Outdoor church services to raise awareness of persecution

Churches in the UK and Ireland will be holding services outdoor next month as a mark of solidarity with persecuted Christians around the world.

The Great Outdoors Church Service is an initiative of Release International, which works with Christians suffering for their faith.

In some parts of the world, authorities have demolished churches or banned congregations from meeting in their own buildings.

Worshippers at Shouwang Church in Beijing, China, are banned from entering their building and have been arrested as they meet outdoors. According to Release International, Shouwang Church has now held more than 100 services in the open air after being refused official recognition by the authorities.

In Nigeria, the destruction of churches by extremists has forced many Christians to hold their services in the open air.

In Central Asia, Christians have resorted to meeting in the countryside to escape surveillance.

Churches in the UK and Ireland will be holding their services outdoors on 19 and 26 May as an act of public witness.

"This is a great opportunity to stand with courageous Christians who remain true to their beliefs despite opposition," said Paul Robinson, Chief Executive of Release International.

"We have amazing freedom of worship here in the UK. Our brothers and sisters under fire for their faith are cheering us on to use our freedom to the full.

"As well as praying for persecuted brothers and sisters, it is also a rare opportunity to taste just a little of what it's like for those who don't enjoy the comforts we do, yet are determined to be true to their beliefs."

To find out how your church can get involved, please go to www.releaseinternational.org