Ministry uses Facebook to help persecuted Christians

A Christian ministry working with persecuted churches is using the popular social networking site Facebook to promote religious freedom.

On Tuesday, the US-based religious freedom group International Christian Concern began a recruitment campaign to get people on Facebook to learn about the plight of persecuted Christians around the world.

Participants need to recruit at least 40 friends using ICC's "Cause" invite feature by December 15 to qualify to win a free iPod Nano. Two runner-ups will receive iPod Shuffles.

ICC hopes that through this campaign Christians will be motivated to share with their friends and social network about Christians that are being persecuted around the world.

It was estimated that around 250 million Christians worldwide would face persecution in 2007, according to the UK persecution watchdog Release International.

And for 2008, the group predicted that Christians living in hardline Islamic state Saudi Arabia and communist North Korea would face the worst form of persecution.

In both countries, it is illegal to practice Christianity and results in severe punishments.

Saudi Arabia has stood out for its religious persecution not only for its extremely harsh laws against all religion other than the Wahhabi branch of Islam, but also because it spends millions each year disseminating Islamic teachings around the world.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) says these religious literatures spread intolerance among young Muslims by teaching them to hate "infidels", or non-believers.

In North Korea, which is arguably the world's worst persecutor of Christians, believers are imprisoned in special labor camps, brutally tortured and even publicly executed.

No one is allowed to own a Bible or even pray to the Christian God in private. If one is found to be a Christian, not only is the person immediately imprisoned but their family members are jailed as well.

"Being discovered as a member of the underground church inside North Korea can result in one's entire family being sent to a prison camp, and even torture and summary execution in extreme cases," said Tim Peters of Helping Hands Korea, a partner of Release International that helps refugees escape North Korea.