Attending church, worshipping God and reading the Bible are privileges often taken for granted in Britain, but for many across the globe such activities are illegal.
To combat this, one UK-based charity is seeking to resource those who are being suppressed.
Open Doors has been operating for over six decades, bringing Bibles and Christian literature into the least-reached areas of the world, where Christians face the most severe persecution.
A Bible smuggler will deliver banned Christian literature to dangerous regimes
Over 60 years after Brother Andrew, the founder of the mission, began smuggling Christian literature behind the then Iron Curtain, one volunteer from the UK, Holly (not her real name) has just returned from a trip smuggling Christian books into North Africa with a friend.
“I love the idea of all the trips they did behind the Iron Curtain and it just made me want to see what that looked like today,” said the Bible smuggler.
“We had about 30-40 books that we smuggled in our suitcases.”
In the country that Holly was visiting, it is illegal to print Christian literature, but as the Church there grows there is an increasing need for Bibles and other books.
‘All of the suitcases were being checked… except ours’ – Bible smuggler ‘Holly’
“There are church leaders who only have a few pages of Scripture that they own,” says Holly.
“The Church is growing rapidly and people are coming to know Jesus so quickly and they need to get Bibles in as soon as they can. And not just Bibles, but training materials for pastors and church leaders.”
Holly felt nervous as her suitcases went through security at the airport after her arrival.
“When we saw some of the suitcases going through, all the suitcases were being checked – all of them – except ours!
Maybe God just did what he did with Brother Andrew and ‘blinded their eyes’ to it. It was amazing that we were the only ones who didn’t get searched.”
Punishment for local people is more serious
Holly then passed on the books to Open Doors partners who met her at the airport.
If Holly had been found with the books they would have been confiscated, but the punishments for local people are much more serious. “They could be put in prison for at least two years,” says Holly.
“They were telling us that when they take the materials back to their churches and to whoever needs these books, they have to go through 20 checkpoints, and at every single checkpoint they could be searched. The whole car can be searched; they might look inside the boot, under the bonnet, even cut open if there’s one.
“But it was amazing because the Open Doors partners said, ‘We can keep the Bibles on the back seat of the car; they’ll just never see them.’”
How can this be possible, Holly asked.
“They said it was because in 2003 they started a 24/7 prayer meeting,” she explains. “It was meant to last only for a week, but they simply decided not to stop!”
In 2015, Open Doors delivered over three million Bibles, books and Christian resources worldwide. Last year supporters in the UK and Ireland raised over £11.7 million to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, legal assistance, safe houses and teaching, as well as spiritual support in over 60 countries.