For the persecuted church, the internet is both a blessing and a curse


How do you see the world? Recent research says that, on average, adults in the UK spend three and a half hours each day on their phones. And that doesn't include laptops, TVs, games consoles, Fitbits, the touchscreens at the supermarket checkout or the car sat nav.

Forget our own eyes, we see the world through HD-ready, retina displays with undetectable pixel density and billions of colours. Seeing the world through a screen affects how we think and what we believe.

For the most part, this development has been a good thing. The screen has revolutionised how we work and live. We have access to new information and ideas; we can connect with loved ones and colleagues around the world. We can raise our voice through social media and demand a refund from Tesco or start a global movement for change.

And yet, according to technology giant LG, 90% of us panic about losing power on our phones. Another study found that the more time people reported spending on Instagram, the more anxious and depressed they felt.

Our screens can be forces for good and they can negatively impact our mental health. Likewise, for the persecuted church, the internet is both a blessing and a curse.

For isolated and secret Christians, the internet allows them to connect with believers around the world, to have fellowship, listen to sermons and read the Bible, all of which may be illegal or hard to access in their country.

In other countries, such as Egypt, posts by Christians have sparked accusations of blasphemy, leading to arrests, riots and violence against Christian communities. For others, the internet is restricted and activity is tracked, so Christians are cautious about what they read, view and share.

Muslim pilgrims pray around the holy Kaaba during their final circling at the Grand Mosque during the annual hajj pilgrimage.Reuters

Fatima walked along this knife edge herself. She was raised as a Muslim in Saudi Arabia. As a child, she was dedicated to her faith. But by university Fatima had many questions. When she met a Christian who had converted from Islam, those questions grew.

It was reading the New Testament that convinced her. Fatima said, "While I was reading the Bible, I felt that God was very near, that there were no barriers between us ... What really attracted me was Jesus' story; in my view this is the greatest story in human history." 

Fatima was secretly baptised and began a blog under an alias to tell others of her journey with Jesus. Her family suspected something was up. When her brother found her open laptop, he was filled with rage that she had abandoned Islam for Jesus. He tortured and killed her.

Fatima's brother tried to silence her because of her faith but it didn't work. One of her blog posts, published shortly before her death, was seen by millions. She wrote: "And the Messiah says, 'Blessed are the persecuted'. And we for the sake of Christ all things bear... Enough – your swords do not concern me, not evil or disgrace. Your threats do not trouble me, and we are not afraid. And by God, I am unto death a Christian."

Fatima found her voice through the internet. She courageously declared her choice to follow Jesus for all the world to hear and in doing so she was silenced.

Open Doors is challenging you to go screen-free for up to 48 hours. Going screen-free limits your voice and your ability to connect with friends and keep up with the news. For many, going screen-free is akin to being silenced. It's a chance to stand with the millions of silenced Christians, like Fatima, who face hatred, violence and exclusion because of their faith in Jesus, and be inspired by their stories of courageous faith.

Join the Blackout on the 25to 27 October. Switch off to stand with silenced and unseen persecuted Christians. Get sponsored to stay off your socials, shut down the Switch or Xbox and turn off the TV. Instead, spend time praying for change. 

To find out more and sign up, visit 

Naomi Allen leads the Youth Team at Open Doors UK and Ireland. Their aim is to use stories from the persecuted church to resource, challenge and inspire young people to follow Jesus wherever he leads, whatever the cost. Naomi has been working with young people for over a decade; she loves seeing young people grow in faith and confidence in becoming who God's calling them to be. When not at a youth festival or event you can find her in IKEA drinking the free coffee.