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What Christmas looks like for persecuted Christians across the world

by Sophie Drew

As Christians in the west prepare to celebrate Christmas with all the trimmings, elsewhere in the world people of faith are forced to keep their celebrations almost invisible. 

There are no carol concerts or midnight mass, and some may be awaiting there first, and only, religious gathering of the year. 

Then there are those that cannot even meet together, forced to listen to prayers on the television with subtitles to ensure no one can hear them expressing their faith in God. 

Rebecca Coatsworth from Open Doors – a charity fighting on the frontline of Christian persecution worldwide – told Premier Christian News how Christians across the world will be spending their Christmas:


“For traditional Christian communities like the Coptic church, they will be able to celebrate Christmas quite freely. 

“They can have carol services; they can go to church; they can have decorations up in their homes. 

“So, while they might be at risk of attack, Coptic Christians - Christians who've inherited their religion from their ancestors -  will be quite free to celebrate Christmas. 

“It's Christian converts from Islam who live in rural largely Muslim majority communities who can't celebrate Christmas openly children can't talk about it at school. 

“Christmas is celebrated privately in the home secretly for fear of discovery. 

“A 12-year old boy shared with us that the way that they celebrate Christmas is that they stay up at night and they watch the Christmas night prayer on TV, but they make sure that they have the volume turned right down so that their neighbours don't hear anything. “


“Christian converts from Islam, from Hinduism, from the desert, they will struggle to celebrate Christmas freely. 

“They often find themselves excluded and isolated in their communities. You'll often find particularly in rural areas, Christian families, they'll be the only family in the in the community who are Christian. 

“So they find themselves quite often isolated and excluded. Their neighbours will pick fights with them for no reason. 

“Christmas time  can be really hard to celebrate openly, which is why Open Doors partners in Bangladesh will identify these families and draw them together and actually host huge Christmas parties, where Christians can get together can fellowship with one another can worship can sing carols can trade presents, and it's a really joyful time for them.”


“Again, there's no public churches for Christians who have converted from Islam. They can't meet publicly.

“So they meet in secret house churches, which are always under threat of being raided by the Iranian secret police. 

“Christmas is an especially dangerous time for Christians, because the authorities step up their spying, they step up their monitoring of Christians. 

“So to actually celebrate Christmas at Christmas is a really dangerous, risky thing for Christians to do. 

“What a lot of Christians do is they get creative about it. They find other occasions to celebrate that almost act as a mask for celebrating Christmas. So one Christian woman was telling us that they celebrate Christmas on her daughter's birthday in January, so they are able to get family together, they're able to get church together in sort of small groups, and they're able to sing and exchange gifts and celebrate Christmas together, but they have a cover story.”

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