At least 94 MPs attended the digital launch of the Open Doors World Watch List 2021 and heard the voices of the persecuted church - can you ask them to respond?
Thank you so much for praying for the parliamentary launch of the Open Doors World Watch List and for inviting your MP. Thanks to you, the voices of our persecuted family have been clearly heard by those in power, across the political spectrum. That included Fiona Bruce MP, making her first speech in her new role as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. She commended Open Doors supporters on your continued advocacy: “You have helped ensure that increased awareness on the part of so many MPs of freedom of religion or belief is a concern.”
This year, for the first time, the launch happened digitally – making it easier than ever for MPs to attend, and also meaning that Open Doors supporters could watch the event live. So far, at least 97 MPs have let us know that they attended digitally, and we are learning of others who also watched. This year, they can also watch after the event, so it’s not too late to share the video with your MP. At the event, MPs and parliamentarians heard first-hand from Father Daniel (Iraq) and Amina* (Nigeria), sharing their experiences of religious persecution. The event was co-hosted by Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers MP and Henrietta Blyth (CEO of Open Doors UK & Ireland).
At the event, Henrietta Blyth highlighted the impact of the pandemic on individual believers and communities of Christians who already suffer for their faith.
“Covid-19 has given new weapons to people who want to suppress and eradicate Christianity,” she said. “In Africa and Asia, Christians are being denied food aid. In Nigeria and across sub-Saharan Africa, Islamic militants are exploiting Covid-19 restrictions to intensify their attacks.
“In China and North Korea, increased surveillance and control has been legitimised by lockdowns. And thousands of vulnerable Christian women are being locked down with the very people who abuse them for both their faith and their gender.”
“One of the most devastating findings is that the number of Christians killed for their faith is up 60% compared to last year’s reporting period,” commented Theresa Villiers. “It is especially worrying that reports of forcible conversion and forced marriage have increased, highlighting the gendered nature of many of the attacks reported.”
In a video, Amina shared her shocking experiences at the hands of Boko Haram, who attacked her village in northern Nigeria.
“They entered my house. They tied my husband and three of my children,” she remembers. “They asked them to denounce Christ – and they refused. My husband died and two of my kids were taken to the hospital.”
Appallingly, this wasn’t the end of Amina’s trauma. She also shared how, a few years after Boko Haram killed her husband, she and 10 other women were kidnapped by Boko Haram and held for eight months. “Having trauma, hunger, fear, so many things. […] If we are not going to become a Muslim, they are going to make us a slave of theirs. And this happened because we were all Christians.”
But Amina and the other women stayed firm in their faith: “But we say, to die is gain for us. We cannot denounce Christ.” As Amina added, violence and attacks are getting worse and worse.
Amina’s story of suffering is very powerful, and an indication of the persecution faced by millions of believers around the world. But the launch event also highlighted the important role that local faith leaders can play in combatting persecution – and encouraged MPs to use their power to lobby for this.
Father Daniel shared his experiences in Iraq, when so-called Islamic State invaded the Nineveh Plain community where he was a priest: “More than 120,000 people were forcibly displaced by ISIS. My church became a shelter for more than 1,600 people, including 365 children. That’s why we decided to open the Hope Centres in Erbil, and in all these cities where the Christians were displaced. These centres played a very big role in restoring their faith, and restoring their hope that they can still play their role as children of God in this country.”
Years later, Centres of Hope continue to encourage and provide for persecuted Christians across the Middle East, and programmes of reconstruction were able to rebuild more than half of the houses and churches that so-called Islamic State had destroyed. Covid-19 has meant that rebuilding has had to pause, but many Open Doors partners like Father Daniel were ready to swiftly begin distributing vital food and aid. Local faith leaders are best placed to act within the context of their communities’ needs and histories.
Father Daniel made clear how important Open Doors supporters are to him and his community: “Maybe we will forget about the people who persecuted us, but we will not forget about the people who stood with us.”
You can find a list of MPs who attended, below. Please do get in touch to thank your MP for attending, or send the advocacy report to your MP if they weren’t able to come. You can also share the video of the event with your MP, if they’re not listed below.
Or jump directly to prayer points for those in power, and the impact of the World Watch List report.
Dr Lisa Cameron
Sir David Evennett
Sir Oliver Heald
Please get in touch with your MP to thank them for coming or, if they weren't able to attend, to send them a copy of the World Watch List 2021 advocacy report
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