RECONNECTING WITH THE CHURCH THIS SUMMER
UK News: Release International has been out and about at the big church festivals this summer, finding fresh and creative ways of connecting Christians with the persecuted Church.
With lockdowns hopefully permanently behind us, Release International is able to be a presence once again at many major Christian summer events. These include the Big Church Day Out, New Wine, Keswick Convention, New Horizon and Bangor Worldwide.
At each event, we’re staging an exhibition entitled: Remember those in prison as if you were with them, based, of course, on Hebrews 13:3.
To help people identify with prisoners of faith we’re encouraging them to have their prison mug shots taken holding a number board.
That board relates to one of four current prisoners of faith – Zafar Bhatti in Pakistan, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel in Eritrea, Naser Navard in Iran, and Wang Yi in China. Their profiles have been on display next to Release International’s banners.
The Polaroid mugshot of each new ‘prisoner’ was stuck on a card beside an image of the actual prisoner with information about them.
‘This is for them to take away and keep in their Bibles,’ says Release International’s Lead Engagement Manager, James Fraser. ‘It helps them remember to pray for the prisoner they’ve chosen to identify with.’
Hundreds of people have participated in this inspiring new way of keeping in mind prisoners of faith.
We’ve also distributed hundreds of Voice magazines to festivalgoers.
Voice, which tells the stories of persecuted Christians, is available online here and through the post.
One major highlight of the summer season has been performances of If Prison Walls Could Speak by the Artless Theatre Company. This is a dramatization of the experience of Release International associate Petr Jasek, who was jailed in Sudan for gathering information about attacks on churches.
Artless were booked to perform the play twice during the Keswick Convention. Their show in the first week was watched by some 500 people.
‘Everyone we spoke to said it was very powerful and made a big impact,’ says James Fraser. ‘And lots of people bought Petr Jasek’s book afterwards and expressed an interest in hosting the play at their own church.’
Petr’s reaction to watching his own story performed on the stage?
‘I had the privilege of reviewing the script last year and was really looking forward to the play. It is a very successful theatrical adaptation of my story, based on my book. It has made a great impact on me as well as my wife. We held hands and were really moved while watching that.
‘The scenes of my interrogation by the Sudanese authorities reminded me of my parents’ interrogation by the secret police in Czechoslovakia in the late 70s.
‘Artless Theatre Company made the performance very real and it brought me back to those days in the cell.
‘It also brought me back to tears of thankfulness to the Lord Jesus for how he led me during the most difficult parts of my imprisonment.’
You can hear more from Petr Jasek in the Release International Podcast here or buy his book, Imprisoned with Isis here And you can find out more about the play and watch a trailer here ‘It’s been so great to be out and about again connecting with people this summer,’ says James Fraser. ‘We’re really delighted so many are showing such an interest in standing with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.’