UK churches urged to stand with Persecuted Church
Churches in the UK and Ireland are being challenged to take their services out into the open air in May, whatever the weather, to stand with Christians who are being persecuted for their faith.
Around the world, Christians are forced to meet in the open air because their church buildings have been destroyed, or their meeting places have been closed down by governments hostile to the Christian faith.
Each year, Release International encourages Christians to take to the open air to pray for the persecuted in the Great Outdoors Church Service.
"Choosing to meet outside come rain or shine really brings home how precious our freedoms are," says Paul Robinson, the CEO of Release, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide. "Taking time out to pray for the persecuted can spur us on to use our freedom to the full."
2018 marks 50 years of support for persecuted Christians by UK-based Release International. Release was established in 1968 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who had been imprisoned for his faith and brutally tortured in communist Romania.
Today, Christians continue to be persecuted under Islam, militant Hinduism, and authoritarian regimes, and increasingly under communism.
China is demolishing churches, tearing down crosses and seizing properties used for worship. And North Korea is widely regarded as the most hostile place in the world to be a Christian.
In Islamic countries such as Pakistan, Christians are being accused of blasphemy as a way of settling scores and driving out Christian minorities.
"Standing with the persecuted is as important as ever," says Paul Robinson. "And a great way of bringing that importance home is to set aside a single service a year to identify with believers who are forced to gather in secret or outdoors every time they meet. We could so easily be standing in their position.
"Churches who’ve taken part in the Great Outdoors Church Service tell us how this open-air act of identification has given them a taste of what it’s like for believers who have neither the comfort nor security of meeting in a building. It’s also a great witness to our local communities."
Release is suggesting May 27 as the date for this year’s Great Outdoors Church Service, but churches are encouraged to set aside any date in their diaries that would be suitable.
"This is our great opportunity to be prayer warriors for the persecuted," 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.
Main photo: Shouwang Church, Beijing