The Christmas season puts a particularly intense strain on vulnerable Christians around the world and, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the persecution believers are facing this year is even greater than usual.
“Christmas is the real focal point for celebrating the birth of Jesus and, conversely, the focal point for people who are targeting Christians for their faith,” said David Curry, CEO of Open Doors USA, a nonprofit advocating for persecuted Christians around the world.
Those persecutions, he told Faithwire, have only escalated during the COVID crisis.
The humanitarian leader pointed to northern Nigeria, for example, where he said Islamic government leaders “are keeping food from these Christian villages” amid shortages caused by the pandemic. Curry pointed to similar reports from Pakistan and India. In July, the communications director for Open Doors Asia, Jan Vermeer, told Premier Christian Radio the charity has been “inundated with reports of Christians telling us their communities would only give them food if they re-converted back to their original faith.”
“So we’re now helping to feed this Christmas season people who are withheld food and government relief during COVID because they are Christians in these communities,” Curry explained. “And some of these areas … it will touch your heart to see how much they love Jesus, how hungry they are and then, when we bring them their food, it’s a game changer for them.”
In addition, Christmas is particularly difficult for new Muslim converts who have abandoned their Islamic faith in favor of Christianity. The lives of those new believers, Curry said, have been “greatly altered,” noting many of them are shunned by their families while living in countries hostile toward their newfound beliefs. Enduring such tectonic spiritual shifts for the first time at Christmas “can be very stressful,” he added.
Continuing to provide support, though, requires money.
On average, Americans spend around $1,400 on holiday travel each year. With so many staying home this Christmas, Curry is asking people to donate some of that saved travel money to believers in need living in countries hostile toward Christianity.
“These aren’t — in most cases — toys under a tree,” Curry said of the gifts purchased for persecuted believers. “This is simple things like vocational training, like trauma care, paying for their counselors to talk about what has happened to them. Some of them have suffered really unimaginable trauma [and] difficulty because of their faith. They may have been threatened, some of them, women have been assaulted.”
“It’s an outreach of love at Christmas in Jesus’ name for people who are under tremendous discrimination and oppression for their faith,” he added.
Curry encouraged people to download Open Doors USA’s prayer app, Pray for the Persecuted, where users can learn about the “urgent needs that come up every day” and write letters and emails to vulnerable Christians around the globe.
For those interested in donating to the cause or learning more about Open Doors USA, you can visit opendoorsusa.org.