(By Open Doors USA) Have you ever wondered why the immeasurable things in life are the very things that mean the most to you? The special moments that fill the years. The friend showing up and listening during the hard times. The love shared between two souls. These are all things that we cannot measure with inches, miles or seconds. These are gifts from God that reach into our souls.
One of the core values of Open Doors is simply “being there”. For those living in a country listed on our World Watch List, the knowledge that a brother or sister in Christ is standing with you in prayer through your persecution, is invaluable. One cannot buy this or make it happen- That is God’s power through us!
When someone in chains for their faith learns that we are united with them in prayer and spirit, they often tell us that this ‘immeasurable’ gift gives them to strength to keep going, and encourages them to keep pressing on. This bond between believers is one that can only be confirmed by the Spirit, and is one that Jesus encouraged: “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11
Just as our obedience is evidence of our authentic faith in Jesus, there are numerous outward happenings that can show how our brothers and sisters around the world have been strengthened, and are continuing to be strengthened, through Open Doors’ ministry to them. It is our joy to share with you some ways that God is working among the persecuted believers we are working with!
Mark*, a recent traveler to the Central African Republic, shares with us his eyewitness perspective of the persecution happening there, as well as the extreme situations the CAR church is facing daily.
What did you do in the Central African Republic?
I was in the capital Bangui to see how we can support the church there amid the spiraling crisis, and to make a plan for emergency aid. We are now helping 150 pastors there through financial support. They have often lost their source of income, because they can no longer hold church services, and their church members have had to flee. We are also helping with the support of refugees. People are afraid to sleep in their homes at night, and are often staying on the church premises.
What made the greatest impression on you in the Central African Republic?
The utter unpredictability of the violence. One day, you think that everything is all right, and the next day, your spouse is murdered. Utterly atrocious acts are being committed on the basis of rumors, and innocent people are being killed. The brutality of the violence also struck me. People are not simply being killed. Sometimes the stories point towards ritual slaughter. The meetings with the victims also made a huge impression on me. I spoke to a number of widows. They showed me a photo of a pastor and his son lying in a coffin. The woman was grief-stricken.
What can you do for such women at times like this?
We can be there and listen to them. This is the core of the work of Open Doors: standing next to persecuted Christians. I am not the ‘outsider’ who drives around there setting up projects. I went there for the people and built up relationships. We are not there for a quick fix. We are trying to strengthen the CAR church in the long term. For example, we support these women in earning a living through the granting of microloans to help them start businesses. Also, through trauma care and support in reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.
Can what is happening in CAR happen in other African countries too?
Last year, from nowhere Mali appeared on the World Watch List. This year it was the Central African Republic. It’s not unthinkable that such a scenario will be played out in other countries. In Guinea, there are tensions in certain regions. Cameroon is a stable country, but the president is eighty-one. What will happen when he needs to be replaced? It is particularly tense in places where Islam and Christianity meet one another, such as in Nigeria. But we did not predict Central African Republic’s violence. We are now trying to build up networks in other countries to prepare Christians for the persecution that may arise.
To learn more about what Open Doors is about and up to, check out our 2014 Quick Facts. Please keep these believers and situations in prayer with us, and stay up to date on what is happening in the CAR here.
*Names, photographs and other information have been changed for security purposes