07/28/2022 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – In the Middle East, in an area fraught with conflict and oppression, local Christians remain persistent. Many are dedicated to their faith and to sharing the gospel. A year ago, in a city particularly isolated by active conflict, one group of Christians found themselves under uniquely intense pressure, even relative to other persecuted Christians in the region. These Christians were Greek Orthodox, and they were situated between two unfriendly armed groups.
In this vulnerable place where virtually everyone in society had adopted a culture of anonymity to lay low and remain unnoticed, local Christians were forced to contend with many threats against their safety and freedom. Many, especially those in leadership, were vulnerable to kidnappings. A notable number of such kidnappings had already taken place. On top of acute dangers like kidnapping, these Greek Orthodox Christians also had to navigate the complex and tense environment of the Muslim-dominated world around them. Despite the intense pressure, religious expression and outreach continued to be a core part of this Christian community’s identity, and they refused to let it go.
In this spirit of persistence, a church in this oppressed Greek Orthodox community approached International Christian Concern (ICC) for assistance in hosting a training program for 60 young Christians. The program would be designed to educate these young men and women about Christian traditions and teachings, equipping them with the tools to share their beliefs safely but firmly in a Muslim context. The program would purposely focus on young Christians because they, in a formative period of their lives, needed to be built up and strengthened against the tumult of their circumstances. Encouragement through training would remind them of God’s loving nature despite the warfare around them and would embolden them with courage in a society hostile to their faith.
Seeing the need of this Greek Orthodox community and the impact a program like this would have on its young participants, ICC agreed to host the training. It was a marvelous success. The 60 young Christians gathered together for four day-long sessions and received critical instruction from an experienced church father in their Orthodox tradition. They discussed God’s unchanging nature throughout the Bible. They studied persecuted figures from Biblical history, including Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, and drew lessons and encouragement from their faith in God. They worked to root themselves more firmly in the scriptures in preparation for the conversations they would have with others in their communities.
After the program, many youths shared with us the impact that it had on them. One shared, “Our view of God has changed in the Old Testament […] to a merciful God who has compassion on his people and always seeks to help them and seeks their salvation from slavery and persecution.” Another shared poignantly, “I wasn’t imagining that there are people in Old Testament [who] can be examples for us to face the difficulties and persecution because [the] Old Testament was far for me, but now, I have clear examples from [the] Old Testament and will do my best to live as they lived in their faith.”
Christians like these, living in oppressive situations, are in need of support from their fellow believers. Fortunately, through contributions from our donors, ICC has been able to aid to many Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere through programs such as this one.
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