What would you do if your faith was forbidden? In our latest blog post, our Youth Minister, Jonathan. shares about persecuted Christians and how we can be praying for them.
Last Saturday we went to a big youth service in our local city of Exeter, joining 300 young people from all over Devon, England, to worship and praise God together. The theme for the night was 'Brave Faith' and we listened to stories about Christians around the world who stand up for their faith despite severe persecution and massive restrictions on their lives. This was one of the stories:
“Mojtaba was 20 when he was arrested for the first time because of planting secret underground churches in Iran. After 20 days in solitary confinement, he was eventually released with a warning to not affiliate himself with the Christian faith. However, as soon as he was home he started to meet secretly with other believers again, planting new churches.
Several months later during an evening meeting with 25 other Christians, the doorbell rang and the Intelligence Service raided their home again, arresting Mojtaba as well as destroying everything in the small house church. This time, Mojtaba spent 3 years in prison, being blindfolded, beaten and tortured on a regular basis. Yet, he never gave up on his trust in Jesus and instead longed to share his faith with his fellow inmates.
Not having access to a Bible, he asked the local imam who would come into the prison on a regular basis to smuggle in Bibles. Initially, the imam simply laughed into his face, but miraculously started to hand English Bible passages to Mojtaba over the coming months, which he would translate and distribute amongst his fellow inmates. Through these smuggled snippets of Scripture, more and more prisoners encountered Jesus and gave their lives to him. Mojtaba had set up yet another secret church in the midst of a prison.”
Listening to Mojtaba’s story made me wonder about how I would have reacted in his situation. Would I have carried on sharing my faith and planting churches after being released from prison? Would I have stuck with my faith through all the ups and downs? Would I have been brave enough to ask the imam for a Bible?
Reflecting on his experience in prison he said later: “I never prayed for God to release me from prison. It doesn’t matter what situation I’m in, I can work in God’s kingdom wherever God places me. It doesn’t matter if it is in prison or out of prison. Because persecution will take the gospel to the places where nothing else can do it.”
Over the years, OpenDoors, a Christian Charity working with Persecuted Christians worldwide, has come up with a way of praying for them by using the 'Four P's,' asking God:
· To embolden People who are affected by the persecution
· To be with Pastors who decide to stay in those countries to serve local churches
· To move Politicians who have the power to protect Christian minorities
· To meet with the Persecutors, so they might get to know God personally
I wonder whether you would join me this week to pray for our sisters and brothers in countries like Afghanistan, North Korea or Somalia? We can pray for people like Mojtaba that they may be filled with God’s peace this week, know His presence and can bravely share the Good News with people in their communities.
And if you would like to listen to Mojtaba’s story in full, have a look here:
Jonathan (Youth Minister)