Responding to persecution

originally published March 1, 2017 at Spur Ottawa

Ansero unites believers to stand up for religious freedom

Elizabeth Mabie
Spur Ottawa Correspondent

Christians around the world face dire persecution. Even in the West, long a haven of religious freedom, anti-Christian sentiment is on the rise. One Ottawa-based ministry, Ansero, hopes to forge partnerships to shore up this essential freedom in Canada and around the globe.

Ansero’s facilitator, Don Hutchinson, relates Ansero’s objectives with the Old Testament story of Nehemiah. When Jerusalem’s walls and gates were destroyed, Nehemiah was moved and rallied the people of the city to repair them. With this notion, Nehemiah ultimately united Jerusalem’s citizens as they worked together.

Don Hutchinson speaks from Parliament Hill.

Don Hutchinson speaks at a rally on Parliament Hill

“As we face the challenge of religious freedom in Canada and around the world, the idea of these partnerships is to bring people together, for the people to find the solutions to rebuild or strengthen the walls or gates,” says Hutchinson. “It is amazing what we can accomplish when we work together.”

Hutchinson is a pastor, a member of the Law Society of Canada, and the former vice president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He is currently the only team member of Ansero, but has partnered with One Way Ministries until the project is independently established.

Hutchinson explains that one of Ansero’s aims is to help strengthen relationships among Canadians working to safeguard religious freedom in Canada. Ansero also works with members of Religious Liberty Partnership, a network of Christian ministries working for the benefit of the global persecuted church.

“The idea of these partnerships is for the partners to identify what each partnership’s purpose is and how they can make use of that partnership to benefit the shared ideology in the pursuit of religious freedom,” explains Hutchinson.

Hutchinson sees forming these partnerships as a necessity to fill the gap left when the Canadian government closed the Office of Religious Freedom. He says the Office’s closing created the need for the Church to rebuild relationships with parliamentarians and Global Affairs Canada on behalf of persecuted Christians.

His goal is for Ansero to introduce new relationships and partnerships that will cooperate together and complement each other’s work.

“I hope we will create an environment where we can cooperatively enhance our religious freedoms in Canada, or at least secure them,” explains Hutchinson.

Hutchinson notes that secularism is increasing rapidly in Canada. He says Christians need to respond by strengthening their relationships with God on a personal level, then sharing their experiences and their strong faith with the rest of society. He emphasizes that the role of believers is to share God’s love, in good times and when it’s hard.

“What we are facing now is kind of a challenge more than the final stages of persecution. Christians in other countries are facing imprisonment and even death for their beliefs. That’s not happening to us yet,” explains Hutchinson.

The additional issue is the persecution of Christians in other countries who are facing severe punishments for their faith. It is important to address the issue of religious persecution in Canada, but the situation is more severe outside. While the typical repercussions for persecution in Canada are ridicule, harassment, and discrimination, Christians elsewhere face imprisonment, physical torture, and martyrdom.

“The role of Christians in the current Canadian context, I see as the role that Paul described: that we’re ambassadors of reconciliation,” says Hutchinson. “We are to become ambassadors seeking to reconcile individuals and our culture with God. Being ambassadors determines our approach, our demeanor, and our style of engagement. It also means that we are standing for and standing up for Christ in this society and in this culture.”