As persecution increases, so does the distribution of Scripture
The United Bible Society has reported a sharp increase in the number of Christian Scriptures distributed in some of the countries where believers suffer the highest levels of persecution.
Statistics suggest that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and Baroness Warsi made headlines recently when she warned that Christianity could be wiped out in the Middle East.
However, recent figures released from Bible Societies around the world indicate that more Christian Scriptures were distributed than ever before in 2012.
Global Scripture distribution rose from just over 381 million in 2011 to more than 405 million in 2012; an increase of 6%.
Of the 405 million distributed, 32.1 million were whole Bibles, which matched 2011's record-breaking year of Bible distribution.
Surprisingly, the highest increase was in Syria, which is facing huge humanitarian crises as a result of ongoing conflict across the country. Despite this, over eight times more Scriptures were distributed by the Bible Society, through a network of church volunteers, in 2012 than 2011; 163,000 in total last year.
"Christians in Syria are under enormous pressure and are in great need of encouragement," said Mike Bassous, General Secretary of the Lebanon Bible Society, which oversees Bible Society work in Syria.
"Staff in Syria are working hard to produce enough Scriptures to meet these needs."
There has been a similar substantial increase in the distribution of Scripture in Iraq, which borders Syria to the east. Although only 330,000 Christians remain in Iraq, following a mass exodus of believers as a result of increasing persecution, more than 66,000 items of Scripture were distributed in 2012, a 57% increase on the previous year.
Similar reports are coming from countries such as Egypt, India, Laos and Nigeria, which, along with Syria and Iraq, and among those suffering some of the highest levels of persecution according to Open Doors.
United Bible Societies Director General Michael Perreau says that he is greatly encouraged by the continued growth in demand for Scriptures, particularly in countries where Christians are under increasing pressure.
"With rising persecution of Christians in certain parts of the world, and increasing secularisation in others, it is encouraging and heartwarming to see that God's Word is more sought after and cherished than ever before," he observes.
He noted that there has also been "a huge boost" in digital access to Scripture, which is particularly helpful in countries where it is dangerous to read printed Christian literature.
Mr Perreau asked that Christians around the world would pray for the protection and blessing of those who undertake the dangerous task of distributing Scriptures in persecuted countries, and for everyone who encounters God's Holy Word.