Serving Persecuted Christians Worldwide - Starvation to smiles: how your generosity has fed 163,000 Christians - Open Doors UK & Ireland
14 September 2020

Starvation to smiles: how your generosity has fed 163,000 Christians

Since the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, the generosity of Open Doors supporters has enabled our partners to distribute emergency aid to 163,000 persecuted Christians in more than 10 countries across Asia. It equates to over 33,000 families. 

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Thanks to your generosity, 76,000 Christians in India have received vital aid

The shops were closed, all except for one, where government food had arrived for people without work. For one Christian and his family, who hadn’t eaten for two days, this food would sustain them for at least a week or two. 

Reaching the shop, the man joined the long queue. Nobody spoke to him – no one ever did – but that was okay because in a few hours he’d have a bagful of supplies. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the smile on the faces of my wife and children,” he says.

Finally, it was his turn. He took out the ration card and gave it to the shop owner behind the counter. 

“Why are you here?” the owner said, ignoring the card.

“What do you mean, sir? I’m here to collect food. Look, I have government permission. I qualify."

"You are a Christian. Get out of here."

“No, you don’t. You are a Christian. Get out of here.”

“I am a Christian, but I have a ration card.”

“Get lost. Or I’ll call the police. Do you want to spend a night in jail, too? Go!”

The rejected man put the ration card back in his pocket and left the store, ignoring everyone who stared at him. “I didn’t go home, but walked to the river instead,” he explains. “My mind was racing. I prayed. I thought about a thousand ways to get food and about a million ways to tell my family that I wasn’t sure if we’d ever eat again. I wondered if I should jump from the bridge.”

“A reality?” Brother John*, the Open Doors director for Asia explains, reflecting on this heartrending story. “Not for me and not for you, but for many brothers and sisters across Asia. The Covid-19 crisis and the ensuing lockdowns have led to harrowing situations. My teams and our local partners have received an incredible number of text messages and phone calls.”

The sudden rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout Asia caused many governments to impose lockdowns, which has had huge implications for people, especially the poor such as day labourers, migrant workers and factory employees. 

Timely phone call

One country where the virus has severely exacerbated existing discrimination and persecution is India. Agencies have brought aid to villagers, but the local Hindu authorities have refused to share aid with Christians. That’s why Open Doors UK and Ireland called for focused fundraising for this region earlier in 2020.

"Once, I plucked two mangos from the nearby tree and served it to my family as a meal for the day. I was praying and asking God how we would survive like this." Bharat*

"During the lockdown period, we ran out of groceries and had to starve for several days,” Bharat*, a visually impaired believer, explains. “Once, I plucked two mangos from the nearby tree and served it to my family as a meal for the day. I was praying and asking God how we would survive like this.”

Bharat received a phone call from another Christian explaining that help was available. “The next day, my family members were elated when you brought groceries to my house. I and my family could not stop thanking God and you all for showing us mercy and having favour on us. We thank you for your unconditional help and support.”

Devi’s* family have also been helped. “We were in such a bad and hopeless situation,” he explains, “but your team came forward and filled our starving stomachs and empty kitchens. Even now, my relatives do not care or are even bothered about our wellbeing because we had embraced Christian faith. We thank you for your kind help to all of us.” 

Bharat and Devi’s families are two of 14,750 families in India helped by Open Doors partners, thanks to Open Doors supporters. That’s approximately 76,000 individuals.

Cancelled services stops tithes

Church leaders are amongst those who have been gravely impacted by Covid-19 in India. With church services stopping, many leaders’ source of income has ground to a halt, leaving them at perilous risk of hunger. An Open Doors partner says that after contacting numerous leaders ‘several were in dire situations’.

Joel* is an Indian Christian who has been involved in church ministry for 38 years, during which time he has encountered severe persecution. His church is in a Hindu community and in recent years he has had to deal with a malicious court case brought against him, a severe beating, and the destruction of all the belongings in his church. Fortunately, the church has been able to continue its ministry. 

Every £28
could provide and deliver emergency aid for two persecuted believers impacted by the Covid-19 crisis.

Lately, Joel suffered two blockages in his heart that required surgery, leaving his family in financial crisis. The coronavirus pandemic added to the struggle and left them with no support or source of provision.

“We as family cried out to God for His help and provision,” Joel explains. “God definitely isn’t deaf or blind to the condition of His people – He came to our aid through your team. I sincerely thank everyone for providing us with relief aid and encouraging us with your prayers.”

Read more testimonies from church leaders in India.

Real food, real risk

Another region to benefit is Central Asia, where aid has been distributed to 2,500 families (12,500 individuals). Saida*, a partner from the region, shares, “In one community live a number of deaf Christians. They were ignored when government aid arrived and forced to eat grass to survive! Thanks to you, we were able to supply them with real food. Your help has had a huge impact.”

The operation has not been without risk. In Myanmar, where 4,011 families (or 20,000 individuals) have been helped, a local partner, Rachel*, explains, “The government is watchful to see if people are supplying food to insurgent groups. This creates danger to us as we can be arrested on the suspicion of aiding these rebels. 

“Also, the insurgent groups are extremist Buddhists and very much against the Christians receiving any extra help. They monitor if pastors are bringing in food for the church members. But even local neighbours can be opposed to Christians receiving support.”

Tailored help

The help distributed across Asia has been substantial and lifesaving. But it can’t stop yet. “As long as countries are in lockdown situations and their economies are barely functioning, we need to help the ignored persecuted believers in Asia,” Brother John says. 

"If hope is like a rope, they had come to the end of it. Thanks to you, we were able to give them a new rope, one that is stronger and longer than the one they had." Brother John*

“We will continue with urgent aid and relief, but at the same time we’re starting phase two in a number of countries,” he adds. “Phase two means we will develop projects so that believers can earn some money by themselves.”

For example, in India, tailoring classes are being arranged, whilst in Bangladesh Christians are being helped to start farming and set up shops. 

“The ramifications of Covid-19 will be felt long after the crisis is over,” the director predicts. “That’s why we need to start with phase two now. We hope that Christians around the world continue to stand with us and help the persecuted Church survive.”

The smiles had never been so bright

“I thank God for opening doors and I thank God for you,” Brother John says. “Those 163,000 people were all at risk of severe malnutrition and even dying because of starvation. If hope is like a rope, they had come to the end of it. Thanks to you, we were able to give them a new rope, one that is stronger and longer than the one they had.”

Thanks to Open Doors supporters, the man at the beginning of this article came home one evening to find bags filled with rice, cooking oil, vegetables and much more. The smiles on the faces of his wife and children had never been so bright.

*Names changed for security reasons 

Please pray
  • Thank God for the huge amount of people helped across Asia
  • For wisdom, protection and strength for Open Doors partners in their role distributing aid to Christians
  • That God will raise up individuals in local governments who will boldly plead the cause of Christians often last in line for aid.
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