93 MPs attended the digital launch of the Open Doors World Watch List 2022 and heard the voices of the persecuted church – can you ask them to respond?
Thank you so much for your prayers for the parliamentary launch of this year’s Open Doors World Watch List – and for the thousands of you who invited your MP. Thanks to you, those in power across the political spectrum heard research and recommendations about Christian persecution – and, most importantly, the testimonies of persecuted believers.
At the event, hosted by the Rt Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, MPs and parliamentarians heard from persecuted believers from China and Africa, as well as an update by a local expert on Afghanistan. Villiers also shared some of the recommendations from the Open Doors advocacy report, encouraging her parliamentarian colleagues to use these to raise questions and take action.
Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, shared key trends from the World Watch List, and that Afghanistan was now number one - despite persecution having got worse in North Korea, previously number one since 2002. "The Taliban are actively hunting Christians to eliminate them," she said. "If Christian men are discovered, they are almost always killed. If Christian women and girls are found, they are given to Taliban fighters as the spoils of war."
"If Christians in Afghanistan are found out, they are considered enemies of the state." Hana, Open Doors partner
“If Christians in Afghanistan are found out to be believers then immediately, they are considered traitors, enemies of the state and their community. The punishment for that is death,” added Hana*, an Open Doors partner in the region. “The reason that there are believers that stay is not because of the intervention of any human being. It’s the sole work of God.
“No amount of human effort can work against the powers and principalities working there. There will still be persecution, but God will continue growing His church.”
Peony*, an Open Doors fieldworker from China, also spoke about the situation she sees: “In recent years, the Chinese government are imposing more and more measures to control the church activities online.
"Over the past decades, the church in China had gone through very serious persecution. But the church still survives and the church continues to be vibrant and to actively share the gospel."
Another persecution trend that MPs heard about was growing violence in sub-Saharan Africa – as jihadists in multiple continents are further emboldened by the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Christians are experiencing concerted waves of violent persecution, which threaten the presence of the church and undermine the peaceful co-existence they used to enjoy,” shared Illia Djadi, an Open Doors International expert on freedom of religion or belief in Africa. He also spoke about his own brother who lost his house, office and church building in a violent attack in Niger.
"I was horrified - but sadly not surprised - to see that persecution is at its highest levels since the World Watch List began." Fiona Bruce MP
“There is no single part of the continent which is spared by this Islamist insurgency, and the phenomenon is expanding and gaining territories,” he added. “The patterns we are seeing of persecution and violence are strategic and should be of great concern."
Finally, Fiona Bruce MP, the PM's Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief, shared, "I was horrified - but sadly not surprised - to see that persecution is at its highest levels since the World Watch List began, with 360 million Christians facing persecution. Around the world, a Christian is killed every two hours, simply for their faith." Bruce renewed her commitment to work with Open Doors, and other organisations tackling persecution of religious minorities wherever it is found. "We need to make sure that everyone, everywhere can follow their chosen religion or belief."
"Freedom of religion or belief is like the canary in the coalmine," said Henrietta Blyth. "When this freedom is missing, so many other freedoms are also missing. It has never been more vital to use the UK's influence in foreign policy and in trade agreements."
"Please do all you can to allow us to have the freedom to believe." Illia Djadi, Open Doors International, West Africa
Illia gave a call to those who attended, and the UK Government more widely: “I ask you as the UK Government listening today to use the influence you have to take action. We urgently need you to engage with our governments in West Africa to strengthen, support, and assist.
“Please do all that you can to allow us to have the freedom to believe.”
You can help echo Illia’s call by contacting your MP today.
*Names changed for security reasons
You can find a list of MPs who attended, below. (We are updating this list as we get confirmation of attendance, so the number may rise.) 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.
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 2022 advocacy report.
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