Challenges to religious freedom continue to persist and intensify around the world, and it can be difficult to wrap our minds around these many diverse threats. It is important that we make an effort, however, because Scripture prompts us to remember our Christian brothers and sisters who are imprisoned and mistreated (Heb. 13:3).
If we are going to remember the persecuted, we must first learn their stories and empathize with their plight. A great way to start is by reading about the experiences of those who have lived in persecuted contexts.
Here are eight books that demonstrate the critical importance of religious freedom and can help us empathize with the persecuted:
American pastor Andrew Brunson had ministered at a small Turkish church for years. Then, he unjustly got swept up in the government’s crackdown on a 2016 coup attempt. In his book, he opens up about the hardships he endured in prison and what God taught him through it all.
Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh converted to Christianity in Iran, where it is illegal to do so. But they chose to share their newfound faith rather than stay in hiding. As a result, they discovered what one of the region’s most notorious prisons is like.
Joseph Kim grew up in North Korea, the world’s most repressed country. It wasn’t until he managed to escape to China that he learned about Christianity.
Nadia Murad lived a simple, rural life in Iraq until ISIS invaded her region and committed a genocide against her people. As a young Yazidi woman, she was taken by ISIS militants and sold into slavery before finally managing to escape.
Karnig Panian was just a boy when Ottoman forces began their genocide against Armenians. Sent to an orphanage that taught him to abandon his Christian traditions and embrace a Turkish identity, he and other orphans endured immense challenges as the genocide occurred.
Born in Communist China, Bob Fu converted to Christianity and soon became a house church leader, evading the restrictive government. After being caught and sent to prison, he and his wife fled, where he began a new life as a human rights advocate in the United States.
In Ceausescu’s Romania, Virginia Prodan became a lawyer, always searching for the truth. When she finally found it in Christianity, she began defending Romanian Christians and churches in court.
This Dutch missionary known as “Brother Andrew” smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union. As he risked his safety to visit churches under communist regimes, he discovered what it meant to support the persecuted church. He eventually founded Open Doors.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but reading these stories will broaden your worldview and expose you to some of the challenges experienced by believers simply trying to live out their faith. A few of these book recommendations are set in the past. Even though the specific circumstances described may have changed, the past has much to teach us about present threats to religious freedom and those that might surface in the future.
For more background information on current religious freedom challenges around the world, keep an eye out for FRC’s “International Religious Freedom 101” blog series. You can read the first installment about Turkey here.