Despite conflict and persecution, children around the world are determined to celebrate Christmas.
What are you doing for Christmas this year? It’s a question many of us are asking, not just in the UK and Ireland but around the world.
For children living in countries where believers are persecuted, it’s a question that reveals not only the traditions precious to them, but the strength of faith they have in the face of opposition and suffering.
In Kenya, the word associated with Christmas is ‘Together’. “After the Christmas service, we eat and drink together because there are those who do not have money to buy food to celebrate in their homes,” says Mary (13).
The sharing doesn't end there. “Christians from all churches go around sharing the gospel,” Mary continues. But opposition is never far away. Believers are pushed, insulted, even attacked with water. But Mary is undeterred. “My prayer is for the church to be so full that we don't all fit in anymore.”
The activity that perhaps gives greatest expression of joy is dance – and that’s exactly how a group of young Christians celebrate Christmas in Laos. “We celebrate Christmas by dancing,” says Deng (12), as she rehearses for a Christmas service. “To show glory to God, sing songs and worship God with the adults.”
This desire to celebrate the birth of Jesus is even more inspiring given that, in Laos, Christian activities are heavily monitored by the Communist authorities, with many believers at risk of severe persecution.
In the Iraqi city of Qaraqosh, once occupied by so-called Islamic State, Lydia and Youssif learn about the Christmas story before Advent has begun. “We start on 1 November to learn about the story of the birth of the Jesus in my Christian education class,” shares Lydia.
For Youssif, one of the familiar refrains from the Christmas story inspires a prayer that reflects the dangers that still lurk in Iraq. “The Lord said, 'Do not be afraid',” he says. “I pray to Him and say: We need you today and every day, lend a helping hand and protect us from the harms, we are begging and trust on you, to bless the coming year.”
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