Throughout the world, 2017 was a difficult, yet also hopeful, year for the persecuted church. We wept with our brothers and sisters in Egypt on Palm Sunday (over the past year, more than 130 Christians were killed in Egypt, including the Dec. 29 attack). We felt both anger and compassion as we learned that Nigerian Christian refugees were being denied food in relief camps—and then in response sent tremendous aid. We rejoiced with believers when ISIS’ reign of terror ended in Iraq and Syria and also joined in their despair as they returned to their bombed-out villages and homes.
Looking back on 2017, a few specific stories caught your attention, and for good reason. Muslims coming to Christ, a woman freed from ISIS captivity, and discrimination in refugee camps are some of these captivating narratives.
As you’ll see below, many of 2017’s most-read stories come from the Middle East. U.S. news widely covered the traumatizing reign and defeat of ISIS, and through our on-the-ground presence, Open Doors brought you compelling and often hopeful stories of the church in the Middle East that no one else was telling.
Some stories did originate in other nations, like Egypt and Nigeria, reinforcing the fact that Islam is one of the fastest-spreading religions. In nations like China, more rural areas experience some of the greatest persecution that’s seen today, and this was of great concern to you this year.
Hope Among Sorrow
Among some of the more sorrowful and heavy stories that we shared during 2017, we saw huge blossoms of hope. Numerous reports of Muslims coming to Christ despite ISIS terror showed God’s plan overcoming darkness. We saw the evil intentions of Islamic extremists be thwarted as evangelism reached new heights in parts of the world.
At Open Doors, we believe in hope. It’s part of our core DNA. We want to create awareness about the depth of persecution—connecting you to the persecuted church every day. But we also want you to see the hope and joy these persecuted members live out daily. In fact, it’s the joy and hope that we need to celebrate more—even in the midst of persecution and suffering.
As the year comes to a close, let’s take a moment to look back on how you have joined with us to pray for our brothers and sisters facing persecution, and how God moved in mighty ways to answer prayer! As you reflect on your year and look ahead to 2018, we ask you to take some time and revisit some of these stories (or learn about them for the first time) and then praise God for His work and pray with your persecuted family who lost loved ones. Pray that 2018 would be a hopeful year for the persecuted church, for those living and dying for their faith in Christ.
As Open Doors Founder Brother Andrew says, no door is closed to the power of prayer. Through prayer, we have the ability to move beyond borders and into the very presence of our enemies…
Here are 2017’s Top 10 stories:
On Palm Sunday, April 9, 49 people were killed in two ISIS attacks on churches in Egypt. Michael Nabil Ragheb, the father of a 3-year-old and deacon in Saint George Church in Tanta, was one of them. His widow, Sara, shared her story of loss and grace with one of Open Doors’ field workers.
Everyone loves a good story. As Christians, we especially love stories that tell us how, when all seems lost, God makes a way. How He uses evil for good. One such story is about the church in Iran—and it’s one of the greatest stories in the world today.
Before the war in Syria and Iraq, in the course of everyday life, stories of Muslims in the Middle East turning to Jesus seemed rare. Ironically though, as violence surged in the region, an unexpected emotion sprung up in an area that appeared overrun by anger and hate: Love. Christians in this region reported increased opportunities to show love to refugees fleeing their homes as a result of the war. This compassion resulted in area Muslims coming to Jesus in unprecedented numbers.
The church leader had just left his home, hopped into his car, turned the keys in the ignition, and pushed the accelerator as he had so many times before. Only this time, as he began the familiar journey toward the church where he served, he immediately sensed something was different.
Christians in Qaraqosh rejoiced that Rana Esso was freed after three years of captivity by ISIS. She returned home to her family Monday, August 28, after she was liberated in the suburbs of Tal Afar in northwest Iraq.
The Islamic State had been filling the headlines for a long time and filling the hearts of many people in the Middle East with fear. But in the midst of all this, the church in the Middle East showed the love of Christ to those who fled their homes. Muslims in the Middle East turned (and are continuing) to Jesus in unprecedented numbers.
The list of some of the greatest human rights offenders toward Christians stirred up righteous anger and then moved you to powerfully and fervently pray for your persecuted family in areas where hostility against Christians is particularly intense–and to pray for the persecutors bent on smashing or squeezing out Christians in the region.
The story of a Chinese shaman’s awakening to Christ’s power and love was especially compelling: When Ting woke up, she found she could move. Miraculously, her body was working again, and she felt her strength returning. … In her heart-of-hearts, Ting knew He was the power behind her restored body. He was the reason she was alive. And she was eager to place her life into His hands.
The violent terror attacks on Christians in Egypt—two bombings on Palm Sunday and the ambush of a church bus full of men, women and children in Minya—represent an unspeakable evil toward our brothers and sisters in Christ in this region. But what Satan meant for destruction, God used for His Kingdom by creating a platform for Christians to share the gospel.
When families fleeing from violent an extremist group that is located primarily in Northern Nigeria extremists finally reached relief camps, they were told, “This relief is not for Christians.” Your response to the discrimination against Christians in Nigerian relief camps gave believers provisions and hope, as Opens Doors teams in local churches launched into action and, through your support, brought critical relief.
Thank you for your continued partnership with Open Doors. Your prayers are moving mountains, and your love and commitment are equipping and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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