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Secret Children

Secret Children



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30 million, maybe more...

Who knows how many there are? We estimate 30 million, maybe more. And they come from all over the world: North Korea, Algeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, Colombia...

Their parents face terrible choices: between staying faithful to Jesus or protecting their children; between raising their children as Christians or keeping them physically safe.

With your support Open Doors can put a child through school, or help them learn a trade. You will be supporting them while their parents are in prison, or paying for their medical care. You will be housing them in a safe house to protect them from harm. You will be providing trauma counselling for children living with 'horror movies' inside their heads.

They need YOUR help. Not for one hour. Not for one day. But for the long-term.

The Story of...
the Wandering Swallow

Jong-Cheol was just 11 when, somehow, he escaped from North Korea into China. Who knows how long he had been wandering for? He was nothing more than a kotjebi - a North Korean word for 'wandering swallow' - derogatory slang for street children, considered parasites on society.

There are many flocks of these 'wandering swallows' in North Korea, thousands upon thousands of children whose families have been destroyed by famine, illness, arrest or even execution.

Children who lose their parents are sent to orphanages or children's detention facilities, or, they flit about the streets, flocking together in gangs. One set of clothes, no shoes on their feet (they sold those), they survive by begging, stealing. So everybody dislikes them. The police hunt them down, send them off to state orphanages, but some would rather fly to their deaths: "I saw children jumping from windows, because they couldn't take it anymore," one child said.

Jong-Cheol was one of these - a kotjebi, a wandering swallow who, somehow, had flown to safety in China.

How he did it no one knows, but he came to the attention of Open Doors who gave him food and shelter and housed him with a Christian family. There he became a Christian.

One day, he was with other North Korean children, near a hotel frequented by South Korean businessmen. Jong-Cheol and the other swallows were caught, taken back to North Korea, where they were interrogated and beaten. After a while most of them were released back onto the streets and one of them even escaped again, across the border.

An Open Doors worker found him and asked him what happened. "When the guards asked if we had become Christians in China, Jong-Cheol didn't deny it," the boy said.

"So what happened to him?" the man asked.

"Jong-Cheol didn't survive. He laid down his life for Jesus."

Lord, protect the 'wandering swallows' of North Korea. Help Open Doors as it provides food and refuge for children running away from persecution.

The Story of...
the Dangerous Book

The letter in the mailbox contained a simple, chilling message: Yusuf and his family were 'Christian dogs'. They must leave Baghdad within 24 hours, or their house would be blown up.

It was no idle threat. Most Christian families in Baghdad had already fled north, or if they had the means, left Iraq for good. Stay and the consequences were terrible: teenagers kidnapped, fathers murdered, women and children abused. So Yusuf started to pack.

His daughter Leah insisted on packing her children's Bible. He tried to dissuade her. "You know that the road we're going to take is very dangerous, with lots of checkpoints. If terrorists stop us and check our luggage, this Bible might cause us great difficulties." Confiscation at the least. They might even murder them all. But it was Leah's most treasured possession. So in the end he agreed, on condition that Leah kept praying.

The journey was long and tiring. There were several armed checkpoints. But, thankfully, no terrorists. Together with Leah's Bible, they made it safely to a village in northern Iraq, where some relatives had settled.

A happy ending then? In some ways. With the help of Open Doors, Leah and her family are slowly rebuilding their lives. Her father was given a loan to start a shop, and business has been so good that he has already paid it back. But for Leah the wound is still raw. She has had to leave the only home she has ever known. She has lost many of the things that children rely on: her friends, her bedroom and also her old school. In her new school Leah must speak Kurdish - not the Arabic she is used to. But at least she is not alone. Many of her classmates have similar stories to tell. They all carry the emotional scars of living through threats, kidnappings, deadly violence and abuse.

With Open Doors' support, a counselling team is helping her to deal with the trauma: she attends special children's sessions to talk about and process all that she has seen and heard.

Her future remains uncertain. Will she stay in her homeland? Or will she, like so many other Christians, leave Iraq? Right now - with a new home, new town, new school - the firm ground under her feet has been swept away.

She has, however, one solid rock: her treasured children's Bible.

Lord, shelter all the children who have been left homeless because they are Christians. Grant loving insight to trauma counsellors who offer them new hope.

The Story of...
the Little Street-Girl

Her name is Rika. She's a young girl, roaming the streets of a city in Pakistan, her baby brother, Johnny, nestling on her hips. She begs. Or sells Barbie colouring books. In winter the cold cuts through her clothes; in summer she swelters in the heat.

Rika is on the streets because she was born into a Christian family, and as Christians are the lowest of the low in Pakistan, that means she was born into poverty, too.

This puts her at risk of violence and sexual abuse from wealthy Muslims who run lucrative businesses in drugs, alcohol production and prostitution. Her brother is also at risk of being forced into drug pushing and other illegal operations.

In this dangerous, abusive world, nothing is safe and few things are innocent. Even Barbie books can get you into trouble. She has already been hit once by an angry mullah, who was a Muslim extremist and considered dolls to be graven images. To him Barbies are 'un-Islamic' and haram (forbidden), exposing children to fashion and colour that will damage their sense of 'self-awareness.'

For Rika and her brothers, what self-awareness do they have? Aware that she is outcast. Despised. Hopeless, perhaps.

No chance of a Barbie lifestyle for Rika. Just more begging, more walking. Watching out for the local mullahs, keeping away from the men who frown at anything Christian. And carry on, trying to sell her colouring books, with their unimaginable, unattainable images of a fairytale princess.

Lord, guard all the children who are vulnerable to being hurt because they are Christians. Sustain the families given literacy training and new opportunities for work through Open Do