What is Release International?
Between 40 and 50 years ago a Romanian Pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, was imprisoned for 14 years because he would not acknowledge the totalitarian government of Communist Romania to be supreme over God.
He was tortured in prison, and when released continued to preach the Christian gospel. He was later ransomed from Romania and travelled the world telling of the persecution of Christian prisoners for their faith – he formed ‘The Christian Mission to the Communist World’, which, after the collapse of Communism in many countries, expanded to become ‘Release International’, supporting many millions of Christians who are imprisoned and persecuted for their faith, in either Communist or Islamic countries.
What does Release do?
The areas of concern of Release are fivefold – Showing God’s compassion; Serving God’s church; Sharing God’s love; Spreading God’s word; Speaking as God’s advocates.
It is estimated that up to 250 million Christians are persecuted in some way or another for their faith every year. Release concentrates on some of the most notorious countries – North Korea, Indonesia, Northern Nigeria, Eritrea, Vietnam, Sudan, China, Pakistan, Iran, Somalia and Afghanistan, but there are another 15 or so countries which are monitored and reports received of incidents of persecution and torture.
To address these concerns, Release supports individual needs of families where the main breadwinner is in prison; endeavours to help family members start up small businesses as well as developing local industry particularly for young women; supports local advocates in legal actions and prison visiting; and seeks to enable persecuted Christians escape from their captors and settle in free countries. In addition Release promotes regular petitions to heads of Governments and Ambassadors of countries where there is little evidence of freedom of religion – there is a current petition appealing to the Pakistan Government for the abolition of the blasphemy laws which are often used to imprison Christians.
Release publishes a free monthly magazine, called ‘Release’, monthly prayer leaflets and regular e-mails appealing for prayer for reported incidents in various countries – the latest highlighting incidents in India, Pakistan and Indonesia, where there are accounts of killing of Christians and demolishing church buildings.
Christ Church Missionary prayer points for July 2015
In January 2014 Egypt adopted constitutional changes to give freedom of worship to minority groups, including Christians. On a recent visit the CEO of Release International asked the question, “Have these changes made any difference to Christians like you?” In the capital Cairo the answer was that it had made a difference. For instance St Mark’s Cathedral now has armed security around its perimeter and inside its walls there were two armoured personnel carriers to protect it against potential attacks, but away from the city there is a very different story – continuing attacks on the homes and businesses of Christians; many families having to flee to safe havens; ‘Paul’ who ran a successful Sunday school class in his village, then a church in his home, imprisoned, beaten and having to relocate because of threatening ‘phone calls.
Pray for Egypt and the delivering of R.I.’s petition to the Ambassador to encourage the Government to implement the constitutional changes in the whole of the country.
Praise God for the information that pastor Farshid Fathi is to be released by December this year, two years early; that pastor Benhem Berani has been allowed a 15 day furlough from Ghezai Hesar prison, both on false charges. Maybe this is part of the recent nuclear negotiations with the EU. Who knows, but pray for increasing loosing of persecution of Christians in Iran.
Vietnam seems to receive a good press of late, but there is little encouragement for Christians. The UNs Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief recently accused Vietnam of ‘gross violation’ of religious freedom and spoke of a climate of ‘constant surveillance, intimidation, harassment and persecution’. Pray for the church in Vietnam, which increasingly suffers.
To learn more, go to www.releaseinternational.org.