As the call to prayer sounded from the local mosque, Perveen (not her real name) made her way through the streets of Shahtootnager, the inner city of a Pakistani Shia town, heading for an evening Bible-based literacy training session.
While most of Perveen’s neighbors are Christians by ethnicity, they know little about their faith. Most have adopted pagan practices to survive economically in an environment hostile toward non-Muslims. By God’s grace, Perveen and her friends are resisting the decades of degrading, lucrative ways to supplement their family incomes. Their husbands, however, fill their days going from one hangover to the next with drinking and drugs, seeking to escape from their hopeless existence. They were not happy when their wives began signing up for literacy classes at the tiny local church. Perveen’s husband abused her for learning to read and write.
Perveen is just one of 80,000 illiterate Pakistani Christians who has learned to read through ALIVE, a Bible-based literacy course sponsored by Open Doors in cooperation with local Pakistani church partners. “I can read the Bible now when I need God’s comfort,” Perveen says.
In 2011, Open Doors trained approximately 263,500 people in programs that varied from intense, on-going theological courses to shorter seminars designed to build up and encourage persecuted Christians. Worldwide, Open Doors’ training numbers increased a phenomenal 65% in 2011 from the previous year. Huge gains (461% increase) were made in Middle Eastern countries such as Algeria, Iraq and Syria. Overall in Africa there was a 154% gain, but in Egypt alone, training increased 353%. In addition, Open Doors increased training in Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia to help prepare marginalized Christians from the intensity of persecution
“Our training varies, depending on the country and depending on the need of Christians in that country,” says Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. “For example, in several countries in Africa, we concentrate on building up church leaders, most of whom have little or no previous pastoral training. The training is done for one week each month for 10 months. In countries where training must be absolutely secret, seminars are arranged for several days, and everyone stays in seclusion for the entire time. Again, these training courses and seminars vary according to the country, but we have taught on topics such as; ‘The Faithful Pastor,’ ‘The Kingdom of God,’ ‘Christian Leadership’ and ‘Preaching and Teaching.'” One of Open Doors’ most powerful seminars is “Standing Strong through the Storm” which seeks to teach Christians living in high-risk areas how to thrive under severe persecution and suffering.
In 2011, Open Doors delivered more than 3.1 million Bibles, children’s Bibles, training materials and other Christian materials requested by persecuted Christians in almost 50 countries. In comparison, in 2010 Open Doors distributed over 3.4 million materials. While distribution overall decreased in 2011 Bible and literature distribution significantly increased in India and countries in the Middle East, Latin America and Africa, especially Nigeria. China still remained the No. 1 recipient of Christian literature with 1.4 million materials delivered, most of them going to marginalized believers in rural areas.
Through Christian Community Development programs, Open Doors and its partners served an estimated 172,000 Christians, an increase of 20 percent from 2010. The 4,900 livelihood programs helped provide a means of earning a living in nations where Christians are often considered second-class citizens and suffer severe economic hardship. Egypt, Syria and Iraq saw a pronounced increase in assistance. Church restoration projects benefited 7,700 believers. Emergency relief aid was rushed to such places as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
And Open Doors’ prayer and advocacy programs have helped raise awareness in the West of suffering Christians around the globe, so that Western believers might walk alongside persecuted Christians in prayer and support of these programs.
Father, thank You for the thousands of Christians who join together with Open Doors to encourage and support these brothers and sisters who daily face persecution for their faith in Christ. Help us to be faithful in praying. And we lift up these programs that Your Spirit might use them to encourage and sustain those who suffer. Through them may Your Name be glorified, that all might know that you are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. In the name of Jesus who reigns over all the earth, Amen.