(Christian Today)The lockdown in much of the Western world due to coronavirus is a “timely reminder” of the plight of Christians imprisoned for their faith worldwide, says Release International CEO Paul Robinson.
As the lockdown continues, Mr Robinson is asking Christians in the West to remember their persecuted brothers and sisters, many of whom are imprisoned.
“Right now our own lockdown is a timely reminder that Christians around the world have been literally imprisoned for their faith for years,” he said.
“For others, it means a denial of the basic freedom of belief and right to public worship. Yet Christianity continues to spread this Easter, despite the pandemic.
“Please remember our persecuted brothers and sisters at this time, as we all share a little of that hardship.”
Millions of Christians live in countries where their rights are curtailed.
Release International said it was particularly concerned about Christians imprisoned in overcrowded jails in Eritrea, where it is feared the virus will quickly spread.
The organisation is backing calls from the UN for the country to release prisoners of conscience during the pandemic.
“Many have been locked up for years, just because of their Christian faith,” said Mr Robinson.
“It’s high time to set them free. We are already seeing encouraging signs from Iran that some Christian prisoners are being released. We hope Eritrea will follow suit.”
Release partner Dr Berhane Asmelash said that while the entire country is in lockdown due to the pandemic, “Christians in Eritrea have been on lockdown for 30 years.”
“They can’t even meet in their houses – they will get raided by security. They are made to live in fear or in hiding,” he said.
While in the West, Christians are able to worship digitally, authorities in some parts of China have reportedly banned online services.
Release partners Voice of the Martyrs USA said that officials in Shandong Province, in eastern China, have banned online preaching during the coronavirus pandemic, and that there had been calls for the “complete eradication” of fellowships that are outside of state control.
Release partner ChinaAid has warned that the demolition of churches and removal of crosses has continued in spite of the pandemic, with government officials reportedly inspecting homes to remove religious symbols.
Despite this, many Christians in China have continued to share their faith.
Wuhan Pastor Huang Lei shared on social media that “everything presents an opportunity to glorify God”.
“If Christians are more afraid of death than the world during a disaster, then the suffering they have endured would be in vain,” he said.
“God wants us to overcome difficulties through Him. This epidemic provides an opportunity for us to reflect, strengthen our spiritual life and to depend on God.”
Mr Robertson added: “We’re heartened to hear reports of Christians in China sharing their faith as they distribute medical supplies, and using facemasks to evade the ever-present surveillance cameras.”