What does a Christian music magazine have to do with an organisation working to help the suffering church? Quite a lot, as Tony Cummings found out when he checked out OPEN DOORS.

With commendable candour Peter Cowell, development manager of Open Doors, one of the key ministries in bringing help to those Christians experiencing discrimination for their faith, speaks his mind. "We need to get it across the people that the suffering church is not some big, heavy, downer of a subject which just induces guilt and condemnation. The Church in nations like Pakistan or Sudan is suffering terribly. An appropriate response is caring for the persecuted. As we care and put our feelings into action, we get blessed in the process."

For many people the international organisation Open Doors, or to give it its full name Open Doors With Brother Andrew, is still irrevocably linked with the courageous Dutch Bible smuggler who wrote a breathtaking best seller about his experiences. And certainly taking Bibles into numerous countries is still a crucial part of the thrust of Open Doors. But as Peter Cowell explains, "We are also involved in the encouragement and training of Christians and we have built strategic alliances with other ministries. For instance Brother Andrew recently opened a bookshop on the Gaza Strip which was pioneered by the Bible Society. And we have done a lot of key work recently in Pakistan, caring for the persecuted. It is vital at this time that the Western Church show compassion to those who have seen their homes burnt down by anti-Christian mobs or have suffered all kinds of appalling treatment."

Open Doors has been developing links with a number Christian music ministries. In America the band Jars Of Clay have done a number of concerts on behalf of the organisation and in Britain Open Doors is developing an important alliance with Cross Rhythms. Says Peter Cowell, "We are delighted in the UK to be involved in partnership with the Cross Rhythms festivals. It seems to me that Cross Rhythms represents a radical cutting edge dimension to the Christian faith and that the kind of young people who go to the festivals are genuinely concerned about their brothers and sisters who are suffering. It really is very humbling to encounter teenagers who are completely focused on Jesus and are determined to make a radical difference. Once you are 18 you could become a courier for Open Doors and take Bibles into many difficult places. This can often be a life-changing experience. Over and over again I hear reports from young people saying that it was they who were blessed as much as the people they were helping."

Chris Cole, CEO of Cross Rhythms, is equally positive that the Christian music counterculture is an active breeding ground for Open Door activists. "I think the youth in Britain are far less interested than their American counterparts in building a secure, insular sub-culture where consumerism rules and I think that is reflected in the kind of radical messages we are getting in songs like 'History Maker". Young people in Britain have a passion and a zeal, which is sometimes lacking in other parts of the world Church. An organisation like Open Doors is able to pinpoint places like Pakistan or Peru and bring tangible help to the suffering through the hands and feet of ordinary Christians. It is a tremendous ministry which really deserves our support."

Open Doors supporters start young. Peter enthuses about Eleanor, who is an Open Doors supporter aged five, "She got the prayer cards and formed a prayer group and I'm quite certain that those prayers are having a tremendous affect in pushing back the darkness." As the hundreds of young people who have visited the Open Doors life size prison cell in the Resources Tent at the Cross Rhythms festival will testify, we live in a world where in many places to be a believer in Jesus Christ costs a great deal. Open Doors is addressing this situation with boldness and courage. Long may they prosper.


Open Doors: A ministry helping Christians facing discrimination

In Peru, a wife, husband and daughter are reunited. After five and a half years apart, little Estell, now six, hardly knew her dad. He was in Peru's maximum-security prison - locked up with all the terrorists. He spent 23 and a half hours every day in a tiny prison cell, stuck with two gangsters. Wuillie is a Christian - and that didn't go down well with some people. When President Fujimor's crack squads clamped down on terrorists - Wuillie was taken too. An innocent man. Now he's released -because people like you cared enough to help. Open Doors organised a prayer and writing campaign. And it worked!


Open Doors: A ministry helping Christians facing discrimination

In Pakistan, a mother mourns for her child. Every day, Bashiran Bibi gets up at the crack of dawn to attend the 5.30am prayer meeting at her church. The Christians gather daily to pray for her son's release from Death row. Bashiran's son is 32-year-old Ayub, now one of the most prominent victims of Pakistan's outrageous Blasphemy Laws; he is kept in a tiny cell without electricity or running water. It is boiling hot for Ayub - there's nowhere to hide from the burning heat. .  CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.