I’m no stranger to walking into church.

But less than one year ago, I walked into a very different church. A murderer sat behind me and gangsters guarded the doorway, while other criminals were littered throughout the congregation.

The church was in Central Asia. I can’t even be more specific than that – that’s how dangerous it is to follow Jesus in this place.

Persecution Uzbekistan

Women in Uzbekistan, one of the many nations around the world where persecution of Christians occurs. PICTURE: Open Doors Australia

 

"You see, we don’t want to stop persecution against Christians. We know that every time a believer is threatened, harassed or attacked, it is because of the boldness of their faith. A boldness I am challenged and encouraged by each day. To end persecution would be to end the sharing of the Gospel."

According to a new report commissioned by UK Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, Christians make up 80 per cent of persecuted religious believers around the world. And persecution against Christians is growing, both in likelihood and severity.

Sadly, I know this all too well.

Right now, around 245 million Christians experience a high to extreme level of persecution. That’s one in every nine Christians who is facing discrimination, threats, violence or even death because of their faith in Jesus.

Yet in the persecuted church, I’ve encountered the boldest faith I have ever seen; a faith that longs not for the end of persecution, but for the strength to persevere through it.

For me, that’s what’s missing from this report. I don’t dispute the numbers and incidents, in fact I’m grateful that this issue is receiving more attention than ever, but if people remember one thing about their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world, I want it to be their faces, their stories.

Like Verl, the father who lost his son in the recent Sri Lanka bombings and yet rejoiced knowing that, “My son was mine for 13 years, but he is His forever.”

Like Maryam and Marziyeh, young women from Iran, who ended up in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and still refused to renounce their faith in exchange for their freedom.

You see, we don’t want to stop persecution against Christians. We know that every time a believer is threatened, harassed or attacked, it is because of the boldness of their faith. A boldness I am challenged and encouraged by each day.

To end persecution would be to end the sharing of the Gospel.

And that’s the last thing I would want. I am forever thankful to be part of a ministry like Open Doors that doesn’t seek to end persecution but to stand alongside believers who suffer for their faith and strengthen them to weather the storm.

I long to see believers who have true freedom of religion around the world. I long to see a church growing in number and passion, unhindered by national governments. I long to see lasting and concrete policy changes that will ensure a bold declaration of faith is not met with a jail cell or a death sentence.

But in the meantime, I see a church that is unafraid of sharing Jesus, despite having none of this freedom. I see a church that takes up its cross daily and carries it faithfully.

I see a church in unwavering pursuit of Jesus, that so deeply desires to tell others about Him, no matter the cost.

In the persecuted church, I see a church that has lost everything and yet overflows with thankfulness.

So, I am thankful for this report. I am thankful for the way that it has brought an issue so close to my heart into parliament and the news cycle. I am thankful for the way it will raise the profile of the persecuted church more than ever. I am thankful that it will spur meaningful discussion, and even policy change.

But mostly, I am thankful for the people behind the numbers and incidents, and the person in whose name my brothers and sisters suffer and by doing so declare that He is worth it. The person of Jesus.

Jocelyn Goto

 

 

Jocelyn Goto is Open Doors Australia's live podcast host and executive assistant to CEO Mike Gore.