I have written long and often about the persecution of Christians around the world. Persecution presents a dire picture and is in fact so far from our own experience that it’s hard to relate to. You might wonder how, in countries where persecution is rife, Christians can live and hold on to their faith.
But a study described by the Australian Prayer Network indicates that the exact opposite is true: in countries where Christians are strongly persecuted, the church is growing beyond any predictions!
Persecution is still a catalyst for the spread of Christianity
We can relate to the new peer-reviewed study, published in the academic journal Sociology of Religion, which claims that in countries where Christianity is an acceptable part of society – such as Australia - the church is in decline. By contrast, the countries with the fastest-growing Christian populations are those where the governments are openly antagonistic or repressive towards Christianity.
The study asserts that “The faith of those facing persecution for their convictions is often deeper and more profound because the stakes are inherently higher when it’s not in one’s cultural best interest to embrace such beliefs.” Iran, China and Afghanistan are three such countries named in the study, where governments continually discriminate and harm Christians, but where the numbers of Christians are growing exponentially.
Christians are also making a difference in other ways:
Protests in Cuba
In February 2019 Cuban Christians overwhelmingly voted against constitutional amendments set to strengthen socialism, restrict religious liberty and pave the way for same-sex marriage. For championing this minority view, the Church was vilified, labelled 'counter-revolutionary' and subjected to increased persecution.
Lack of food and medicine in the midst of the Covid crisis triggered protests on 11 July this year across Cuba against the ruling Communist regime. The country has been called to prayer for the desperate situation.
Hundreds of citizens were arrested on 11 July, among them Berean Baptist pastors Yarian Sierra Madrigal and Yéremi Blanco Ramírez, both tutors at the William Carey Biblical Seminary in Matanzas. They were eventually released on 24 July, having been held incommunicado in appalling conditions. But Pastor Madrigal’s wife and young son were forcibly evicted from their home and they are currently sheltering in a church.
Meanwhile, another pastor, Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, remains detained, incommunicado, in a State Security facility in Santiago de Cuba. His 17-year-old son arrested with him has since been released unharmed but deeply shaken.
On 7 July 2021 - just four days before the protests erupted - Cuban Christians held a nationwide and interdenominational day of prayer and fasting for Cuba. Today this 'extremely vibrant Church' is standing with the protesters who are all counter-revolutionaries now! May God redeem this crisis to raise the profile of the Church in Cuba and open may hearts to receive the Gospel.
On 16 June 2020 the North Korean regime severed communications with the South. Now, however, cross-border communication has been restored. On 27 July 2021, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in spoke by phone. The leaders, who had been exchanging letters since April, are eager to recover trust and improve ties.
The rapprochement comes as North Korea faces its most severe crisis in decades. In January 2020, North Korea sealed its border with China to prevent the entrance of COVID-19.
Today, North Koreans are dying; not of COVID, but of starvation and other diseases as their stores of food and medicines run out. Society is breaking down, prisons are filling up, and officials who criticise regime policy are being purged and executed.
There can be little doubt that time is running out for the North Korean regime. While the West is full of 'hawks' - supposedly fueled with righteous indignation - who would love to bomb Pyongyang flat or somehow accelerate the regime's collapse, we need to remember that North Korea happens to be filled with North Koreans, victims of 'spiritual catastrophe', struggling to survive in a society built on lies.
And while most North Koreans have no memory or even knowledge of the great Pyongyang Revival of 1907 [see: 1907 Revival, a 10-min film with archival footage] which transformed the Korean Peninsula and saw Pyongyang labelled 'the Jerusalem of the East', God remembers!
For 68 years a remnant Church, fortified by martyrs, has endured prayerfully in prisons, labour camps, and underground. For 68 years, Koreans in the South and around the world have prayed with tears for their captive brethren. A furious spiritual battle is underway for North Korea.
Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts (from Zechariah 4:6 ESV)
We bring these countries and situations before the throne of grace, that God would
- Protect, sustain and richly bless the long-suffering and severely persecuted Churches in Cuba and North Korea
- Send the Holy Spirit to revive and transform North Korea yet again; may desperate North Koreans be drawn into prayer, to seek mercy from a God they do not know, a God whom they will find is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness
- Send an awakening and revival among the churches in Cuba, that there would be order instead of chaos and that churches may be allowed to operate freely.
Aira Chilcott is a retired secondary school teacher with lots of science andtheology under her belt. Aira is a panellist and editor for PSI and indulges inreading, bushwalking and volunteering at a nature reserve. Aira is married to Billand they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html