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.
“I write to you the day following the horrific attacks in Lahore. I am still reeling. My friends and family are reeling. My pastor friends came home exhausted and worn from funerals they had taken all day, families they had prayed with, people they had comforted. All of my day was spent hugging those who were aching from the loss of someone precious to them. My country is aching. Your country is probably aching. We can identify with pain and we have just come out of Holy Week and are reminded that He identifies with our pain.” – An Open Doors partner in Pakistan.
Open Doors, working through local partners in Pakistan, is responding to the explosion on Easter Sunday. We spoke to a partner in Lahore, “Since last night, we have been putting together teams of people to go to hospitals and visit with the victims of the attacks.” Continue reading
Women’s training event in Laos.
What if we said that women’s ministry is not just for women? It’s also for men.
Though this blog is about women, and highlighting women’s ministry, it still concerns men – especially men that have any women in their life, whether that be a mother, sister, wife, daughter, aunt or friend.
Women’s ministry is not about excluding men, but making sure we are including women.
As we mark International Women’s Day, 8 March 2016, we want to highlight some of the issues Christian women are facing around the world because of their faith in Jesus. Continue reading
UPDATE: 14 October 2016
On 13 October 2016, Asia Bibi’s appeal against a death sentence for Blasphemy was scheduled to go before the Supreme Court in Pakistan, but has been delayed.
Asia was accused of blasphemy after an argument with two Muslim women in 2009 and has been in prison since. The blasphemy law in Pakistan carries only one penalty. Judges have no choice but a death sentence if a person is found guilty. The blasphemy law has long been used against minorities in the country, with false accusations often made against Christians.
Her case has been delayed with no date scheduled and a judge has excused himself from the case. This means she will remain in prison, awaiting a new trial date.
Keep praying for Asia and her family. While the process of appeals and situation in prison has not been good for Asia, a positive verdict could be a turning point for Christians in Pakistan. If Asia is found not guilty or it’s found that the investigation was flawed, it is likely that changes to the law will be proposed. Asia’s case has also brought a lot of attention to the law and made many in Pakistan call for changes.
Six years on from her initial arrest, Asia (Aasiya) Bibi is still waiting in prison for her final appeal before the highest court of appeal.
Asia was sentenced to death under Pakistan’s infamous blasphemy laws. That sentence was confirmed by several courts. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court allowed her a leave to appeal. In effect, this meant her death sentence was temporarily delayed until the Supreme Court rules on her case.
This may take six to eight years to happen.
Asia Bibi with two of her daughters (2010)
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
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