This article was written by Mike Gore, CEO Open Doors Australia & New Zealand.
2016 was a massive year!
Each year I try to pause and reflect on the biggest events from the last 12 months. I want to remember the moments that shook my world, and the moments when I saw God at work the most. Here are five of the biggest stand out events from 2016.
I remember sitting with a pastor in Northern Iraq in May as bombs exploded in the distance. The battle to regain ground from Islamic State (IS) raged in the distance. I heard story after story of people who had lost everything and lived with the daily stress of “ISIS coming”. To see a pastor in October return to his church, now liberated from IS and passionately ring the church bells for the first time in 2 years was incredible. It was such a powerful picture of hope, courage, and resolve that rang out over the city. Please keep praying as we continue long-term restoration plans for the local church.
Recently we spoke to Brother Simon* who works for Open Doors with North Korean believers. Simon has worked with the North Korean underground church for many years. He knows exactly how deadly working with Christians in North Korea is.
Kim Jong-Un’s government has sent hundreds of security officials along the North Korean border with China. The aim – to kidnap, and now kill, missionaries and others helping North Korean refugees.
For North Korea, the murder of Pastor Han Choong Yeol in April was a warning to everyone helping North Korean refugees and in particular Christians. Brother Simon is aware of the risks and lives everyday knowing the danger of this ministry.
Life in North Korea.
In April, North Korean secret agents martyred a Korean-Chinese pastor who lived in a town on the Chinese border with North Korea. Pastor Han Choong Yeol was active in helping North Korean refugees. He helped provide food, medicines, clothes and other goods they needed for survival back in North Korea. Pastor Han was dedicated to serving God’s Kingdom and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
Paston Han. Image: Weixin
On Saturday 30 April, Pastor Han left his home just after noon, expected back at 5pm. When he didn’t return, people went out in search of him. They found him in the early evening with multiple stab wounds. Continue reading
North Korea ranks number 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List 2016 as the hardest place to be a Christian. Though we know our God can do anything, it is nearly impossible to be a Christian in North Korea. The church is almost entirely underground and believers fear even sharing their faith with their family.
These photos give just a little insight into daily life in North Korea. Continue reading
One important part of our ministry over many recent years has been the annual Open Doors World Watch List. Since 2003, through research conducted by contacts and leaders in the field, Open Doors have ranked the top 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.
Although Open Doors and our supporters have been aware of the suffering faced by Christians for many decades, the past 12 months particularly, have seen a wave of persecution directed at Christian communities making international headlines:
- The Islamic State sweeping across Iraq and the civil war in Syria seeing scores killed and displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
- The April kidnapping of more than 250 girls from the predominately Christian village of Chibok in Nigeria.
- The imprisonment of Christian Meriam Ibrahim in Sudan.
- The brutal November murder of Christian couple Shama Bibi and Shehzad Masih in Pakistan – the list goes on and on.
The Top 10 countries where Christians face the most pressure and violence in 2015 are Continue reading
The Bible gives us more direction for our prayers than we often realise. Here are five Bible verses from the Gospels which are very encouraging to pray for our North Korean brothers and sisters, especially as they go through rough storms.
Young North Korean girls. (Indicative only)
1.‘Lord, calm the storm.’
“And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39)
Leader Kim Jong-Un has unleashed a storm of persecution and oppression on Christians and everyone else he considers as his political enemies. In recent months, over 10,000 people were either killed, incarcerated in prisons and camps or banished to closed villages, Continue reading
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide are persecuted.
Every year, Open Doors publishes the World Watch List, naming the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted. There are over 65 countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. Here are the top 10 countries where Christians face the most persecution:
- North Korea