Words of Hope for Persecuted Christians

New believers across the globe are lifted by gospel radio programming in their own local languages

A heated debate about recent travel-ban policies continues across the U.S. — while leaders discuss ways to protect Christians around the world who are facing persecution for their beliefs.

Many of us will never experience living in fear for simply committing our lives to Christ. We will never know what it feels like to be attacked for our faith. But persecution is common in the rest of the world, with millions of Christians facing persecution worldwide. And the violence and turmoil are not only increasing, but spreading to more corners of the globe.

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The Tide global radio ministry, founded 70 years ago in a small town in Pennsylvania, now produces gospel radio programming in 24 languages around the world, reaching souls in seven nations on three continents. Three of the countries where The Tide ministry works — India, Nigeria, Bhutan — are ranked on Open Doors’ annual World Watch List as having “very high persecution.”

The Tide ministry has had a presence in India for nearly four decades, has served the people of Nigeria since 2009, and has broadcast gospel programming in Bhutan for the past five years.

Christians make up just 2.5 percent of the population in India, and converting people to Christianity is illegal in five states there — so The Tide ministry’s presence in the country remains crucial. Currently, 63 million Christians live in India. Many face some form of persecution for their faith, with believers enduring immense pressure from radicals who beat them for refusing to worship Hindu gods.

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Despite these hardships, Christianity is growing in India, and believers are committed to their new lives in Christ. One radio listener in India recently wrote to The Tide ministry, saying, “After listening to your radio program, my life has been changed. Now I want to live according to the word of God.” Another listener in India said, “Your radio program has brought a tremendous change in my life. I was living in the darkness, but now my life is completely changed. The word of God touched my heart, and I realized my sins and confessed before God.”

We praise God for the life change that only He can bring! But at the same time, we pray fervently for our brothers and sisters in India who face an adversity that some of us can only imagine.

Nearly every week in Nigeria, churches are destroyed, villages are burned, and Christians are violated or killed by terrorists. Our hearts are heavy when we hear this sad news. Christians there continue to face terrible persecution, especially in northern Nigeria, where unarmed Christian villages are targeted by Muslim Fulani tribesmen. Christianity, however, has taken root in the south.

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Even so, Nigeria has a strong prayer movement and dynamic church growth. We must not forget about our brothers and sisters there — we must continue to pray for them daily. Currently, The Tide ministry broadcasts in 11 different languages in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, but with 470 languages spoken in the country there are many more opportunities!

We praise God for feedback from Nigeria like this: “Your broadcasts bring joy and are to us as new wine. Please organize a worship center for us. We find it difficult to continue with our old churches because of prosperity and miracle gospels, which usually mean nothing but empty promises. We do not want to mix this newfound truth (new wine) with hopeless messages (old wine).”

In June 2012, The Tide ministry began broadcasting in Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan, where 78 percent of the population is Buddhist. The state religion is a form of Buddhism heavily influenced by animistic spirit worship, and Bhutan remains one of the world’s least evangelized nations. Likewise, unemployment is very high; nearly a quarter of the population live in poverty.

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Although Christianity is tolerated to some degree, Bhutan is essentially closed to outside influence, and any attempt to convert people from the state religion is illegal. The Bhutanese constitution officially allows for religious freedom, but people who embrace Christianity and publicly practice their faith risk losing their citizenship and often face discrimination.

Radio listeners in Bhutan are sometimes hesitant to communicate with The Tide ministry because they fear government workers are looking for evidence of religious or spiritual influence. But a pastor who works with The Tide partner ministry there recently shared some information about two new believers who regularly listen to The Tide ministry’s “Good News Hour” radio program. Slowly but surely, they are believing in and trusting the Lord, and are interested in being baptized.

Gospel programs in Bhutan are delivered by local pastors in the languages people were born to speak, as in all of the countries where The Tide ministry spreads the good news of Jesus. When people hear about Jesus’ saving grace in their own language, rather than translations from American programs, it makes a huge difference in how they respond to the gospel, to Jesus’ love for them and to God’s plan for their lives.

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Later this year, our ministry will offer programming in its 25th language: Isaan, spoken by 19 million people in Thailand. That initiative will allow Thailand to join multiple regions of Albania, Bhutan, India, Kosovo, Nepal, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, where The Tide ministry is already active. With almost a quarter of the world’s population living within the current range of The Tide radio programming — and nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world today — the opportunities are tremendous.

Don Shenk is director of The Tide global radio ministry, which broadcasts gospel programming in 24 languages across seven nations. The Tide ministry also reaches new believers through partnerships with missionaries, radio sponsorship programs, discipleship and leadership training, literature distribution, and teaching conferences and seminars.

(photo credit, homepage image: Eric Chan, Flickr)

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