In 2020 we had the first lockdown of the UK in living memory, which closed churches, workplaces and stopped travel. This had a major impact on our ability to share our message in traditional ways, through live events in church settings. However, we were very fast at recalibrating our engagement plans using online and digital channels which proved very successful. We praise God for his amazing blessings in 2020.
We worked hard to focus on our prayer ministry in 2020, as this is our overarching call to the UK church to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters. We continued with our prayer alerts by email, updating supporters on critical news from our Partners working in-country around the world and giving clear prayer points to share with their fellowships or home groups. We also became a lead ministry with Christians in Parliament for their online National Prayer Breakfast in June 2020 which attracted over 3,000 Christians on YouTube. In 2020 we expanded our Prayers for Partners weekly email and continued to deliver children’s prayer resources.
As we were in a new world of lockdowns, our regional Development Managers’ team worked to develop a new series of digital resources for churches in April 2020 entitled ‘Lockdown Church‘. This campaign was launched with new short films from Partners, new prayers, fundraising ideas raising funds for prison ministry and Bible studies. This was our main campaign in 2020 and we looked to bring our supporters alongside our persecuted brothers and sisters by making the connection with restrictions here, and restrictions for practicing your faith overseas.
Our VOICE magazine continued to be our flagship engagement tool which provided strong content quarterly to our supporters. We launched our annual Persecution Trends 2020 Report in December which attracted much media attention and interest.
Our important ministry with many Christians conferences and festivals had to be cancelled during 2020. However, we were invited to take part in many online versions of conferences, including making a film for the Keswick Convention, and we translated our ‘Great Outdoor Church Service‘ church events into a fantastic online campaign on social media, renamed ‘All out for God’.
We worked with our some of our related Ministries in the International Christian Association on our first global petition ‘Where’s Raymond?‘ Pastor Raymond Koh disappeared four years ago and was captured on CCTV being kidnapped with military precision. It is alleged that Malaysian security forces were involved. The petition opened in the summer 2020 and is still open. It currently has around 75,000 signatures from 185 countries. (www.releaseraymond.com.)
Key to our work in raising the VOICE of persecuted Christians is our social media, film, web and podcasting output, which continued to be developed in 2020. We were unable to go to meet Partners overseas due to lockdown, so we moved interviews online to generate content for our campaigns and fundraising. Our press and media work with Christian radio and TV also expanded significantly in 2020. We were particularly thankful to Revelation TV who showcased our Ministry on their main broadcast programming on Christmas Day. We also thank Premier Christian Radio who partnered with Release International over the Summer to raise the VOICE of persecuted Christians suffering severe and increased persecution due to COVID-19 and lockdown.