forced to travel into deserted areas to meet secretly outside away from the hostile gaze of the authorities. The picture is the same in many places, including Nigeria, where militants have burnt churches down.

To show their support for these persecuted Christians, churches are being asked to take part in the Great Outdoors Church Service on 20 or 27 May.

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