A Christmas Of Opposition
As we approach the Christmas season and a time of celebrating Christ’s birth, believers around the world face persecution and violence as they celebrate His coming.
Christians in North Korea, Iraq and Indonesia all face intense opposition during this time of year. Yet they continue to celebrate and follow Jesus, no matter the cost.
Christians living in North Korea face incredible hardships. Faith is outlawed and many believers are unable to share their faith with their own family. Anyone discovered to be Christian can be deported to a labour camp or killed on the spot. Christians in North Korea can only celebrate in secret.
Christians in labour camps cannot celebrate or even acknowledge Christmas. However, for secret North Korean Christians, a radio broadcast prepared by partners of Open Doors will allow them to hear the story of Jesus' birth from Luke 1 and 2.
Each Christian in Iraq has a different experience of celebrating Christmas. Some Christians publicly acknowledge Christmas, while others fear retribution and celebrate only behind closed doors.
Christians traditionally celebrated Christmas with big bonfires, family feasts, presents and decorations. Families gathered for midnight mass, before sitting around a Christmas tree to open presents.
In recent years, celebrating Christmas has carried increased risks. Some families continue the traditional celebrations, but Christians in hostile areas keep their faith private.
While there is a public holiday on 25 December, the government in Iraq has contributed to the persecution of Christians around Christmas time.
Muslims are encouraged to boycott Christian-owned shops and festivals, avoid using Christmas decorations and to refrain from wishing anyone well at Christmas. The government has even placed signs on church buildings with the slogan, “The Virgin Mary wore a Hijab, why don’t you?”.
Last year, Christians in Indonesia faced numerous challenges during the Christmas season. Communities demanded church closures, local councils banned public Christmas celebrations and Christian burial sites were defaced.
Villages with predominately Muslim populations are particularly hostile. Some communities hang banners with phrases that protest Christian gatherings.
In South Jakarta, a banner was displayed stating, “No church is allowed in our village whose majority are Muslims!!!”. Christians in these areas are particularly vulnerable to persecution from their communities.
Hope At Christmas
Christmas looks different all over the world. Yet we are one body, one Church and we follow one God.
You can help the persecuted church continue to follow Jesus, no matter the cost, by giving Gifts Of Hope this Christmas.
These gifts give hope, relief and courage to persecuted Christians as they faithfully follow Christ in some of the most dangerous places to do so.