Release International continues to go from strength to strength in its 51st year. The latest Annual Accounts show funding rose in 2019 by 24 per cent – enabling us to reach out to help the growing numbers of persecuted Christians.
Total funds for 2019 amounted to £2,690,666, providing for Release partners to support Christians persecuted for their faith in some 25 countries.
Notable developments in 2019 include Release’s contribution to the Bishop of Truro’s influential persecution report. This independent review into the persecution of Christians was commissioned by the UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The FCO accepted the Truro recommendations in full, calling for a range of new measures, commitments and interventions to prevent persecution. You can read the Truro Report in full here
A key finding was the recognition that Christians have now become the most persecuted group on earth and government policy must change to protect them. Release continues to be in dialogue with the FCO to monitor the outcomes.
Release Chairman David Armond, CBE QPM writes: ‘We look forward to the practical application of the Foreign Secretary’s recommendations by FCO staff around the globe.’
As the scale of persecution continues to grow, it has become increasingly important to involve and engage a younger generation in prayer, provision and support for Christians under pressure.
In November 2019, Release launched its new monthly podcast Voice. Podcasts are increasingly popular among young people for accessing news, information and entertainment – a new form of radio on demand.
The podcasts aim to expand Release’s digital reach to Christians in the 20-40 age group and increase general awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide. You can listen to the Voice podcast here
To make sure we stay in touch with our supporters and address your concerns, Release carried out a Supporter Survey in March 2019.
Supporters were asked their overall impression of Release International, and gave the following scores:
- 61% of responders rated Release International as Excellent (10/10)
- 22% rated us 9/10, and
- 14% rated us 8/10
‘Our work is only possible because of the faithful prayer, time and financial giving from our many supporters in the UK and Ireland, to whom we are eternally grateful,’ writes Chairman David Armond. ‘We give glory to God for such generous financial provision.’
Country of concern – Nigeria
The persecution of our brothers and sisters in Christ has continued to grow at an alarming rate in Nigeria, where Release has been supporting the families of Christians who have lost loved ones.
Many thousands of Christians have been killed and more than one million remain internally displaced because of attacks by Boko Haram and Fulani militants.
‘The needs are huge,’ writes David Armond, ‘and our partners are often overwhelmed.’
Survivors are often left greatly in need of support. One example of that need - and our partners’ timely response – can be seen from an attack on Christians in June 2019 in Anyigba town, Kogi State, Nigeria.
One survivor told Release:
‘People are scattered everywhere because their houses have been burnt. We are seeking means of survival. We have not had food to eat or houses to lay our heads for some time now. So many people lost their houses; some lost their loved ones, while some lost both.’
With your support, Release partners provided trauma counselling and food. Our partners distributed 200 plastic buckets to affected families. These contained rice, beans, salt, noodles, cooking oil and tomato paste.
One recipient told our partner: ‘We [are] grateful as this will alleviate the sufferings of the people and help them to go back to their homes and continue to rebuild their lives.’
Release Trustees have also been looking long and hard at the possible impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
And while there is no room for complacency, they report the ministry remains in excellent shape, with sufficient reserves.
Writes David Armond: ‘The Covid-19 outbreak is a major risk. The ministry is largely sheltered from the expected effects due to its loyal donor base and a significant legacy.
‘We believe our committed and faithful supporters will not abandon our persecuted brothers and sisters in their hour of need and will continue supporting the ministry, despite new hardships at home.
‘Whether online or in-person, we will continue calling people to pray and give support for persecuted Christians around the world, who will also be impacted by Coronavirus.’
Social distancing and the impact of lockdown have affected a number of Release events slated to take place over 2020. Adds David Armond: ‘Not knowing how and when the Coronavirus restrictions may be eased or lifted, we have yet to make decisions about returning to the plans we have for ‘on the ground’ UK / Ireland engagement.’
And he adds: ‘Whilst it is anticipated that income streams may fall, having reviewed revised forecasts the Trustees are confident the charity will continue to meet its obligations as they fall due.’
Persecution doesn’t stop for the virus. In fact, in China the Coronavirus has been used as a cover to intensify persecution.
In February 2020, the Chinese Communist Party introduced new and stricter of regulations on churches.
According to a video shared by our partner China Aid, officials in Jiangsu province have used lockdown as an opportunity to demolish Xiangbaishu Church in Yixing city.
And while most churches in the Western world are going online, in Shandong Province officials issued guidance forbidding online preaching, a vital way for churches to reach congregants in the midst of persecution and the pandemic.
Given the ongoing Coronavirus, the need to be a clear and courageous ‘voice for the voiceless’ remains as great as at any time in Release International’s 51-year history.
ROOTS OF RELEASE
Release International was founded in 1968 as the Christian Mission to the Communist World, inspired by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned and tortured by Romanian secret police under communism.
Following the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the spread of persecution elsewhere, the ministry broadened its activities and changed its name to Release International.
Our mission is to help Christians in the UK and Ireland actively engage with their persecuted brothers and sisters around the world: praying with them, standing with them, helping them, and learning lessons of true Christian discipleship with them.
Our vision is to see a world in which the whole body of Christ understands persecution and responds prayerfully, pastorally and practically every time a Christian is persecuted.
The purposes of Release International are:
- Showing God’s compassion by providing for the needs of the families of Christians who are being persecuted, or have been imprisoned or killed
- Serving God’s church through enabling believers to survive persecution and its effects
- Sharing God’s love by helping persecuted Christians bring to Christ those opposed to the gospel
- Spreading God’s Word by supplying Bibles and literature to meet the need for growth and evangelism
- Speaking as God’s advocates, being the voice of the oppressed and persecuted
‘We thank God for what is now 51 years of provision through faithful supporters. We do not slowdown in seeking to be obedient to our calling to love and serve persecuted Christians.’ – Release CEO Paul Robinson