Faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17) and authoritarian governments always seem to recognise the power of God’s Word, with many seeking to restrict free access to Bibles and Christian literature around the world. Countries including Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Cuba, Tajikistan and Iran prohibit entirely or place restrictions on owning and distributing Bibles.
For many persecuted Christians, access to Bibles and Christian literature is severely limited and owning a Bible can have serious consequences. In the strongly Muslim Maldives, a Christian convert found with a Bible in their home can be imprisoned. In several Communist countries, the Bible is viewed as a subversive text. Today, we report on a clampdown on Bible mission work in South Korea, where for over a decade Bible texts have been sent over the border into North Korea by balloon and other secret means.
Nearly 500 years ago, the Bible in English was considered a subversive text in Britain because it enabled ordinary people (who did not understand Latin) to read the Bible for themselves. The Bishop of London issued a prohibition against William Tyndale’s New Testament Bible, a forerunner of the King James Bible, and burned copies in a grand gesture at St Paul’s Cathedral on 27, October 1526. A canon of St Paul’s Cathedral was later instrumental in Tyndale’s eventual arrest and execution in 1536. Since the times of the Reformation, and thanks to the sacrifice of martyrs like Tyndale and many others, ordinary people in the UK have enjoyed the free and unrestricted right to read and hear the Word of God in their own language.
One of our news stories in this issue reports on a troubling incident where, once again, at the order of St Paul’s officials, a man was apparently arrested outside the Cathedral for simply reading aloud the King James Bible. This is almost the very Bible that Tyndale was martyred for, given that some four-fifths of the King James New Testament is Tyndale’s translation. In February 2017, a CPS lawyer told Bristol magistrates court, in relation to the arrest of a street preacher in Bristol, that publicly quoting from the King James Bible “in the context of modern British Society, must be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter”.
This disturbing trend against public preaching and Bible reading is evidence of the gradual erosion of Religious Freedom taking place in the UK. Barnabas Fund is taking a lead in a UK-wide push back to “Turn the Tide” against the erosion of religious freedom in this country. The Our Religious Freedom campaign is currently running a petition asking the government to permanently cohere existing laws and statutes into a new religious freedom law that will preserve the freedom of belief and religious practice we have enjoyed for centuries for this, and future, generations.