South Asia (MNN) — Ministries like Open Doors, Voice of the Martyrs, and Middle East Concern monitor and describe persecution around the world. Read some of those reports here.
But persecution is also prevalent in the Deaf world; it simply looks a little different. Nonetheless, Deaf believers in South Asia are taking a bold stand for Jesus.
Persecution in a Deaf context
Deaf people communicate in a completely different way than the general populace; in other words, Deaf people sign rather than speak. This unifying factor gives Deaf Christians a distinct advantage in countries hostile to the Gospel. However, there’s also a downside to Deaf unity.
“Because they (Deaf people) have their own language… many hearing people around them have no idea what they’re talking about when they’re having a conversation on the street,” DOOR International‘s Rob Myers says.
“There’s a natural barrier that helps provide security to some Deaf workers, especially in areas that have high rates of persecution.”
However, the tightly-knit bond of Deaf communities can also present a challenge to Gospel work.
“Deaf people, because they grow up without a lot of relationship with their parents, many times they get involved in gangs,” Myers explains.
To some Deaf individuals, gangs are appealing because it’s a group “that at least knows their language and provides some sort of community, which maybe they’ve never experienced before.”
In South Asia, Deaf gangs usually associate themselves with whatever religion their country follows.
“For example, you might have a gang of Deaf people who strongly feel that Buddhism is correct. They may not necessarily understand why, but they are going to come against any other Deaf people who are speaking out against that or saying something different,” Myers says.
“They feel, culturally, ‘we belong to this particular religion. Therefore, anything different needs to be done away with’.”
Following Christ, no matter the cost
Through DOOR, Deaf evangelists and church planters get the training they need to work in this context. Learn more here. Deaf teams in a location extremely hostile to Christianity recently baptized several new believers.
Baptism is “an incredibly important and critical choice, and sometimes it could cost them their lives depending on what country they’re in,” Myers notes.
In a report shared with MNN, DOOR staff describes the following:
Several Deaf people were recently baptized after they had accepted Christ into their hearts. They wanted to dedicate their lives to Him, and our 2-by-2 teams told them that baptism is a symbol of leaving their old lives behind and stepping into their new lives with Christ. DOOR’s 2-by-2 teams have been working to build intentional relationships with these Deaf people, and they are thrilled to see them embrace their new lives with gusto!
Here are a few testimonies from the newly-baptized believers:
“I grew up without much access to communication. My parents made me go to the temple and do all the rituals. I didn’t understand anything. I later fell in with a bad crowd, which meant I ignored the 2-by-2 teams’ efforts to reach me at first. But they persisted, and now I want to lead a life pleasing to God.”
“I attended the Bible classes held by the 2-by-2 teams a few times. I enjoyed them, but then stopped attending due to peer pressure. But the teams never stopped inviting me back, and I am so glad they didn’t stop.”
“My husband encouraged me to come to the classes with him. I accepted Christ as my personal Savior not long after he did, and now we just became baptized to reflect that. Your prayers for us are much appreciated!”
How to help
Contact DOOR here to learn how you can support Deaf believers in South Asia.
Most importantly, “continue to pray for Deaf leaders who are reaching Deaf communities. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done; there’s also a lot of spiritual oppression that these leaders face,” Myers says.
“Pray… that they would make wise decisions; that God would continue to lead them, [and] that God would raise up more leaders in their communities to reach more Deaf people with the Gospel.”
Header image is a representative stock photo by Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash.