Image: Buddhas inside the Tooth Relic Temple in Sri Lanka
Through Persecution Preparedness Trainings
The Persecuted Church in Asia’s predominantly Buddhist countries is a minority church. Believers experience tremendous pressure from village neighbors and officials to recant their faith—or leave. Culturally also, in the eyes of the Asian Buddhists, Christians bring bad karma and destroy the harmony. The pressure to belong and be one with the community is very strong. Unable to find strength in numbers, the believers must build resilience from within.
Thus, Open Doors gathers pastors and believers living in persecution hotbeds for a three-day seminar, Standing Strong through the Storm (SSTS). Local and, sometimes, foreign resource speakers provide lectures, facilitate personal and group reflections, and encourage sharing of testimonies. The goal: Help believers gain biblical understanding of persecution and come up with responses to it. During SSTS, local Christian lawyers also give a talk about local religious laws and provide believers with practical measures on what to do when falsely accused or when their church registration is questioned.
Other than SSTS, Open Doors also strengthens the Christian families in Asian Buddhist countries. All too often, parents are at a loss on how to raise their children in the faith, when every day, they are exposed to Buddhist teachings and practices at schools. In Bhutan, Buddhism tolerates divorce, the rate of which is high, even among Christian couples. Open Doors wants to see Christian families able to withstand these societal pressures brought by Buddhism through short, specialized seminars on marriage and parenting, coupled with counseling sessions.
Image：Vietnam～Literacy Project for Tribal Believers
Through Practical Helps
Not only are Christians in Asian Buddhist countries small in numbers, they also live in abject poverty and illiteracy. Majority of them are daily wage earners and farmers, who depend on the goodwill of those who have the means, and some Christians resort to hiding their faith in Christ in order to get a job. Because of extreme poverty, believers become susceptible to abuse and oppression. Their children suffer the same later on, since many parents cannot afford their education.
Open Doors in engaged in different kinds of practical interventions to help believers trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty and oppression. Believers are given training on biblical stewardship, vocational skills, and farming. Some of these projects have livelihood grant component to help believers immediately get started with a small enterprise.
Literacy classes and school assistance are key activities that Open Doors do among destitute believers, especially those living in the remote, rural villages. In partnership with local churches and like-minded organizations, Open Doors support the production, printing and use of existing literacy programs that reach out to Christians. Meanwhile, the education of children of very poor pastors and ministry workers are supported either fully or partially.
Image: Pastor Dayaratne, Agape Children’s Home, Sri Lanka-receiving letters from OD supports
Through Presence and Prayer
Christians in Asian Buddhist countries experience every day the pressure to conform. Sharing their faith with their neighbors or co-workers could land them in jail or send them off packing to another village. They have to live with societal discrimination and state neglect on a daily basis. Challenging these norms with the Gospel of Christ is to provoke the entire nation against Christ and His Church.
Persecuted believers find encouragement and courage to persevere in the faith when they are visited and prayed for. Open Doors has witnessed first-hand on numerous occasions the impact of presence and prayer ministry. Besides training and financial support, Open Doors organizes travel groups to Asian Buddhist countries, during which supporters and donors meet persecuted believers and personally hear their stories of despair and hope. Some trips are put together for Christians abroad to witness or be part of what Open Doors is doing to strengthen Christians in Asian Buddhist countries.