NBCC Meeting In Aarhus Opened Doors To Compassionate Prayer
On the first weekend of March (Feb 28- Mar 2) I have participated in Nordic-Baltic Cooperation Council’s (NBCC) meeting in Aarhus, Denmark. The NBCC meets twice a year, and hosting of the meeting is rotated between the NBCC members. At last weekend’s meeting in Aarhus, representatives form Swedish KRISS, Danish Okumenisk Ungdom, Finnish OOL and Lithuanian Lutheran Youth were present. The theme of the event was ‘Peaceful religious coexistence in Middle East and Africa: Freedom of religion or persecutions?
The crew. Photo by Evaldas Tytmonas
Spending good time together. Photo by Evaldas Svageris
Unfortunately I arrived to Aarhus late, so I couldn’t take part in the first session by Clement Dachet on being a pastor in the conflict zone. When I arrived to the venue – a huge and modern Diakonhøjskolen, I was shown to a cool renovated room in the dormitory, and then take to the common area where the other participants were spending time together with cake and evening tea. The evening passed in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere and made me really feel at home.
On Saturday there were three main sessions. One of the sessions was held by Maria S. Hanses from Open Doors Youth, which is an international NGO. Open Doors works with Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith. Maria has been working with the Danish branch of the organization for the last 4,5 years, and hears dreadful stories of persecution of Christians every day. Maria said that she thought she would become in some way immune to these testimonials, but this never happened, and she still perceives them in a very emotional way. To her, these stories are at the same time gruesome and encouraging, and had a great impact on strengthening faith.
Maria shares some facts with the group: Christians are the largest persecuted group of people. Every day more than 100 mln Christians face persecution. However, many of the persecuted Christians do not cease to pray to God, and also pray for their persecutors. Maria shares two quotes from the Scriptures:
2. Tim 3:12 – In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
Matt. 5:44: – But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
Maria also says that in the West where we live, it’s not persecution but persuasion that we’re facing: persuasion to go away from the Church and the faith, and enjoy life without constant prayer.
Everybody is invited to write a postcard to one of the persecuted women in Nigeria, Deborah, whose testimonials were shared with us by Maria earlier. Every Open Doors movement in different countries has a few letter respondents (Danish list: http://ow.ly/u88Dk). This postcard-writing workshop was a very emotional experience for me, as I was thinking how can I address and encourage a women, whose husband and all children were either killed or taken away by armed men, as a cause of the family being Christians.
Lithuanian delegates shared about an initiative in Lithuanian Lutheran Church by a bishop, which was executed in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The actives from the Church took in forty refugees from Syria, and operationality of the project is insured by Lithuanian volunteers.
The second session on Saturday was by Rebecca Hojmark from International Council of Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, on freedom of religion in Middle East and Norther Africa. In her session, Rebecca has referred to an interesting document, the ‘European churches engaging in human rights: Present challenges and training material’ by Church and Society Commission of the Conference of European Churches (CEC). This material, in my opinion, may be used in WSCF-Europe’s campaign on xenophobia and social exclusion that has kicked off last weekend on Staff and Officers’ Meeting in Skopje, Macedonia.
Rebecca told us what are the three main things that persecuted Christians and Churches ask Western Christians to do. These things are:
1. share their story
2. pray for them and let them know that we pray for them (This http://ow.ly/u8927 and this http://ow.ly/u89b6 resource, created by Open Doors, are a very good way to make praying for persecuted Christians around the world a regular habit)
3. tell the politicians about what happens to those people and communities, because this is the best working way to change the situation.
Preparing for praying together. Photo by Evaldas Tytmonas
I hope that WSCF-Europe will make good use of these wonderful ideas and resources in its current campaign on xenophobia.
Maria Kozhinova (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WSCF-Europe Links Coordinator.