How do you worship when you’ve been chased from your home?

March 17, 2022 by Tim Dustin in Persecution updates

When you’re forced to leave everything you’ve ever known—family, friends and familiarity—out of obligation or fear for your life, how do you continue to find hope in Christ?

Russia’s attack on Ukraine has caused a humanitarian crisis at an unprecedented level. According to NPR, about 3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began in February. Three million people have surrendered everything, bringing nothing with them except what they can physically carry. Their future is unknown. Will they ever be able to return home, and if they can, what will they return to?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports there are currently over 26 million refugees worldwide—the highest population on record. Some 26 million people currently separated from home and any sense of normalcy. Three million Ukrainians have just been added to that number.

But for millions of Christians, the story of the Ukrainian refugees is an all too familiar one.

From citizen to refugee

All it takes is one terrible act for a Christian citizen to become internally displaced in their own country or a refugee in another country—just a split second.

Each year, Christians flee Iran to escape persecution, often by themselves, and with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. In Afghanistan, since the Taliban took over in August 2021, Christians have fled to nearby countries to protect their families. With the record-high violence in Nigeria, believers have abandoned their homes and villages due to attack from extremists or threat of imminent violence.

But what is so astounding is this: More often that not, Christians become refugees not because of their gender, the color of their skin or their societal status but rather simply because they refuse to recant their belief in Jesus Christ.

Our teams recently spoke to Kouroush*, an Iranian refugee now living in Turkey, who told us, “I had to leave everything behind—my country, my friends. I lost it all. I didn’t steal anything. I didn’t murder anyone. I didn’t do anything illegal. I only met Jesus and surrendered my heart to Him.”

What depth of faith, to be willing to sacrifice everything earthly to have a relationship with Jesus. Kouroush went on to say, “After I came to faith in Christ, I faced arrest and torture. I was forced to leave my home in Iran.”

Kouroush’s story is—sadly—just one of millions of Christians forced to flee their homes due to state or extremist persecution. And unfortunately, the conditions they run to, especially in the case of an attack. are often extremely difficult. Refugee camps are often makeshift tents with not enough food supply. Too many are overcrowded with no infrastructure to offer hygenic or basic living standards. In some cases, Christians have shared they were discriminated against and are often last to receive any food or other essentials (if they receive them at all)—because they don’t follow the local religion.

While believers who flee may be “safe” from attack or state persecution, no one chooses the refugee experience—a reality that can be harrowing, at best.

God is still on the move

Yet often the dark hours of our lives—when we’re separated from everything we know—are where God makes His most dramatic moves. In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Joseph. He was trafficked by his brothers, a slave, a prisoner in a dungeon. From an outside perspective, any future he could have had was seemingly lost. But God went on to amplify Joseph to a position just under the ruler of the land. During an unlikely reunion, Joseph would tell his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Although there is evil at work, trying to break down believers and disperse them from each other and all they know, God is still transforming lives.

Speaking to an Open Doors local partner, Jouan*, a Syrian refugee, said, “Our house was taken and destroyed. The olive lands we had were taken, too. We would have nothing to come back to.” He secretly fled to Lebanon with his family at age 11 to escape civil war. He and his family were Muslims.

“Living in Lebanon, my cousin—Pastor Nihad*—visited us. He told me how Jesus was crucified for us and how He saves us.” Jouan went on to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. “Our God is still alive. He can do miracles and change lives, even in the middle of persecution. And He can show you that He is right next to you.”

Both Scripture and modern-day stories of Christians living in the midst of persecution show us that God is able to take the tragedy of displacement and use it for His good. So many non-believers forced to leave their native lands—like Jouan did— are now hearing the good news of Jesus for the very first time, an opportunity they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Those who persecute, chasing people from their homes, may feel they’re extinguishing a flame, but God is kicking down doors like a raging fire.

Jouan* (also pictured above) accepted Jesus as his Savior while living as a refugee

Jouan* (also pictured above) accepted Jesus as his Savior while living as a refugee

The will to worship

For so many of us in the West, the thought of being completely displaced and left with nothing can be hard to wrap our heads around, yet so many Christians live that reality daily because of their commitment to Jesus. Although on the run and fleeing violence, war and persecution, they continue to seek God Almighty day in and day out.

Kouroush said, “I lost everything—my job, my family, my city and country. I was always telling Jesus in prayer, ‘I lost everything, but I have You.’ That was the only comfort I had.”

But I have you.

What words. As Christians, we can absolutely be challenged by our Christian brothers and sisters living as refugees. Christ is not just a part of their lives—He is their lives. How many of us would be quick to recant our faith just to maintain a sense of normalcy? Kouroush gave up any sense of normalcy to keep Christ.

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But their war rages on

Our refugee family needs our prayers! They are living isolated from everything they’ve known, with little to no resources, and some are by themselves. Let’s pray earnestly for our brothers and sisters.

  1. Pray they will be loved

When God’s people were strangers in the land of Egypt, they were despised and hated. Let’s pray our refugee family is welcomed with opened arms. Let’s pray they’re loved, cared for, supplied for and given value and worth. And more than anything, pray they will find believers like them to form community with.

  1. Pray they will love

Although in a foreign land, where they may face varying degrees of persecution, pray our family will have the capacity to love. Pray they will show and exemplify Christ’s love to all those they interact with. Not only that, pray they won’t lose their fire; so many are exhausted, hurt and questioning God. Pray they will feel God’s presence more now than ever before.

  1. Pray for support

Pray our global family will not turn a blind eye to our brothers and sisters living as refugees but will instead jump in and support in any way possible. Pray our family will hear the words of Jesus when He said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Let’s be inspired and challenged by our persecuted family, support them where able, and never stop praying.

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