When advocacy doesn’t work

May 20, 2022 by Isaac Six in Advocacy

Over the past few years, advocacy efforts by Open Doors USA have led to some amazing stories.


From a young Iraqi Christian telling the Vice President about ISIS attacks on his community to a survivor of Boko Haram in the Oval Office calling on the President to help people of faith in Nigeria, Open Doors has helped relay the cries of the persecuted to the highest levels of government and media.

We’ve also seen prisoners set free in countries we can’t talk about openly and government persecutors called out for trying to crush religious freedom.

Whenever God comes through like this, we love to rejoice and to pass on the news to our supporters. Yet there is another side to advocacy that isn’t often talked about, and that’s when advocacy doesn’t work.

Let me give an example. A few years ago, a group of nine “defectors” who had escaped North Korea with the help of missionaries found themselves trapped in Vietnam. They had hoped to reach safety in South Korea, not least because many of them, including children, had given their lives to Jesus during the long trek through the “underground railroad” that North Korean refugees must often travel.

Their case became public after Vietnamese authorities arrested them and began the process of deporting them back to North Korea via China. Many advocates spoke out, including large secular groups like Human Rights Watch, asking South Korea to intervene and accept the refugees. Our pleas were ignored, and China sent the refugees back. Although we couldn’t trace what happened to each refugee, we know some ended up in North Korea’s notoriously deadly prison camp system.

There are, sadly, many similar examples. Christian human rights lawyers I met on my last visit to China have since “disappeared” or been given long prison sentences. Calls on Nigerian officials to stop the slaughter of Christians have frequently been ignored. Efforts to convince lawmakers in Nepal and India to include religious freedom provisions in legislation were disregarded and in years since, those same laws have been used to arrest pastors and church leaders. The list goes on.

What does this mean for those engaged in advocacy?

First, it reminds us that, ultimately, we must trust God to take care of the eternal outcome. The North Koreans who gave their lives to Jesus will spend eternity with God, even if their time on Earth is more challenging than we could imagine.

Second, it convinces us never to cease in our efforts for the persecuted. We may not always succeed, but if we do not try, we guarantee failure.

Finally, these examples convince us that the need for advocates for the persecuted is greater than ever. There are countless people whose cries for help go unheard, yet only a precious few are willing to take action on their behalf. Every time we speak up, it gives hope to those who have none and increases our chance of success.

So rather than grow weary in doing good, let’s resolve never to cease in our prayers and advocacy for the persecuted, knowing that the full fruit of our efforts may not be understood until we have passed into eternity.

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