An Interview with OPEN DOORS
President & CEO David Curry
Open Doors is one of the primary organizations seeking to aid persecuted Christians around the world. Dr. David Curry, Open Doors USA’s President & CEO, kindly agreed to answer LivingWithFaith.org’s questions about the vital work this organization* is striving to accomplish.
LWF: Thank you for taking our questions. Your website states: “For over 60 years, Open Doors has worked in the world's most oppressive countries, empowering Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs through programs like Bible & Gospel Development, Women & Children Advancement and Community Restoration.” We know you also have many other programs. That is a lot of effort spread across many geographic areas – do you have some kind of prioritization of programs and/or regions in which Open Doors is working?
Curry: Open Doors USA serves where the needs are the most for persecuted Christians. We do serve in many countries, but we really strive to provide help wherever it is needed.
LWF: Open Doors publishes its excellent annual "World Watch List" which ranks countries by the severity of persecution that Christians face for actively pursuing their faith. What changes – for good or bad – has this careful ranking uncovered in the last year or so?
Curry: Overall we are seeing a rise in persecution in Africa. Not surprisingly, it is often in areas you see on the news like Nigeria or Kenya. The level of violence in the Middle East has also been rising, particularly in Iraq and Syria. Unfortunately, 2014 marked the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era, but I think we have only seen that continue to rise in 2015. On January 13 we will announce the rankings for 2015, which I think will affirm this.
LWF: As a follow-up to our last question, persecution caused by groups such as Islamic State (ISIS) and Boko Haram has reached historic levels – why is the international community not doing more in combatting these and other trans-national agents of terrorism and persecution?
Curry: I would love to see Western governments do more. I won’t speculate as to why they are not, that’s a question for our leaders, but more must be done. We have a petition right now for Secretary of State Kerry and [USAID Administrator] Ambassador Lenhardt that will be hand-delivered on International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. We are asking people to sign this petition, which demands the attention of American leaders and advocates for those in the Middle East. We are asking them to ensure Christians can remain in the Middle East and to provide aid, help defeat ISIS and promote religious freedom, and invest in the long-term political and socio-economic future of the region. Open Doors has been working in these countries for years and we are staying long-term.
LWF: One of the Open Doors initiatives we are really impressed by is the "Standing Strong Through the Storm" seminars you use to teach churches how to prepare for and survive under persecution. Can you comment on the effect of those seminars?
Curry: These seminars are sometimes the first and only form of Christian training many believers will ever access, because it is so difficult for them to receive training in their areas due to persecution. So it is vital that these seminars focus on what the Bible says about persecution and tactics for standing strong in the face of it. These believers often walk away refreshed, renewed and prepared to not only stand strong, but to be the light of Christ to their persecutors.
LWF: Open Doors is famous for a number of spectacular things it has accomplished – such as the one million Chinese Bibles covertly delivered to China back in 1981 in the mission named Project Pearl, and the one million Russian Bibles provided more recently to the Russian Orthodox Church by Open Doors in partnership with the United Bible Societies. Are any changes apparent in the reception of Christianity in China and Russia, for example, as a result of some of those past initiatives?
Curry: I think there has been a mixture of several things and events like the ones you mentioned that have led to more openness to the Gospel. In China for example, the government has seen how Christians are often model citizens. It is seeing the impact the Bible has on the lives of those who read it and are realizing more and more that it is not a bad thing. But for the government to take note of this positive impact, Bible deliveries and training needed to happen first in order for the Gospel to spread.
LWF: Open Doors has become active in social media, using it in the fight against persecution. Tell us a little about what you are accomplishing through the use of these tools.
Curry: We have seen a great response in connecting with Christians in Arab-speaking countries. Every week on some of our pages we see around 35,000 interactions. These interactions can be anything from liking, sharing or commenting on our page or a message. Often these turn into deeper conversations where we can learn more about a person’s individuals needs and can then come alongside them and support them. Most importantly though, many Christians have told us that they appreciate knowing they simply aren’t alone and having a network of people standing with them through social media helps.
LWF: A current project of Open Doors is providing food for Christians fleeing the brutal terror of the Islamic State. This must be a massive undertaking in itself, and it seems like an excellent way in which Christians can contribute to a project with very tangible results. Nevertheless, people are sometimes discouraged to give because they see the problems as being so large – what kind of effect can even small contributions accomplish in this area?
Curry: I know the $20 million gap in food shortage sounds big, but small contributions are huge! For only $50, you can feed a family for a month. Can you imagine what a relief and help this is for families? If every person reading your article gave $50 even just once, we would be further along in helping these Christians. Small contributions make all the difference in the world and together we can do it.
* LivingWithFaith.org recommends Open Doors USA’s website: www.opendoorsusa.org