Across the Middle East, online activities are more crucial than ever – because secret Christians are more isolated than ever. That’s why, through our partners, Open Doors is stepping up its online presence in this area with training, community and spiritual encouragement. Your prayers and gifts are vital to make this possible for all who need it.
Though isolation is something secret believers have long experienced, coronavirus lockdown is making it even more difficult and complicated to stay connected. Across the Middle East, online activities are more crucial than ever – because secret Christians are more isolated than ever. That’s why, through our partners, Open Doors is stepping up its online presence in this area with training, community and spiritual encouragement. Your prayers and gifts are vital to make this possible for all who need it.
“More than 200 churches were trained in using social media, in secure ways, to reach out to their believers online,” says Felix*, responsible for Open Doors’ media activities in the Middle East and North Africa.
Felix and his team have been training churches in the Middle East to incorporate online activities to their regular schedule. Pastors initially used this training as preparation for church closures – a method of persecution that believers in this region often face. Now this training is vital for congregations who can’t meet together.
Many verses in the Bible remind us of the importance of community – for instance, in Hebrews 10:24-25 Paul writes ‘let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another’. Many secret believers have never been able to meet regularly in person – but most believers are now finding ways to meet together without being in the same room. As Pastor Danial in Syria says in his video of encouragement, below, it’s vital to keep the church connected and praying in these challenging times.
“They can keep ministering to their people, and still shine their light into society in these dark and troubled times,” says Felix. He’s seen a trend that believers are spending more time online, as the lockdown keeps people in their houses. His team are ready to respond. “In the coming weeks, we will step up on our social media outreach to keep encouraging isolated believers.”
Can a secret church continue to exist under a lockdown? If it weren’t for online tools and available workers it would have been extremely difficult. With your support and prayers, now the opposite is true, says Salomeh*, an online worker and Open Doors partner supporting the church in Iran: “In this time of crisis we have over 10 hours of prayer meetings every day. We created a special prayer schedule that we call ‘Frontline’ where prayer members can virtually walk in and out to come to pray together.
“Our people are sitting at home now all day long,” adds Salomeh. “We help them to overcome fear and anxiety and spend extra time with them individually. Apart from teaching, prayer and worship sessions, we also have group meetings in which we share our testimonies to help us deal with the reality of these days.”
Salomeh wants to express her gratitude to Open Doors supporters, for making this possible: “Your support and prayers result in the growth of the kingdom. The church in Iran is still alive, even though church buildings are closed, even though a pandemic is terrorising our country. I pray that one day we will all be standing in front of God’s throne knowing we’ve done our part in the Kingdom.”
“We closed the youth activities and the schools,” says Father Ammar from Qaraqosh, Iraq, whose church has also had to stop meeting. Like other pastors in the country, he responded to the joint statement from bishops of several denominations calling on churches to stop all face-to-face activities. His congregation is fearful and anxious, like many of us, and Father Ammar knows the important of keeping his community connected online: “We prepare programmes of church activities, like evening prayer online via Facebook, and also via the radio.”
Father Anmar is one of many stepping up online activities for believers in Iraq. Open Doors partners have been engaging with young people, women and leaders through social media, using specific encouragement and training activities to cater to each group. They’re also exploring how to continue study groups online.
Please keep praying for and supporting secret believers. In times of anxiety and increased isolation, they need your support more than ever.
Father God, we know that secret believers in the Middle East already experience great isolation, and that Covid-19 only makes this worse. We pray that You would enable secret churches in the Middle East to find ways to meet online, and that the body of Christ would be encouraged and strengthened by these online activities. Continue to meet with Your children, we pray; we know that we can never be isolated from You. Thank You.
*Names changed for security reasons